President, PM’s office not post-offices: CIC

By Sant Kumar Sharma

Jammu, August 1:

It is a worrying phenomenon that people well versed with Right to Information (RTI) Act often are also most likely to misuse it. They indulge in practices which invoke a sense of defeatism and an ill-will among officials handling the applications.

The officials find that several of applications are filed with ulterior motives. They find the RTI applications to be vexatious and time consuming. The Public Information Officers (PIOs) have to devote time and energies towards disposing of the RTI which are mischievous.

A recent trend, witnessed in some cases, and reported extensively by PIOs, is getting RTI applications redirected from high offices. The applicants address their applications to high dignitaries. The applicant apparently knows clearly that the information being sought is not with the high offices the application is addressed to.

These applicants resort to using a round-about and circuitous route knowing well that this is not the office where the information is available. Yet, offices of President, Vice-President, PMO are addressed the applications. These offices are then being used more like a post office by the applicants.

Those filing the applications understand the intricacies of RTI Act and also know that these offices will have to re-direct their applications. To the right quarters and with a covering letter.  The PIOs then have to give a response to the office of the dignitary from where application is re-directed, as also to the applicant.

It refers to welcome CIC-verdict dated 29.07.2016 in the matter ‘RS Gupta vs Lt. Governor office’ (CIC/SA/A/2016/001483). The Central Information Commission (CIC) detected a petitioner with Ph.D. degree misusing office of Lt Governor of Delhi like a ‘post-office’. For seeking information relating to Directorate of Education (Delhi Government).

The CIC, after hearing both the parties, the PIO and the applicant, issued necessary orders. Apart from other directions, it also desired that offices of President of India, Prime Minister, Governors, Lt Governors and Chief Ministers may not be subjected to first and second appeals on such RTI petitions. In cases where applications were transferred by them to other concerned departments without any part of information related to these high offices.

At the same time, it is also true that Union Ministry of Urban Development misuse section 6(3) of RTI Act. By transferring RTI petitions unnecessarily to all offices of Central Public Works Department (CPWD) in case of uncomfortable queries.

Delhi Police (Headquarters), perhaps due to lack of knowledge, or deliberately, transfers all RTI petitions to all its districts. The districts in turn at times transfer these to all police-stations in the city. Even though queries might even not come under purview of RTI Act or may be related to transferring nodal Headquarters itself.

This results in huge wastage of resources of public-authorities, including man-hours, stationery and postal-charges. Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) and Chief Information Commissioner can perhaps intervene here. It can take up the matter with Union Minister for Urban Development and Commissioner of Delhi Police for applying correctives.

CIC verdict on office of President