Can PIO deny the information by simply stating that the information is not available?
The appellant filed two applications under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with the National Saving Institute seeking two sets of information. In first set, he wanted information regarding certain observations made by the CAT and the recruitment rules for various posts. In the second set, he sought information relating to the proposal for making changes to the recruitment rules as well as to the demands made by the Department to the 4th and 5th Pay Commission in respect of certain posts. The Public Information Officer (PIO) provided the information for first set of queries. Regarding the second set the PIO denied the information stating that the information was not available.
During the hearing before the Central Information Commission (CIC), the appellant submitted that all the information had not been provided to him and the PIO had deliberately suppressed much of this information. He also claimed that the copy of an appointment order which was provided to him was not legible. The respondent submitted that he had scrupulously called for all the available records from the respective sections and had sent the copies of all those records to the appellant.
View of CIC
The Commission noted that some of the queries of the appellant do not come in the purview of the RTI Act. He had cited some observation by the CAT and expected the PIO to find out the details of the matter and inform him about it. The CIC further observed that the appellant had sought clarification on how joint seniority could be maintained on the basis of some recruitment rule, such queries cannot be addressed by the PIO under RTI for its outside his remit to offer clarifications or comments on issues. The CIC however, noted that there is merit in his objection to the fact that a number of information has been denied to him by a simple statement that it is not available. The CIC ruled that if any record is not available in any public authority, there must be some reason for it and if the records have been weeded out because of passage of time, the PIO must clearly state so giving the date for such destruction and also citing the relevant record retention guidelines. The CIC directed the PIO to provide a more legible copy of the appointment order along with the copies of the letters/notes mentioned in the some queries in his RTI application. The CIC also held that if any of the information is not available for any particular reason, the PIO has to clearly state so and provide a copy of the relevant record retention schedule as well as the document showing the destruction of the respective record.
Citation: Mr. Roshan Lal v. Director, National Saving Institute in File No. CIC/SM/A/2012/001909 & CIC/SM/A/2013/000140
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2013/CIC/1311
Click here to view original RTI order of Court / Information Commission