Can CIC conduct the hearing in absence of RTI applicant?
The appellant filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with the Rajya Sabha Secretariat seeking information concerning the Presidential election which took place in 2012. The Public Information Officer (PIO) of the Rajya Sabha secretariat provided some information and transferred some of his queries to the Election Commission (EC) of India. The PIO, EC asked the appellant to deposit the photocopying charges so that they could provide the copies of 719 pages of the relevant records. The appellant however, did not deposit any photocopying charges and hence no information was disclosed. The First Appellate Authority (FAA), Rajya Sabha Secretariat held that if the appellant was not able to access the website of the Rajya Sabha where a number of information could be found, the PIO could provide him the hardcopy of that information. The appellant did put in any such express request.
During the hearing the before Central Information Commission (CIC), the appellant refused to make any submissions demanding that his case could not be explained on telephone. The respondent from EC submitted that it is the EC which is responsible for the Presidential election. The Secretary General of Rajya Sabha had been appointed by the EC as the Returning Officer in the last Presidential election. The respondent also submitted that when the election process completed, the records relating to the election of the President was transferred to the EC for safekeeping and most of the factual information relating to the queries of the appellant were available with the EC.
View of CIC
The Commission observed that the cases were mostly heard through video or audio conferencing wherever the parties live outside Delhi and if the appellant wanted to be present in person during the hearing, no body stopped him from appearing before the CIC. The CIC decided to go ahead with the hearing stating that the appellant chose not to appear in person. The Commission held that the PIO, EC had already offered to provide the copies of records to the appellant against payment of photocopying charges and if the appellant is interested in getting the information he should deposit the photocopying charges with the EC and get the copies of the relevant records.
Citation: Mr. Lal Bahadur v. Rajya Sabha Secretariat, Parliament House in File No. CIC/SM/A/2012/001658
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2013/CIC/1293
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