INBA Student Reporter: Sir, prior to the appointment at the post of Information Commissioner of M.P.S.I.C., you were practising as an advocate, so what kind of difference you feel in both the portfolios and what kind of work pressure do you experience?
Information Commissioner: Advocacy is an independent profession. It depends on person what to do and what not to do. It’s the duty of an advocate to protect the rights of the individual who comes to him to seek advice and help. He told that being at the post of IC, he has limited and specified jurisdiction. He can’t protect rights of the people until they come to Information Commission filing their appeal.
In this way, there is wide difference in both the portfolios. An advocate can help everyone because he is independent whereas being at the post he is bound by law and the institution i.e. he is the public servant. He further explained that he can’t exceed the limits as provided by the constitution. Illustrating an example that even President being at the highest post in the country is bound by supreme law. He further told that as far as work pressure is considered it is more in advocacy. An advocate is busy 24 hours.
INBA Student Reporter: Sir, any experience you want to share with law students so that they can move ahead in their career or any incident you came across during litigation or Information Commissioner of MPSIC?
Information Commissioner: He told that a good lawyer is one who not only thinks on the merits of the case but also ponders over the other side. He should know both faces of the case because there is the wide scope of advocacy whereas being an IC, he thinks only of providing information to aggrieved party. In M.P., 95% of the information is provided to the people. Only 5% of the information is not provided which is exceptional in nature. He further told that an advocate should always keep in mind that he can be right or wrong in one or the other case and he should be ready for the consequences. If he feels there is something wrong, he can correct the same. But, being an IC, he can’t criticize anyone because he is at the post and bound by law. The penalty orders of Commission can be given a stay by superior courts through writ jurisdiction and the party on which penalty was imposed by the commission feels himself glorified. The commission does not have the power to punish a wrong-doer. But a law student, an advocate can criticize the wrong things through articles, etc.
INBA Student Reporter: Sir, do you agree that RTI Act, 2005 has strengthened the pillars of democracy? In what manner transparency is maintained between government and citizens?
Information Commissioner: He completely agreed to the point. He told that RTI Act, 2005 has brought 75% of transparency and 30% of the corruption is abolished. To hide anything from public is sin of democracy. Illustrating an example that in engineering, a measurement board is constituted where an engineer has to furnish all information regarding material used, quotations, labour etc. but this never happened. But after RTI Act, 2005 the engineers used to maintain the records and furnish the same to the board which ultimately stops corruption.
Some exceptions have been rightly made in the S-8 of the RTI Act. But, at the same time, the act should not put cloth on the information of Political Groups. To be noted, if an individual is right in his deeds then everything is right. So, wholly, everything depends on an individual.
He quoted a classic example of Sir Washington DC, former President of USA. Once, Sir Washington cut the plant grown by his father and accepted his mistake before his father and learnt the importance of plants and promised not to commit this mistake in future. So, the lesson is that accepting the mistakes will protect the one from bad happenings in future.
INBA Student Reporter: Sir, while hearing the cases, at certain times, you find that right to privacy tries to outweigh the right to information then how you maintain balance between both the rights?
Information Commissioner: It has been declared by SC that balance between both the rights should be maintained. Right to privacy begins where offence commences. One hides the information only when he does any wrong. He told that there should be no cause in hiding fees of advocacy or degree of graduation or BPL card or Caste Certificate if they are lawfully made .He explained his point through illustration that if the wife asks his husband or the parents asks their son regarding his income then there is no reason to hide from them because they have the right to maintenance. Commission can’t interfere until a suit is filed. They can’t violate rights of people. Everything is done in larger public interest if facts and situation demands.
INBA Student Reporter: Sir, if you are given the opportunity to bring certain reforms in the present RTI Act to make it more effective, what kind of changes will you like to propose?
Information Commissioner: He told that certain changes should be made in the present RTI Act, 2005 as under:
Firstly, the Information Commission should be given a right to punish the wrong-doer. There should be no stay from superior courts on penalty imposed so that the wrong doer should not feel himself dignified.
Secondly, the political groups should also come under the jurisdiction of RTI as CIC said.
Thirdly, ordinary men should be employed in maximum number in commission. The ratio for appointing retired persons in commission should be limited to 20%.
INBA Student Reporter: Sir, any message for the young law students and what skills should they develop so that they can be a good lawyer as well as responsible citizen of this nation?
Information Commissioner: He gave a beautiful message that a law student should think for betterment and welfare of society. Advocacy is a profession which has its own dignity and it should not be made a profession of earning rather profession of society welfare. Reforms should be brought in society.
Lastly, he gave his best wishes to every law student. ALL THE BEST AND GOOD LUCK.
Interview By: Manas Bulchandani, INBA Student Reporter