Applicants should avoid making sweeping and universal requests under RTI
The appellant filed two applications under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) seeking information on varied subjects like law and order in Delhi and the environmental impact of mobile towers. The Public Information Officer (PIO), PMO transferred the queries to various other public authorities. The different public authorities responded to the appellant directly, providing some information.
During the hearing before the Central Information Commission (CIC), the appellant submitted that he had been trying to get such information from various public authorities in Delhi but without any success. The respondents stated that they had found the RTI queries extremely vague and unspecific. The CIC specifically asked the appellant to list the documents or records, materially available across the government departments and agencies, so that the concerned PIOs may disclose the same. The appellant could not specify any such document or record.
View of CIC
The Central Information Commission (CIC) observed that the scope of the RTI queries raised by the appellant is too vast. The Commission held that that the RTI Act gives the right to the citizen to seek information as available in any public record but this right cannot be used for seeking all the knowledge there is on any topic. Maintenance of law and order in any state is a complex issue and it is impossible to know all about it with one RTI query. The PMO cannot be expected to have all the information on such a query. The PIO, PMO transferred the RTI application to the MHA on the simple belief that the law and order administration in the NCT of Delhi was handled in the MHA. But it is not certain if only the MHA is responsible for this or there are other agencies which might have a role in maintenance of law and order. Similarly no public authority in the government is likely to be aware of the research related to the impact of the radiation from mobile towers going on such a subject across the spectrum of the government and the autonomous research organizations including Central universities and technological and medical institutions in the country. In order to provide the desired information to the appellant, someone will have to undertake research first to identify the agencies and then to collect all the research details including the reports. This is a very tall order.
The CIC ruled that in order to get information from any public authority, the citizen has to specify the information as per section 6(1) of the RTI Act. The PIO cannot be expected to do research to decipher what all material records need to be disclosed in order to meet the particular information need of the information seeker. The Commission held that the nature of the RTI application makes it impossible for any PIO to provide any definite information. Various PIOs have provided information as per their understanding. The CIC advised the appellant to approach the appropriate public authorities with specific request for information afresh and avoid making sweeping and universal requests.
Citation: Mr. Rakesh Kumar v. Prime Minister's Office, Delhi Development Authority, Delhi Police and Municipal Corporation of Delhi in File No. CIC/SM/A/2012/001259 & 1260
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2013/CIC/1129
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