CIC- Information means not only material record but also virtual record
The appellant filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with the Staff Selection Commission (SSC) seeking information related to the fixation of the age limit for the candidates who had appeared in the combined graduate level examination 2011. He wanted to know the total number of candidates who had appeared in this examination within the age group of 18 to 19 years of age and a copy of the government order by which the age limit had been so fixed. The Public Information Officer (PIO) responded that the SSC did not compile any information about the number of candidates within the age group of 18 to 19 years of age. In regard to the authority under which the age limit for this particular examination had been notified the PIO clarified that it was as per the recruitment rules for various posts for which the examination was being held.
During the hearing before the Central Information Commission (CIC), the appellant argued that the age limit notified for this examination was 18 to 27 years and that it was impossible that there would be any candidate who would have completed his graduation at the age of 18 and appeared in this examination. He also submitted that the age limit fixed by the SSC/ government was absolutely not logical specially when seen in the context of the age limit fixed by the UPSC for the candidates appearing in the civil services examination in which also the minimum qualification was graduation. He demanded that the statistical details sought by him should be provided to him as he needed this information in order to approach the High Court in a writ petition. The respondent submitted that the SSC did not maintain segregated data of the candidates based on their age profile and the bio-data of every single candidate appearing in the examination would have to be scrutinized in order to find out the exact number of candidates between the age group of 18 and 19. It was added that the SSC did not fix the age limit but the same was done by the ministries/ departments of the government based on the recruitment rules framed by them.
View of CIC
The Commission observed that if the minimum educational qualification is graduation for both the combined graduate level examination conducted by the SSC and the civil services examination conducted by the UPSC it is rather strange that the lower age limit in both the examinations should vary so much, 18 to 21 years. The Commission held that only the respective government ministries and departments can revisit their recruitment rules to bring those in harmony with similar recruitment rules which apply to the civil services examination conducted by the UPSC and there is little that could be done about it under the RTI Act. Regarding the number of candidates between the age group of 18 and 19, the CIC agreed with the PIO that he could not be expected to create this information afresh through research if it is not already available as such in material/virtual form. The CIC directed the PIO to make an effort through the relevant division of the SSC to explore the possibility of generating this information from the electronic database and if found forward it to the appellant. The Commission also noted that the expression information has been defined in section 2(f) “information” means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force; of the Right to Information (RTI) Act means not only material record but also virtual record.
Citation: Mr. Vikash Kumar v. Staff Selection Commission in File No.CIC/SM/A/2012/000486
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2012/CIC/863
Click here to view original RTI order of Court / Information Commission