CIC directs MEA to frame disclosure policy as per section 4 of RTI Act
The appellant filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) seeking information relating to the gifts received by visiting Indian dignitaries and officials abroad and the storage, management and disposal of such gifts by the central government. The Public Information Officer (PIO) provided some information to the appellant.
During the hearing the before Central Information Commission (CIC), the appellant submitted that he wanted the details of all such gifts for a period of nearly 11 years while he had been given the information only for one year. The copies of the rules and regulations and policy documents given to him did not seem to be comprehensive enough and some of the relevant instructions had been held back. He referred to similar disclosures made by many other countries in the world including the USA and the UK and argued that he must get all the information he wanted. The respondent submitted that the PIO disclosed the copies of all the rules and regulations including policy decisions in regard to the receipt, management and disposal of gifts and that there was nothing more to be disclosed in this regard. The respondent also submitted that making copies of the registers containing details of the gifts received for a period spanning over more than 10 years would be a very time consuming task and would divert their resources disproportionately. The respondent also referred to an earlier order of the CIC and stated that the identity the donors should not be revealed being covered under the provisions of section 8(1)(a) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence; of the RTI Act, as it had the potential to cause embarrassment to the donor country and thereby impact India's good relationship with those countries.
View of CIC
The Commission held that the details of the gifts received should be published in the website of the Ministry. The CIC ruled that it would be appropriate if the details of such gifts are published in a particular format to be decided by the government without waiting for the citizens to resort to RTI to know about this. The CIC directed the PIO to bring this to the notice of the Foreign Secretary so that the Ministry can take a view on this at the earliest and come out with a disclosure policy. The CIC directed the PIO to make a photocopy of the relevant registers for all the years after masking the details regarding the donor of the gifts and provide it to the appellant. The CIC also advised the Ministry to follow the provisions of section 4 of the RTI Act which demands progressive disclosure of a whole range of information by the public authorities and decide which of those need to be disclosed without anybody having to ask for it.
Citation: Mr. Aloke Tikku v. Ministry of External Affairs in File No. CIC/SM/A/2012/001345
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2013/CIC/1218
Click here to view original RTI order of Court / Information Commission