file is missingIn a significant decision Central Information Commission (CIC) has ruled that unless proved that record was destroyed as per the prescribed rules of destruction/ retention policy, it is deemed that record continues to be held by public authority. The decision has been posted at out wiki Segment, for those who want to use it as a reference. You can visit out wiki article here: Missing Files under RTI Act.

Claim of file missing or not traceable has no legality as it is not recognized as exception by RTI Act. By practice ‘missing file’ cannot be read into as exception in addition to exceptions prescribed by RTI Act. It amounts to breach of Public Records Act, 1993 and punishable with imprisonment up to a term of five years or with fine or both.

Public Authority has a duty to initiate action for this kind of loss of public record, in the form of ‘not traceable’ or ‘missing’. The Public Authority also has a duty to designate an officer as Records Officer and protect the records. A thorough search for the file, inquiry to find out public servant responsible, disciplinary action and action under Public Records Act, reconstruction of alternative file, relief to the person affected by the loss of file are the basic actions the Public Authority is legitimately expected to perform.

Claim that a file is missing or is not traceable has no legality under RTI

Since the Commission has the power to direct disclosure of information provided, it is not exempted from such disclosure, it would also have the jurisdiction to direct an inquiry into the matter wherever it is claimed by the PIO/CPIO that the information sought by the applicant is not traceable/readily traceable/currently traceable.

Even in a case where the PIO/CPIO takes a plea that the information sought by the applicant was never available with the government but, the Commission on the basis of the material available to it forms a prima facie opinion that the said information was in fact available with the government, it would be justified in directing an inquiry by a responsible officer of the department/office concerned, to again look into the matter rather deeply and verify whether such an information was actually available in the records of the government at some point of time or not.

After all, it is quite possible that the required information may be located if a thorough search is made in which event, it could be possible to supply it to the applicant.

Fear of disciplinary action, against the person responsible for loss of the information, will also work as a deterrence against the willful suppression of the information, by vested interests. It would also be open to the Commission, to make an inquiry itself instead of directing an inquiry by the department/office concerned.

The decision is available in the CIC website here: Sh.Om Prakash Vs. Land & Building Dept, GNCTD

You can discuss this decision at our forum here! This is an extract of the decision available on the CIC public website, and is meant for generating interest in our readers only. For the true detailed and authentic copy you must download the decision from the CIC website!

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  1. Please adviser that breach of Public Records Act, 1993 which is punishable with imprisonment up to a term of five years or with fine or both is cognizable offence or non cognizable offence.

    Can a Police Complaint be filed directly ?

    Many Thanks

    Munish

  2. As the life span of RTI is 20 years .govt. can keep files little longer as 35 years or 30 years

  3. Every dept should specify the period for keeping various records in a list and publish as per sec 4 of RTi Act if the act permits. If it is so public can conveniently seek for informations and the ambiguity in this respect can be overcome.

    1. Every Govt. department does specify the life-span of the old records which it, by and large, observes.The details of the old records are listed and recorded in a specified form in the registers of old records.Current records in a section , when no more in use, are periodically transferred to the Old Records room under the charge of an Old Records Officer, who is responsible for proper upkeep and maintenance of it. He makes it available as and when so required for any future reference or any other purpose. Soon after the use, the old records are returned to the Old Records Officer. Unless it’s otherwise classified as “permanent record” or it’s retention period is otherwise further extended, the old record could be weeded out on the expiry of its life-span i.e.the period of its retention, (after following the prescribed rules for the purpose), which varies from record to record. The whole thing is well-coded and specified in the the rule-books. The Old Records are destroyed by a duly constituted ad-hoc Committee generally headed by the head of the office or an officer equal or superior to him in rank, who in turn is required to obtain permission of the competent authority for destruction of the records, weeded out and listed for destruction by the said ad-hoc Committee so formed. The competent authority may at his discretion or for some other reason order further retention of the records for as long as he deems it fit and proper. Thus there is a set duly prescribed, and well coded procedure for upkeep and destruction of old files etc. which is expected to be meticulously observed by the Govt. Departments. Incinerators are generally used for the purpose.