Filing RTI applications with Apex Executive Authorities seeking information about their subordinates, has to be discouraged: CIC [Read Order]
Instead of creating a good governance system, this practice is creating a bad and an aimless exercise burdening public exchequer, the CIC observed.
In a significant order, Central Information Commission has held that, the offices of President, Vice President, Prime Minister, Governors, Lt Governors and Chief Ministers are not legally obliged under RTI Act to entertain RTI applications seeking information unrelated to it, or not held or controlled by these high offices.
The Information Commissioner, Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu, also held that, when such Apex Executive offices create infrastructure to transfer such applicationsto concerned departments/authorities, they cannot be subjected to first and second appeals under RTI Act in such cases.
The Commission made this observation while dismissing a Second Appeal filed by one R.S. Gupta against Lieutenant General Office. The applicant in this case, had filed an RTI application with L-G office seeking information regarding absorption of his services as PGT¬ English in any government school. This application was transferred u/s 6(3) of RTI Act, to the Directorate of Education, Delhi. He filed appeal which was dismissed.
NO APPEALS AGAINST TRANSFERING OF UNRELATED RTI APPLICATIONS
The Commission dismissing his appeal observed: “Thus it is clear that there is no legal obligation on the CPIO of LG office, in this case either to respond or transfer or answer in first or second appeal to the RTI application of appellant as LG office is unrelated to it. However, it has helpfully transferred it to the concerned public authority-Department of Education in this case. For that act of help, the CPIO of LG office cannot be subjected to first and second appeals. It is illegal and unreasonable besides being totally against the provisions of Right to Information Act, 2005.”
The commission added: “In this case the applicant filed RTI request without any justification before the LG office compelling it to transfer, and use their resources to attend first and second appeals without any relevance or necessity. This is sheer waste of public money and time of public authority including that of this Commission. From the representation of officers of LG office, it is clear that they are devoting substantial share of their quality office time on this kind of applications running into 15 to 20 every day. They need to write letters, post them to concerned public authority and intimate the appellant through another letter. Each of such unrelated RTI application compels the LG office to utilize public money around Rs 50 for posting one transfer letter. The LG office either has to send senior officers including the PIO and two of his assistants to the hearings first before first appellate authority and then before the Information Commission, which also involves purposeless expenditure and wastage of time of officers including their travel expenses. Instead of creating a good governance system, this practice is creating a bad and an aimless exercise burdening public exchequer. The Commission disapproves this practice.”
The Commission further observed: “Citizen are filing applications with higher authorities like President, Vice president, Prime Minister, Governors, Lt Governors or Chief Ministers seeking information about their subordinates, with a belief that the subordinates would care more than a direct application to that office. This cannot be correct. Such a practice should be discouraged for the sake of proper governance. Only those RTI requests coming from illiterates or those who do not have opportunity to identify proper public authority for information should be properly guided.“
The commission has issued the following guidelines to deal with such RTI applications filed in Apex Executive bodies.
- The offices of President, Vice President, Prime Minister, Governors, Lt Governors and Chief Ministers are not legally obliged under RTI Act to entertain RTI applications seeking information unrelated to it, or not held or controlled by these high offices.
- RTI applicants do not have any right to information which is not held or controlled by these high offices.
- The CPIOs of these high offices will have an obligation to respond and inform action taken when the applicant made a complaint against a subordinate public authority, gains to whom it can exercise superior supervisory power and take action. Such application cannot be merely transferred to another public authority ignoring the fact thatcomplaintwasagainstpublicauthoritywheretheRTIpetitionwasbeing transferred.
- Iftheseofficesofapexexecutiveauthoritiescreateinfrastructuretohelpthese applicants at least by transferring their applications by email or by any other means convenient to them, they are welcome. But the CPIOs cannot be subjected to first and second appeals under RTI Act in such cases.
- The applicants who file such RTI applications by post shall intimate their email ids and mobile numbers, so that they can be intimated about transfer.
- Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) may develop necessary guidelines in consultation with these high executive offices to tackle various kinds of RTI applications from literate, illiterate, ordinary or Below-Poverty-Line (BPL) applicants even though they are not seeking information relating to these offices, without causing the wastage of public money and time of public authorities.
- RTI applicants, who know that information is not available with such offices shall not file RTI applications with these apex authorities.
Read the order here.