Can CIC interfere with the procedure laid down by for disclosure of particular information?
The appellant filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with the India Meteorological Department seeking information related to the earthquakes that have hit Delhi form 2004 to till date such as, the exact dates, time, scale, intensity, duration, place of epicenter etc. The Public Information Officer (PIO) did not provide any information.
During the hearing before the Central Information Commission (CIC), the respondent submitted that significant earthquake data has been put in the Department’s website from 2006 onwards and that can be accessed by anyone. He also submitted that minor earthquakes data has not been put on the website and this can be disclosed only when the requester gives an undertaking to the Department that said data will not be used for commercial purposes or for insurance claims and shall not be passed on to a third party, whether Indian or foreign. The respondent explained that there is a certain sensitivity attached with this data as it has indirect bearing on the national security.
View of CIC
The Commission observed that this information needs to be shared with the global community for taking preventive action to save life and property and that denial of such data in the cloak of secrecy cannot be said to be justified. The CIC held that the volume of data regarding minor earthquakes is rather large and unrestricted disclosure of this data would put undue strain on the resources of the Department. The Commission also noted that the appellant has not appeared before the Commission to canvass his case which is indicative of his indifference towards the issues raised by him. The CIC was not inclined to interfere with the procedure laid down by the Department and held that the appellant is at liberty to access the Department’s website for significant earthquakes data. If he is interested in seeking minor earthquakes data, he is required to give a certificate of undertaking as devised by the Department.
The RTI Act gives the power to the CIC to give recommendations for any changes in the practices which are not in consonance with the Act.
Citation: Mr. Sanjay Chiripal v. India Meteorological Department in File No. CIC/LS/A/2012/000518
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2012/CIC/734
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