BEFORE THE MADURAI BENCH OF MADRAS HIGH COURT DATED: 28/01/2011
THE HONOURABLE MR.JUSTICE K.CHANDRU
W.P.(MD)No.8084 of 2010
M.P.(MD)No.2 of 2010
The Managing Director,
Aranthangai Chemicals (P) Ltd.,
Azhiya Nilai Village,
Pudukkottai District. ... Petitioner
2.The Public Information Officer,
Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, Pudukkottai.
3.The Presiding Officer,
District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum,
Petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India praying for the issuance of a Writ of certiorari, calling for the records relating to the complaint case filed by the first respondent in C.C.No.23 of 2010 on the file of District Consumer Redressal Forum, Pudukkottai and quash the same.
!For Petitioner ... Ms.Priya Ravi
^For Respondents ... Mr.K.Balasundaram
The petitioner is the Managing Director of Aranthangi Chemicals Private Limited. He has come forward to challenge the Complaint Case filed by the first respondent in C.C.No.23 of 2010 on the file of District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Pudukottai and seeks to set aside the same.
2. The writ petition was admitted on 30.06.2010. Pending the writ petition, this Court granted an order of interim stay.
3. On notice from this Court, the contesting first respondent appears through counsel.
4. It is the case of the petitioner that the petitioner company is registered under the Indian Companies Act and they are producing "Precipitated Calcium Carbonate and Activated Calcium Carbonate". The first respondent labelling himself as a Social Worker and representing an organisation known as "Human Rights Supervising Committee" filed a complaint before the third respondent District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum. The complaint was that when he sought for certain information under the Right to Information Act (for short RTI Act) with reference to the petitioner company, the same was not furnished. Therefore, labelling that as a deficiency of service filed the complaint. He did not chose to file any appeal against the alleged refusal to furnish information under Section 19 of the RTI Act. Notwithstanding the refusal to avail the appellate provision, he filed an application under Section 13(2) before the Consumer Protection Act. The said complaint was taken on file by the Pudukottai District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum by registering it as Complaint Case No.23/10 and notice was issued to the petitioner.
5. The petitioner Establishment filed a counter statement dated 24.04.2010 stating that the first respondent cannot be considered as a consumer and the issue raised therein cannot be taken up as a consumer dispute. The information sought for under the RTI Act cannot be considered as a service rendered on payment. Therefore, the attempt made by the first respondent is to black mark the petitioner company and hence, prayed for dismissal of the complaint in limine. Even without waiting for any order, they filed the present writ petition as noted above.
6. The short question that has to be considered in the present case is whether refusal to furnish an information under the RTI Act will enable any third party by labelling himself as a consumer and file a petition before the Consumer Court under Section 13 by the denial of information as a deficiency in service.
7. It must be noted that in case if a person is entitled for information and the Public Information Officer refuses such information, the Act provides for a remedy by way of appeal under Section 19 and even if the Information Officer do not provide information, a further remedy is available before the State Information Commission. Section 23 of RTI Act under also prohibits any Court from entertaining any suit or other proceedings in respect of any order made under the RTI Act. If any order is made under the said Act, the same cannot be questioned otherwise than by way of an appeal under the RTI Act.
8. It was contended that the remedy by way of the Consumer Forum is in addition to the remedy under the RTI Act and since the RTI Act do not bar any other forum, the complaint was maintainable. But however, the issue has to be looked in a slight different manner. The first respondent had only sought for an information with the petitioner company, which is admittedly a Private Company. Whether it will come within the purview of the RTI Act and whether they are bound to provide information is an issue which will have to be exclusively considered under the provisions of the RTI Act and not elsewhere. The circumstances in which a private company will come under the jurisdiction of the RTI Act came to be considered by this Court in New Tiruppur Area Development Corporation Ltd. v. State of Tamil Nadu represented by the Secretary (P&AR) Department, Chennai reported in 2010 (4) M.L.J. 1110 = 2010(5) CTC 98. Unless the first respondent establishes that the petitioner company is covered by the provisions of the RTI Act and he is entitled to get information in terms of the Act, his approaching the Consumer Forum directly by calling himself as a consumer and denial of information as a deficiency of service will not arise.
9. As rightly contended by the petitioner, the Act provides for an appellate remedy to the Chief Information Officer, failing which a further appeal to the State Information Commission. The first respondent had not established that he is entitled to seek the information and that it was unjustly denied by the petitioner.
10. In view of the above, this Court is of the opinion that the complaint filed by the first respondent in C.C.No.23 of 2010 on the file of the third respondent District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum is not maintainable.
11. The writ petition stands allowed. The third respondent is hereby directed to return the complaint filed by the first respondent in C.C.No.23 of 2010 without any further action. No costs. Consequently, connected miscellaneous petition is closed.
1.The Public Information Officer,
Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board,
2.The Presiding Officer,District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum,