DIMAPUR, OCTOBER 18: A courtroom spar, involving Nagaland Police at one corner and an odd-looking pair of Naga Tribal Union Chümoukedima Town (NTUCT) and Nagaland Information Commission (NIC) at the other, witnessed the seventeenth round of hearing in the Kohima Bench of Gauhati High Court on Tuesday.
Court records show that the first punch came from the gloves of NTUCT when, represented by its President Lhousito Khro, the Union filed a writ petition on October 1, 2020. In it, the NTUCT challenged two separate but related letters.
The first letter was that of the Public Information Officer (PIO) of Nagaland Police, written on February 24, 2020, in which said Officer had denied the petitioner Khro information sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The second one, according to records, was written by the State Information Commissioner on September 22, 2020, asking the Director General of Police (DGP) and First Appellate Authority (FAA) of PHQ, Nagaland, to rehear the application of the petitioner seeking information regarding appointment of Police Constables during the period from 2018 to January 2020.
The petitioner sought “appropriate writ or order or directions” to the State respondents ~ Home Commissioner, DGP and PIO (PHQ) ~ to furnish appointment orders of 930 Constables and 39 SIs, ASIs, ABSIs and UBSIs as requested under the RTI application submitted on August 21, 2020.
When Justice Songkhupchung Serto issued an order after the first hearing held on October 7, 2020, he made it clear that “pendency of this writ petition shall not stand as a bar for the respondents to provide the information sought for”.
A series of hearings ~ nine in total ~ were held in connection with this petition till December 3, 2021. Prior to the December 3 hearing, there was another on November 23, 2021.
On that day, Justice S Hukato Swu stated that as per the submissions made by the parties to the case, the matter relates to whether the order issued by the State Information Commissioner on September 22, 2020, directing the FAA to hear the appeal of the petitioner was appropriate or not; “and whether RTI Act, being an independent Act having exhaustive provisions, while pending hearing before the Information Commission the matter is justifiable law before a writ court?”
Initially the NIC was not named as respondent in the petition but later, through an interlocutory application, it was arrayed as one.
The 10th hearing held on March 30, 2022, introduced a new petition to the case. It emerged that on February 24, 2022, the DGP, Nagaland, and the PIO (PHQ) had filed a writ petition against the NTUCT and the NIC.
Per the petition, they were aggrieved by the NIC’s orders issued on July 27, 2021 and November 24, 2011, directing them to furnish information sought by the President of NTUCT.
They contended the President of NTUCT was not entitled to seek any information as per section 3 of the RTI Act “wherein only citizens are given the right to do so”. Since the two petitions were clubbed, the Court has heard the case on 7 more occasions.
The latest was on Tuesday, October 18, wherein Justice Songkhupchung Serto issued an order listing the case to be heard on October 27 as fixed item. “No more adjournment will be allowed”, he ruled.
Interestingly, there was a ruling on September 29, in a separate but not unrelated case, wherein the Court had allowed the deletion of a petitioner listed as Lhousito Khro Angami, President of NTUCT, from the cause title in the main writ petition.
In that ruling, the Court had directed Nagaland Police not to make further appointments to the post of Constable without issuing an open advertisement.
The ruling was delivered by a Single-Judge Bench of Justice LS Jamir against an interlocutory application (IA) filed by 26 persons.
The IA seeking the interim order was filed as part of the main writ petition filed by the same persons on September 13. “After hearing the parties, it is directed that no further appointment shall be made to the post of Constable under the Nagaland Police establishment without making open advertisement. Further, the name of the petitioner No. 27 be deleted from the Cause title of WP(C) No. 189/2022”, the order read.
(Page News Service)