CIC to consider feasibility of a ‘legal filter’ to sift out ‘needlessly repetitive and harassing’ RTI applications? [Read Order]
There is a need to consider the feasibility of having some legal filter based on objective criteria to sift out those applications that may appear to be needlesly repetitive and of a nature giving cause to allegations of harassment by the respondent, the commission said disposing of 3558 appeals preferred by Retd. IAF officer.
Indian Air Force may be capable of defending the country from shell attacks from her enemies, but it found it difficult to defend itself from RTI ‘attacks’ from its own officer. A Retired officer of Indian Air Force submitted a total of 4915 RTI applications and 4032 first appeals in the IAF regarding victimisation, misconduct, financial misappropriation and administrative irregularities, as well as operational issues of the IAF. As IAF failed to reply to many of his RTI queries, he preferred appeal before the Chief Information Commission.
The Retd. IAF Officer in his appeal submitted before the commission that the reason why he has filed so many RTI applications is that his grievances were not being addressed by his employer and he felt that if applications would continue to be filed, the IAF will feel pressured and be compelled to take notice and respond.
The IAF submitted before the Commission that their primary jobis to defend the skies of the nation and that they do not have the manpower to begin to scrutinize and process such large numbers of RTI applications. They further submitted that, dealing with these thousands of RTI applications individually, would not only affect the operational commitments/efficiency of the IAF but would also be prejudicial to the interest of other genuine RTI applicants. The IAF also accused that the officer filing RTI applications in bulk was for vexatious purposes and vengeful against the IAF.
Regarding the allegation by IAF that these applications filed are for Vexatious purposes, the commission observed the following
- The expression ‘vexatious’ has not been defined in the Act or the RTI Rules. An RTI application may be ‘vexatious’ in a given set of circumstances, but the same may not be termed as ‘vexatious’ in another set of circumstances even if it is the same application;
- Whether these cases may be termed as ‘vexatious’ or not, there is no provision in this regard in the current scheme of things;
- Whether an RTI application is ‘vexatious’ would be a matter for discussion on the basis of objective criteria;
- Whether the RTI applications in this case are vexatious or not, the respondents said that this is a question for this Commission to reach a conclusion; but in any case the respondents appeared to be open-minded about providing information connected with the appellant;
- There is a need to consider the feasibility of having some legal filter based on objective criteria to sift out those applications that may appear to be needlessly repetitive and of a nature giving cause to allegations of harassment by the respondent; and
- What follows from the above is that while the issue of having a legal filter can be assessed further by the Commission separately from this particular case, the appellant should be provided information relating to his personal matters and, further, that the appellant should be informed about the status of his representations in respect of any enquiry on allegations of corruption and irregularities.
The Commission has also requested the Chief Information Commissioner for examining the above mentioned observations, especially (c) and (e) with the objective of putting in place a system for handling RTI applications that appear to be vexatious in nature and scope.
The commission observed that a large number of RTI applications is on account of allegations of corruption and harassment. 3588 appeals was disposed of by directing the IAF to provide following information to the officer.
- Matters pertinent to the appellant’s tenure and work in the IAF taking into account also his Redressal of Grievance applications;
- The action taken on the RTI applications relating to the appellant’s medical treatment;
- The status of any enquiry conducted on the basis of the appellant’s representations alleging corruption and irregularities; and information about any findings pertinent to the appellant;
- The appellant’s representation regarding an incident involving another officer of the IAF as mentioned in the Redressal of Grievance application dated 02¬05¬2011, in which context, the appellant must be enabled to inspect the respondent’s file relating to the inquiry conducted in the matter;
- The policy and norms regarding the functioning of the messes and the accounts including audit reports in such entities where the appellant was a member;
- The policy and norms regarding any additional furnishing of aircrafts in context of the RTI applications under consideration and any audit reports;
- The flora and fauna destroyed or damaged in context of the RTI applications under consideration;
- The names of the CPIOs appointed since the appellant started filing RTI applications in the IAF.
Read the order here.