Destruction of record during pendency of RTI even as per weeding out policy is wrong: CIC

Destruction of record during pendency of RTI even as per weeding out policy is wrong: CIC

The CIC Prof M Sridhar Acharyulu held that during the pendency of RTI application relevant record should not be destroyed by public authority even if its weeding out policy permits. The CIC cautioned that such a destruction of record would be serious breach of Right to Information Act and directed to explain why penalty could not be imposed under Section 20 of RTI Act, for such violation.

Mr Ashok Kumar Dikshit sought in June 2012 information with regard to appointment of Associate Professor. The CPIO claimed no such information available. Appellant complained to CIC.

Section 6 of Public Records Act, 1993 imposed an obligation on the Records Officer to be responsible for - proper arrangement, maintenance and preservation of public records under his charge; periodical review of all public records and weeding out public records of euphomeral value; appraisal of public records which are more than twenty-five years old in consultation with the National Archives of India or, as the case may be, the Archives of the Union territory with a view to retaining public records of permanent value; destruction of public records in such manner and subject to such conditions as may be prescribed under sub-section (1) of section 8;

Section 8 (1) says save as otherwise provided in any law for the time being in force, no public record shall be destroyed or otherwise disposed of excepts in such manner and subject to such conditions as may be prescribed. Though Public Authority can destroy as per the prescribed weeding out policy, this section saves the provisions of other law. In the present day context, RTI mandates the information held to be disclosed subject to exceptions.

Section 9. Whoever contravenes any of the provisions of section 4 or section 8 shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years or with fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees or with both.

The Commission said that it does not accept the claim of the respondents that the record is weeded out without showing their Weeding out Policy, especially when an RTI application is pending in respect of that record.  If the record is weeded out during the pendency of the RTI application, it will be violation of RTI Act. Record cannot be destroyed after RTI application is filed, even if it outlived the time prescribed under weeding out policy and if destroyed like that, it would invite the penalty under Section 20 of RTI Act.  The Public Authority has to explain the Commission whether they are following the provisions of the Public Records Act 1993 in destroying the old records, made any rules for their office, who is in-charge of implementation of those rules, when the particular information sought by appellant was destroyed and what is the file noting about that file before it was weeded out.  If by default the record remains beyond its prescribed time, and RTI is filed for it, that amounts to information held by the authority.  Every destruction of record must be properly dated and file noted which has to accompany the response to RTI explaining how and when such record is removed.

The Commission in this case directed the authority to provide a. Copy of the Record retention schedule followed by the respondent authority, b. Copy of the file noting with respect to the appellants file which had been weeded out, along with the date of destruction, c. What is the department’s policy with regard to maintenance of records as per the Public records Act, 1993, d. If the date of destruction is after the date of filing of RTI application, what action is initiated by the public authority against it under Public Records Act and RTI Act. The Commission also directed the PIO, to show cause why maximum penalty cannot be imposed on him for making a wrong claim of weeding the record and for not furnishing the information to the complainant.   File No.CIC/SA/C/2013/000013, 30th Sept 2014Ashok Kr. Dixit v. Delhi Technological University, GNCTD, Delhi, by M. Sridhar Acharyulu, CIC, New Delhi)