Second Appeal under Section 19 or Complaint under Section 18 ? Analysis

Second Appeal under Section 19 or Complaint under Section 18Many of us feel that both Section 18 and Section 19(3) provide same right to citizens, but that is not correct. Our laws do not waste even a single word. Both sections serve difference purposes. We can’t substitute one for another. Information Commissions (Central or State) have different powers under these two sections. Thus, the question that comes to our mind is which section we shall prefer? Second Appeal under Section 19 or Complaint under Section 18 ? In this article, I will analyze situations in which we should prefer section 18 and section 19, and powers of information commissions under these two sections.

Which Section shall we invoke? Second Appeal under Section 19 or Complaint under Section 18 ?

To provide you comprehensive understanding of which section is more suitable? Second Appeal under Section 19 or Complaint under Section 18 ?, first I will explain you both sections separately and then will provide comparative analysis.

Complaint before Information Commissions under Section 18 of the RTI Act

Grounds for filing Complaint under section 18 before Information Commissions:

As per Section 18 of the RTI Act, any person can file complaint before Information Commissions:

(a) if he has been unable to submit a request to a Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, either by reason that no such officer has been appointed under this Act, or because the Central Assistant Public Information Officer or State Assistant Public Information Officer, as the case may be, has refused to accept his or her application for information or appeal under this Act for forwarding the same to the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer or First Appellate Authority or the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be;

(b) if he has been refused access to any information requested under this Act;

(c) if he has not been given a response to a request for information or access to information within the time limit specified under this Act;

(d) if he has been required to pay an amount of fee which he or she considers unreasonable;

(e) if he believes that he or she has been given incomplete, misleading or false information under this Act; and

(f) in respect of any other matter relating to requesting or obtaining access to records under this Act.

Subject to the provisions of this Act, it shall be the duty of the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, to receive and inquire into a complaint.

Time Limit for filing Complaint under Section 18:

RTI Act doesn’t provide any time limit for filing complaint. However, we should file complaint within reasonable time, to say within one year.

Power of Information Commissions under Section 18:

Under section 18, Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, can only punish PIO or Appellate Authority as per section 20, but can’t direct PIO to provide information. Thus, you should file complaint only when you want to assure punishment to PIO or Appellate Authority for non-compliance of provision of RTI Act, but don’t want information.

Second Appeal before Information Commissions under Section 19 of the RTI Act

Grounds for filing Second Appeal under Section 19(3):

If you did not receive a decision on First Appeal under section 19(1) within the time specified in sub-section (6) of section 19, or is aggrieved at decision of the First Appellate Authority mentioned under section 19(1), as the case may be, you may file second appeal before Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, within ninety days from the date on which the decision should have been made or was actually received.

Time Limit for filing Second Appeal under Section 19:

As per section 19(3) of the RTI Act, we must file second appeal before Information Commissions within ninety days from the date on which the decision of First Appellate Authority on First Appeal should have been made or was actually received.

           Provided that the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be, may admit the appeal after the expiry of the period of ninety days if it is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the appeal in time.

Powers of Information Commissions under Section 19:

Under section 19, Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, can direct PIO to furnish information (section 19(8)(a)(i), impose penalty on the PIO and Appellate Authority under section 20 (section 19(8)(c)), direct Public Authority to compensate (section 19(8)(b)). Thus, under section 19, you can get information and compensation in addition to whatever you can get under section 18 (punishment to PIO and Appellate Authority).

Above analysis of whether Second Appeal under Section 19 or Complaint under Section 18 is with reference to provisions of RTI Act. Let me provide you the observations of Honorable Supreme Court on whether Second Appeal under Section 19 or Complaint under Section 18 ?

Honorable Supreme Court of India on Section 18 and Section 19 of the RTI Act:

In the case of CIC & Anr vs State Of Manipur & Anr, Honorable Supreme Court of India has clarified the differences between section 18 and section 19 in detail. Excepts of observations of Honorable Supreme Court is produced below:

“35……. The procedure contemplated under Section 18 and Section 19 of the said Act is substantially different. The nature of the power under Section 18 is supervisory in character whereas the procedure under Section 19 is an appellate procedure and a person who is aggrieved by refusal in receiving the information which he has sought for can only seek redress in the manner provided in the statute, namely, by following the procedure under Section 19. This Court is, therefore, of the opinion that Section 7 read with Section 19 provides a complete statutory mechanism to a person who is aggrieved by refusal to receive information. Such person has to get the information by following the aforesaid statutory provisions. The contention of the appellant that information can be accessed through Section 18 is contrary to the express provision of Section 19 of the Act. It is well known when a procedure is laid down statutorily and there is no challenge to the said statutory procedure the Court should not, in the name of interpretation, lay down a procedure which is contrary to the express statutory provision. It is a time honored principle as early as from the decision in Taylor v. Taylor [(1876) 1 Ch. D. 426] that where statute provides for something to be done in a particular manner it can be done in that manner alone and all other modes of performance are necessarily forbidden.

“36 This Court accepts the argument of the appellant that any other construction would render the provision of Section 19(8) of the Act totally redundant. It is one of the well known canons of interpretation that no statute should be interpreted in such a manner as to render a part of it redundant or surplusage.

37. We are of the view that Sections 18 and 19 of the Act serve two different purposes and lay down two different procedures and they provide two different remedies. One cannot be a substitute for the other.

42. Apart from that the procedure under Section 19 of the Act, when compared to Section 18, has several safeguards for protecting the interest of the person who has been refused the information he has sought. Section 19(5), in this connection, may be referred to. Section 19(5) puts the onus to justify the denial of request on the information officer. Therefore, it is for the officer to justify the denial. There is no such safeguard in Section 18. Apart from that the procedure under Section 19 is a time bound one but no limit is prescribed under Section 18. So out of the two procedures, between Section 18 and Section 19, the one under Section 19 is more beneficial to a person who has been denied access to information.

43. There is another aspect also. The procedure under Section 19 is an appellate procedure. A right of appeal is always a creature of statute. A right of appeal is a right of entering a superior forum for invoking its aid and interposition to correct errors of the inferior forum. It is a very valuable right. Therefore, when the statute confers such a right of appeal that must be exercised by a person who is aggrieved by reason of refusal to be furnished with the information. “

Above analysis clearly shows which section to invoke: Second Appeal under Section 19 or Complaint under Section 18? Let me summarize the analysis of Second Appeal under Section 19 or Complaint under Section 18?

Summary of Comparison between Section 18 and Section 19 of the RTI Act:

ParameterSection 18Section 19
CoverageNarrowBroad
NatureComplaint (Supervisory in Nature)Second Appeal (Appellate Procedure)
Can we get compensation?NO (There is no provision of compensation under section 18)YES (Information Commission can direct Public Authority to compensate Appellant for loses incurred due to non furnishing of Information)
Can we get information?NO (Information Commissions can’t direct PIO to furnish information. It can only punish PIO for non-compliance with provisions of RTI Act)YES (Information Commissions can direct PIO to furnish information. It can also punish PIO for non-compliance with provisions of RTI Act)
First Appeal Required?NOYES (Mandatory)
Time LimitNOYES (within 90 days)

The above summary gives a quick overview of whether Second Appeal under Section 19 or Complaint under Section 18? If you still have any doubt in understanding which is more suitable for your case: Second Appeal under Section 19 or Complaint under Section 18?, you can ask your queries through comment box.

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24 Comments

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