Whether right to information can be brought under the purview of Consumer Protection Act, 1986?
Objects of the Consumer Protection Act,1986, clearly states that consumers’ rights are to be protected by keeping them informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity standard and price of goods to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices. Consumers are required to know about the information regarding the products that are available for sale, it is the duty of the manufacturer/seller of the such product to provide the basic information to the consumer, as the consumer should believe that goods or services are safe for usage, otherwise he will be n a reasonable suspicion whether they are unsafe to them. Government mandated that all manufacturers/sellers should provide the information such as quality, quantity, potency, purity standard and price of goods on the product in the form of label to ensure safety and to protect the rights of consumers especially for consumable products to be labeled in a standard manner that consists of cost, quantity, the ingredients and instructions given to use the product safely. After, the Right to Information Act came into force, consumers are now entitled to seek information with respect to goods or services under the said Act. However, whether right to information can be brought under the purview of Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is a controversial issue due to the fact that Right to Information Act has certain provisions that bar other courts to entertain the complaints under RTI Act.
Initially, in few cases State Commissions held that Complaint against the refusal of the information authorities under Right to Information Act is cognizable by the District Court Forum (Appeal No. 521 of 2012 Bar Council of Uttar Pradesh versus Ajay Pandey. Also, in Revision Petition filed by Dr. S.P. Thirumala Rao versus Municipal Commissioner, Mysore, Hon’ble National Commission stated that applicant paid fee of Rs. 10/- for seeking information and therefore the case of the applicant fall within the scope and ambit of Section 2(1)(i)(o) of the consumer protection Act. However, the Supreme Court clarified the in U.P. Power Corporation Limited and others Vs. Anis Ahmad, stated that cases where refusal or action or omission on the part of authorities under Right to Information Act, and such decision in the form of refusal or action or omission by the Right to Information Authorities is “quasi-judicial” decision, for which jurisdiction shall not fall within the meaning of “consumer dispute” as defined in Section 2(i)(e) of the Consumer Protection Act. Since Section 22 and 23 of the Right to Information Act have overriding effect, the provisions of the Act have effect notwithstanding anything consistent therewith contained in the Consumer Protection Act. Therefore, under RTI Act, the authorities has powers to make decisions independently on whether such disclosure or nondisclosure has overriding public interest and due to this nature, authorities are required to think that such disclosure for the public interest, over-weighs the public interest sought to be protected under the Act. Section 23 of RTI Act clearly bars the jurisdiction of other Courts over the applications or suits or any other proceeding filed under the Act, and no order under Act can be questioned except by filing of appeal against such order under the RTI Act. Therefore, Consumer Forums have no jurisdiction to entertain the complaints under RTI Act. Consumers are required seek information under RTI Act and file their complaints under RTI Act with regard to good or services before appropriate authority.
Adv. Anitha Gutti