The Supreme Court on April 11, 2019, in the case of Institute of Companies Secretaries of India v. Paras Jain, has held that if a person seeks information under the provisions of the Right to Information, then payment has to be sought under the Right to Information (Regulation of Fees and Cost) Rules, 2005 only.
A Bench comprising of Justices N.V. Ramana and S. Abdul Nazeer was hearing an appeal filed by Institute of Companies Secretaries of India against an order passed by the Delhi High Court wherein it had quashed the guideline framed by it stipulating payment of Rs.500 per answer sheet payable for supply of certified copy(ies) of answer book(s) and Rs.450 per answer book.
The Delhi High Court had passed the said order on a petition filed by a candidate named Paras Jain, who appeared in the final examination for Company Secretary conducted in December 2012. On being unsuccessful in qualifying the examination, he made an application under the Right to Information Act, 2005, for inspection of his answer sheets and had also sought certified copies of the same from the ICSI. He was asked to pay the fee as per the guidelines notified by the statutory council of the appellant.
Taking into consideration the guideline framed by the appellant, the Bench noted that it is “govern the modalities of its day-to-day concerns and to effectuate smooth functioning of its responsibilities under the Company Secretaries Act, 1980.”
The Bench said that "Be that as it may, Guideline no.3 of the appellant does not take away from Rule 4, The Right to Information (Regulation of Fees and Cost) Rules, 2005 which also entitles the candidates to seek inspection and certified copies of their answer scripts. In our opinion, the existence of these two avenues is not mutually exclusive and it is up to the candidate to choose either of the routes. Thus, if a candidate seeks information under the provisions of the Right to Information, then payment has to be sought under the Rules therein, however, if the information is sought under the Guidelines of the appellant, then the appellant is at liberty to charge the candidates as per its guidelines."
The Bench, however, set aside the order of the Delhi High Court quashing the guideline framed by the appellant, considering the fact that such quashing was done despite no prayer being made to that effect on behest of the respondent.
Before disposing of the appeal, the Bench gave liberty to the appellant to make a representation to the Government for enhancing the fee prescribed under the Right to Information Act, 2005.