The CIC, in the case of Ramswaroop vs PIO, Department of Posts, has directed the authority concerned to provide information regarding the number of currency notes exchanged during the demonetisation period to the petitioner since demonitisation had a huge impact on the everyday life of every citizen of the nation.
In the instant case, the petitioner, Ramswaroop, filed an RTI application seeking to know “a) how many persons exchanged old notes for new notes at Pinto Park branch and also in 3 Wing Branch of Post Office in Air Force area, during the period 08.11.2016 to 25.11.2016 after demonetization; b) total amount of new currency issued for the period 08.11.2016 to 01.12.2016 from both the post offices; c) how many individuals exchanged the currency notes by producing their respective ID cards for the period 08.11.2016 to 01.12.2016 and sought addresses of all such individuals.” However, the information sought was denied to him on account of it not being in a consolidated form. The First Appellate Authority denied the information sought under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, even though this exception was not even claimed by the CPIO.
The CIC noted that in this case the PIO had merely rejected the information on account of it not being in a consolidated form, without applying his mind to the laws and facts of the case. It further noted that the public authority is expected to keep a record of how many notes were exchanged each day, how many people used their id cards to get the notes exchanged, etc and the same does not amount to creation of information.
Section 7(9) of the Act allows for denial of information if consolidation would involve huge monetary resources. However, this defence was not claimed by the CPIO at all. Further, the information sought would not even involve huge public resources and is a part of what the public authority should have anyway done every day.
Further, the First Appellate Authority denied the appeal on the ground of it being ‘personal’ and not applying its mind to the laws and facts of the case. Except for the addresses of the officials involved, no other information can be termed ‘personal’.
The CIC also noted that demonitisation had a huge impact on every citizen of the nation and if someone wants to study the impact of such a huge policy decision, then there is no reason for the information to be denied. Further, the information sought assumes even more significance since it is regarding post offices in the Air Force area.
“All the public authorities have a moral, constitutional, RTI-based-democratic-responsibility to explain each and every citizen who is affected by demonetization, the information, reasons, impact and remedial measures, if discovered any negative impact. All the three points of information request, a, b, c could have been provided except the addresses or names of the persons who have exchanged the currency. If there is larger public interest, even the names could not be denied. If public authorities shy away from disclosing any information related to demonetization, it will raise serious questions in the mind of general public.”
The commission directed the respondent authority to provide the information sought, after redacting the addresses of the officials concerned, within 21 days.
Read the Order here.