Syed Mahaboob Peer
Those “applicants” under Right to Information Act, who could not receive the “Information” required by him/her or have aggrieved with the Order passed by the PIO or does not receive a “decision” within the time limit as applicable, have a right to Appeal to the First Appellate Authority under Section 19(1) of Right to Information Act, 2005, the full address of whom is provided by the PIO in his/her Order as per Section 7(8) of the Act, within 30 days from the expiry of such period of time limit allowable to the PIO for disposing the application, or from the receipt of such a decision.
In the APPEAL to First Appellate Authority under Section 19(1) of the Right to Information Act, the person who makes an “Appeal” shall be called the “Appellant” and the PIO shall be “Respondent” in that “Appeal.
ADMISSION OF FIRST APPEAL:
Immediately on receipt of “Memorandum of Appeal (MoA)” from the “Appellant”, by the First Appellate Authority (FAA), the FAA shall go through the “Memorandum of Appeal (MoA)” and has to find out whether the submission of “Appeal” is within the time limit stipulated under the Act or not. On finding such submission of “Appeal” beyond the time limit stipulated under the Act, the FAA has to verify as to whether the “Appellant” has submitted any “request for Condoning the Delay in filing the appeal” with suitable reasons & grounds. If, every such thing is found in order as per the provisions of the RTI Act, and that the FAA is satisfied that appellant was actually handicapped by sufficient reasons & causes, the FAA may admit such appeal. Otherwise, such appeal may be “Rejected”.
DISPOSAL OF FIRST APPEAL:
As per Subsection (5) of Section 19 of the RTI Act, 2005, the obligation to prove that “the denial of a request was justified” is rest on PIO denying the request, there may not be any necessity to issue a “Notice of Hearing of Appeal” to the “Appellant”.
Similarly, even in the matter of “Information relating to the Third Party” the FAA has not been empowered, as per the Act, to issue a “Notice” to that “Third Party” providing a reasonable “opportunity of being heard”. However, when the “Third Party” makes an “Appeal” under Section 11(4) of the Act against the PIO [i.e., the PIO who denied representation made by that “Third Party” under Section 11(2) read with Section 7(7) of the Act], such appeal should be dealt with separately.
Thus, whatsoever the FAA needs in making a decision on the “Appeal”, is to be sought or enquired or obtained from the PIO (the “Respondent” in the Appeal) only.
Therefore, the FAA has to make the decision on the “Appeal” basing on the information (a) furnished by the “Appellant” in his/her “Memorandum of Appeal (MoA)”, or (b) furnished or orally submitted by the PIO only.
WHAT IS THE NEED OF FIRST APPELLATE AUTHORITY (FAA)?
The noble thought & idea of the makers of the “Right to Information Law” for placing or putting an “intermediary authority”, i.e., First Appellate Authority (FAA) in between PIO & IC, that too, an Officer being Senior in Rank to the PIO from the same division/department, might have been a plan especially anticipating to settle the dispute at the division/ department level itself. However, it has not been reaching upto the expectations of the makers of the “Right to Information Law”.
Since the First Appellate Authority (FAA) being in the same Division/Department, will always attempt to protect his subordinate-official (i.e., PIO) for one or the other reason. The First Appellate Authority (FAA) (being the Head of the same Division/Department) will undoubtedly tend to support his subordinate just like as “Birds of a feather flock together”. It is quite natural that everybody will inadvertently be adverted to support the category of their own ideological dogma.
Further, when the First Appellate Authority (FAA) has no power of imposing any penalty on PIOs, it will just be a factor for wasting time on & due to procedural compliance.