Can Central government authorities transfer RTI application to the State Government?
The appellant referred to a news item under the caption 'Congress attacks corrupt Anna', and filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) seeking to know if this was in the knowledge of the Prime Minister or the PMO and if yes, the action taken against Anna Hazare. His application was transferred to the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT). The Public Information Officer (PIO), DoPT informed the appellant that they had no idea if the PM was aware about this particular news item and advised the appellant to approach the State Government of Maharashtra in the matter since that government had set up the Justice PB Sawant Commission to enquire into the charges against Anna Hazare. The appellant filed the first appeal stating that if the Central Government did not have the required information, they should have transferred his application to the respective State Government. The First Appellate Authority (FAA) held that as per the guidelines issued by the Department, the PIO was not obliged to transfer any RTI application to any public authority under the State Government.
During the hearing before the Central Information Commission (CIC), the appellant pointed out that the guidelines issued by the Department could not exceed or nullify the provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act which clearly mandated the PIO to transfer RTI application to another public authority to which the subject matter was more closely connected. He also submitted that he had received a response from the PIO of the PMO in which he was informed that the report sent by Sri Manish Tewari to the PM had been sent to the Secretary, DoPT to place it before the MoS, thus the Department should have some information to disclose in the matter. The respondents submitted that they did not have any information with them in recorded form about any possible action taken against Anna Hazare in this matter. The respondents also confirmed that they did not have any file or record to show how the said Commission had been set up or what the recommendations of the Commission were and if any action had been taken thereon by any authority.
View of CIC
The Commission directed the PIO, DoPT to inform the appellant if any action had been taken by the Department on the basis of the Sri Manish Tewari report forwarded to them by the PMO. The CIC also observed that there cannot be any absolute position as to whether the PIO was obliged under section 6(3) of the RTI Act to transfer the RTI application to the State Government of Maharashtra. The decision to transfer any RTI application to an authority outside the Central Government would have to depend largely on the particular case. The CIC also held that if there is anything on record to suggest that the subject matter is definitely concerned with a state public authority, there is no ban under the RTI Act in transferring the RTI application to that public authority, contrary to whatever the DoPT circular might say. But, this cannot be a rule. The Commission further noted that the DoPT has appointed a large number of PIOs and the RTI applications containing more than one item of information are being split by the RTI Cell of the Department among many of these PIOs to respond directly to the information seeker. As a result the PIO representing the individual division of the Department responds to the information seeker mechanically by stating that the information is not available or by providing only part information. The Commission directed the Secretary of the Department to revise the present arrangement and unless the RTI application contains unmanageably large number of queries, spread over the entire department, the effort must be to compile the information centrally after sourcing it from individual divisions and then to provide information to the information seeker.
Citation: Subhash Chandra Agarwal v. Department of Personnel & Training in File No. CIC/SM/A/2012/000075
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2012/CIC/772
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