The Delhi High Court on Monday sought response of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on a plea by a convict in the 2006 Mumbai train bombings case seeking copies of certain publications free of cost under the Act.
Justice Jayant Nath issued notice to the CPIO of the ministry's publications division on the petition by convict Ehtesham Qutubuddin Siddique challenging the order of Central Information Commission (CIC) declining to provide the information sought by him under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The court said that the reply should be filed by authorities within two weeks and listed the matter for further hearing on November 15.
Siddique, presently lodged in Nagpur Central Jail, was given capital punishment for the July 11, 2006 serial blasts when seven RDX bombs ripped through many Western line local trains in Mumbai leading to the death of 189 persons and injuring 829.
In his plea, the convict said he has completed several courses provided by IGNOU free of cost in jail and wishes to know more about various topics, books and materials.
Since various topics are not available in prison library, he sought hard copies of those publications/ books under the provisions of the Act.
Advocate Arpit Bhargava, appearing for Siddique, said the prisoner had mentioned in his application that he was a person below poverty line since he was in custody, and being a convict, he was entitled to all such publications/ books "free of cost".
However, the request was declined by the publication division of the Ministry of I&B and it was stated that since books/ publications referred in application are priced ones, they cannot be supplied free of cost to general public under any circumstances and he was advised to contact the sales emporium in Mumbai for buying them or to purchase online.
His first and second appeal before the First Appellate Authority (FAA) and the CIC, respectively, were dismissed after which he approached the high court.
"It is the fundamental right of the petitioner (Siddique) to have access to and acquire education and knowledge and a democratic government is under an obligation to provide means to spread education and knowledge to its citizens irrespective of the fact that a person is in jail or not," the convict said in his plea before the high court.
"The CIC failed to appreciate that by denying to provide publications ''free of cost'' to petitioner, fundamental right to education of petitioner is being violated by respondent.
"CIC and respondent failed to appreciate the distinction between general public and persons below poverty line and the real purpose as to why persons below poverty line were exempted from paying fees underI Act," it said.
The plea sought direction to the ministry to provide him information under theI Act as per his application.