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  1. As reported by economictimes.indiatimes.com on 01 Apr 2013 NEW DELHI: In an apparent violation of the RTI Act, the Public Information Officer at the Prime Minister's office has refused to provide information to an applicant saying he failed to show how it was "useful" to him "either personally, socially or nationally". The reply from the Central Public Information Officer to activist Commodore (Retd) Lokesh Batra came even after clear directions of his superiors, the First Appellate Authority, to disclose the information sought by him. Among other pieces of information, Batra had sought to know from the PMO the details of files and records which have been digitised and computerised by it as mandated in the Section 4(1)(a) of the Right to Information Act. Rather than complying with directives of senior officer, CPIO SE Rizvi refused to disclose information saying the query would fall in the category of one "where the applicant has not specified how the information is useful to him either personally, socially or nationally." Under the Right to Information Act, RTI applicant is not required to give any reasons while seeking information. As per the Act, information can only be denied if it comes under exemption clauses of the transparency law. Section 4(1)(a) of the Right to Information Act says "every public authority shall maintain all its records duly catalogued and indexed in a manner and the form which facilitates the right to information under this Act. They have to also ensure that all records that are appropriate to be computerised are, within a reasonable time and subject to availability of resources, computerised and connected through a network all over the country on different systems so that access to such records is facilitated. Former Chief Information Commissioner A N Tiwari, while replying to a query on the issue, said the CPIO cannot ask how information was useful to RTI applicant and if the applicant approaches Central Information Commission, the Commission can initiate penalty proceedings against him. Section 4(1)(a) also gave every public authority 120 days from the enactment of the RTI Act to put in public domain, "a statement of the categories of documents that are held by it or under its control." After the first reply from Rizvi in which he refused to disclose information saying collation of information would "disproportionately divert" the resources of the office, Batra reached Director in PMO Krishan Kumar under first appeal. In his appeal Batra quoted from the speech of the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh where he had said, "They (public authorities) must endeavour to voluntarily put information in public without waiting for applications from information seekers.... The RTI Act itself mandates such disclosures and record management." After going through the contents of appeal and information sought by Batra, Kumar overruled the CPIO and directed him to ascertain the steps taken by PMO for the compliance of section 4(1)(a)--related to computerisation and digitisation of records--and apprise Batra within 15 days. Even after clear directives for disclosure of information sought by Batra, Rizvi chose to deny the information again citing orders of the CIC which does not seem relevant. Under the RTI Act, if an applicant approaches the CPIO for seeking information and if he is unsatisfied, he can make a first appeal before a designated senior officer of the public authority. The decision has to be followed by the CPIO. "Prima facie this case seems to be of denial of information even after orders from the First Appellate Authority. In such cases if the applicant approaches Central Information Commission with a complaint under section 18 of the RTI, the Commission can initiate penalty proceedings against the CPIO," Tiwari said when contacted.
  2. As reported by Ashutosh Shukla at dnaindia.com on Oct 10, 2011 In a landmark order, the state chief information commissioner told an applicant to pay for information that should have been given to him free of cost. Provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act mention that an applicant cannot be charged for information if it is not provided within 30 days if there is no valid explanation given for the delay. An applicant also cannot be charged if he is not provided with any information at all. Advocate Yatin Shah had sought information on the slums which have surfaced since 1960 near Khetwadi, Santa Cruz (west). The information was sought through five applications over a period of time. The hearing on the applications, which were clubbed as one, was held on September 20, 2011. Information commissioner Vijay Kuvalekar who is holding charge as chief commissioner of the state got to know during the hearing that the information was sought for professional use. The RTI Act also states that the purpose for which the information is sought cannot be asked. Kuvalekar, however, insists that in this case, the reason for seeking information was incidental to the situation. “Someone else came on behalf of the applicant for the hearing. On being asked why the applicant was not present, I was told that he was in a hearing and that the information was required for the same reason,” said Kuvalekar. He then passed the order that though the information should have been given free as it was not provided within the stipulated time, in this case, the applicant will have to pay for it. “But since the applicant sought it for professional/commercial use and providing information that runs into several pages can cause a heavy burden to the taxpayers’ money, Xerox charges can be taken from the applicant,” the order dated September 20, 2011, read. The applicant was not pleased with the order. “The order was unfair but what can one do? Nowhere does the rule state that the applicant can be charged if he is from a particular profession. The information should have been provided free of cost,” said Shah. RTI activist SK Nangia is bewildered with the order. “The act does not stipulate that charges have to be linked to the usage of the information. Section 7(6) clearly states that if the information is given after 30 days it has to be free of charge. That is the operative part of the act. The applicant is not supposed to give reasons for seeking information,” said Nangia. Krishnaraj Rao, another RTI activist, said the order should have been passed taking the law into consideration. “Nowhere does the RTI Act mention anything about one’s profession. It should be given free of cost in this case. They should comply with the law instead of coming up with numerous arguments,” he said. “RTI does not differentiate between public and personal use - and rightly so. None of the stakeholders has any reason for getting into the purpose. Section 6 (2) clearly states that.”
  3. As reported by Jasneet Bindra at indianexpress.com on Dec 19, 2009 Chandigarh : The little knowledge Punjab officers have of the RTI Act even four years after its implementation can be gauged from the response of the office of Assistant Excise and Taxation Commissioner (AETC), Amritsar. The AETC office asked an applicant to provide his identity and residence proofs, such as PAN and ration cards, to prove that he was genuine, and also sought to know the reason for seeking information. Irked by the lax attitude, State Information Commissioner Lt Gen P K Grover (retd) asked S S Brar, Financial Commissioner, Taxation, to take cognisance of the lapses, and penalised the PIO. The SIC said, “The respondent has shown utter disregard for the RTI Act. It is amazing to observe that the officer wanted to check the identity of the applicant, authenticity of his address and the purpose for which information was demanded.” Applicant Yogesh Mahajan of Pathankot had sought information regarding evasion of excise duty and sales tax on October 23, 2008. After he did not receive a proper response, he filed a complaint with the State Information Commission in July. The SIC directed the respondent PIO to submit an affidavit, as to why penalty should not be imposed on him for the delay— as the information was provided in parts after about a year— and why compensation should not be awarded to the appellant. Through an affidavit, Harinder Pal Singh, AETC, Mobile Wing, Amritsar, said they had formed an opinion that the information was sought by the third party because the seeker “has no locus standi to call for the information”. “Moreover, the applicant did not provide any evidence related to his residential status, such as a copy of the PAN card, ration card or any other lawful evidence,” he said, adding that since he was concealing his identity, he may not be eligible for seeking information. Citing the reason for delay, he said after they found out that he was a genuine applicant, the information was furnished. Giving a reply on the show-cause notice, he said the question of compensation does not arise because “the state representative acted in a bona fide manner and did not cause any loss to the applicant”. However, the SIC said the PIO reacted after over nine months when a notice was issued by the commission and the overall response was insufficient and lackadaisical. Imposing a fine of Rs 10,000 on Harinder Pal Singh, Lt Gen Grover said the amount should be deducted from his salary in two equal installments. He, however, awarded no compensation to the appellant, as he failed to justify the damage suffered by him. Source: RTI Act: Official asks reason for seeking info, fined
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