Delhi HC rejects challenge to CIC order on RTI plea over auction of PM Modi's suit
New Delhi, Nov 22 (PTI) The Delhi High Court on Tuesday rejected a petition challenging a CIC decision refusing to impose penalty on an official for belatedly providing information on an RTI application seeking certain details in relation to the auction of a suit worn by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, calling the plea "misconceived".
Justice Yashwant Varma dismissed the petition by the RTI applicant and said no case was established before the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) to warrant a penalty.
The petitioner, who assailed the order passed by the CIC in July 2021, said he had filed an application under the Right to Information Act seeking information pertaining to Modi's suit and its auction but it was given to him after a delay of one year and therefore the CIC should have imposed a penalty on the official concerned.
He stated the CIC only cautioned the official for the delay in responding to the application but did not levy a penalty, which was contrary to the RTI Act.
The court ruled the petition was misconceived and that the law only empowers the CIC to levy a penalty if it finds the information has been provided belatedly without any reasonable cause or where there is malafide.
There is no provision for an automatic imposition of penalty in case of delay, the court stated.
"The court finds it unable to sustain the submission (of the petitioner) bearing in mind the language employed in section 20 (of RTI Act). As is manifest from a reading of the provision, the commission is empowered to levy penalty only when it finds that the information has been provided belatedly without any reasonable cause or in a case where it has been denied malafidely. Neither of these steps were established which would have warranted the CIC to impose a penalty,” the court said.
“The challenge is misconceived. The writ petition shall stand dismissed,” the court stated.
The petitioner argued before the court that the RTI Act provides for imposition of a maximum penalty of Rs 25,000 in cases such as the present one and the CIC should be asked to issue a fresh order.
“I wanted to know (in the RTI application) how it was done. How was tax deducted? A lot of information was sought,” the petitioner shared.
The central government counsel added the petitioner also sought several other pieces of information, including “where did he (PM) get the suit from”. The petitioner said the information was given after 390 days but the CIC, in violation of the RTI Act, chose not to impose any penalty.
The petitioner said his plea raises a serious issue as it may act as a precedent in the future to condone delay without imposition of a penalty.
In 2015, an auction was held for PM Modi's pinstripe monogrammed suit. Over 400 items that he had received as gifts during his tenure were put for auction to generate funds for the 'Clean Ganga Mission'.
The suit, which was worn by the prime minister during his meeting with then US President Barack Obama in New Delhi, was purchased for Rs 4.31 crore by a Surat-based diamond trader. PTI ADS SK SK