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R. K. Jain vs. Chairman, Settlement Commission (Delhi High Court)
December, 10th 2014

A statutory order, even if a nullity, continues to be effective unless set aside by a competent authority. Such orders cannot be nullified by an administrative order

The principal controversy to be addressed is whether the Chairman of the Income Tax Settlement Commission could, as administrative head of the Income Tax Settlement Commission, declare the order passed by the CPIO and Joint Commissioner of Income Tax directing information to be supplied to the Petitioner, as being void ab-initio. HELD by the High Court:

(i) It is not disputed that the orders dated 26.09.2013 and 21.10.2013 were orders passed under the RTI Act and in that sense were in exercise of statutory powers. I am unable to accept that such orders passed in exercise of statutory powers could be declared as a nullity or void by an administrative order without recourse to the hierarchy of authorities as specified in the statute – the RTI Act. In the event, the respondent no.1 was of the view that the orders passed by respondent nos.2 & 4 were without authority of law, the proper and the only course would be to file an appeal before the Central Information Commission (hereafter the ‘CIC’) or any other competent judicial forum. However, the said orders could not be nullified by an administrative order.

(ii) It is well settled that even if an order is a nullity, it would continue to be effective unless set aside by a competent body or Court. In this case respondent no. 1 is not authorised under the RTI Act to interfere with the orders passed under the RTI Act.

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