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Understanding Section 7(9) of the RTI Act, 2005

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Sunil Ahya

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1. Provisions in a law cannot be read in isolation, but all the relevant provisions have to be read along with together, for its harmonious construction:

The basic principle to be followed in law, is that while interpreting any provision, it has be read along with all the other relevant & applicable provisions, for the correct interpretation of the provision in question.

Sec 7 (1) is relevant & applicable while interpreting sec. 7(9) and therefore both these provisions will have to be read along with together for correct interpretation of sec. 7(9) of the Act .

2. Please find quoted below the text of section 7(1) & section 7(9) of the RTI Act, 2005 (emphasis added) :

Quote
Section 7(1) - "Subject to the proviso to sub-section (2) of section 5 or the proviso to sub-section (3) of section 6, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, on receipt of a request undersection 6 shall, as expeditiously as possible, and in any case within thirty days of the receipt of the request,
either provide the information on payment of such fee as may be prescribed or reject the request for any of the reasons specified in sections 8 and 9:
 
Provided that where the information sought for concerns the life or liberty of a person, the same shall be provided within forty-eight hours of the receipt of the request."
 
 
1
Quote
Section 7(9) - "An information shall ordinarily be provided in the form in which it is sought unless it would disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority or would be detrimental to the safety or preservation of the record in question."
 

3. Now, let us read sec. 7(1) along with 7(9) for its correct interpretation:

As per sec. 7(1), a request for information can only be rejected for any of the reasons specified in sec. 8 & 9 of the Act. Therefore it can be reasonably construed from sec. 7(1) that a request for information cannot be rejected under any other provisions of the Act. As such, sec. 7(9) cannot be given a meaning / interpreted in such a way so that it of becomes a ground for rejecting a request for information, in addition to sec. 8 & 9 of the Act.

4. So, what is sec. 7(9) about?

Sec. 7(9) is all about providing a requested information in a particular FORM. Especially, when there may be a choice before a PIO to provide an information in one particular form, from amongst the various other alternate forms available to him.

Following are some probable examples for the purpose of understanding sec. 7(9):

Example - 1

  • An information is requested in a printed hard copy form,
  • The same information is available with a PIO in a soft copy form,
  • The PIO may then decide to provide information in the readily available soft copy form citing sec. 7(9) that if the information is provided in printed hardcopy form it would disproportionately divert the resources of the Public Authority.

Example - 2.

  • A particular digitized form (say 300 dpi / gif / png etc. format) is requested of some very old documents,
  • The information may have been scanned & archived long time back (in say 100 dpi / jpeg format) by a Public Authority.
  • The PIO may then decide to provide the requested information in the "Available Digitized Form", citing sec. 7(9), if the information were to be re-digitized in the requested form then it the would be detrimental to the safety or preservation of the record in question if it .

5. Conclusion:

A PIO cannot quote sec. 7(9) as a ground for rejecting a request for information, stating that no matter in whatever form the information is provided, it will disproportionately divert the resources of the Public Authority. But, in that case, the requested information has to be provided irrespective of the resources factor.

6. Link to a compilation of some useful judgments on the subject of sec. 7(9), by Shri jps50:

 

 

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