CIC: National Archives of India to convert the large volume of records held by it into microfilm or digitized form, accompanied by an elaborate index, so as to make it easier for researchers and scholars to look for the information that they need
This matter pertains to an RTI application dated 22.2.2013 filed by the Appellant to the Ministry of External Affairs, seeking information on ten points. The CPIO of the Ministry of External Affairs transferred points No. 3 and 4 of the RTI application to the National Archives of India (NAI). These points read as follows:
“ 3. Complete information together with related correspondence /file notings / documents etc on Indian government taking up matter of return of ‘Kohinoor’ diamond and / or other items taken to Britain during British regime in India and / or thereafter while leaving India after country’s independence.
4. List of items on record which were taken by erstwhile British rulers to Britain during British regime in India and / or thereafter while leaving India after country’s Independence mentioning also list of items claimed by Indian government; Please indicate values of all such items mentioning also value date.”
2. The CPIO of NAI wrote to the Appellant on 18.3.2013 and stated that the information sought was not available among the records in the custody of NAI. He also conveyed that the records of NAI are open and accessible to citizens on completion of procedures laid down under Pubic Records Rules, 1997 and that the Appellant might browse the website of NAI for information on their record holding and access policy. Not satisfied with the reply of the CPIO, the Appellant filed an appeal to the First Appellate Authority on 22.3.2013. In his order dated 9.4.2013, the FAA upheld the CPIO’s reply. The Appellant approached the CIC in second appeal on 25.4.2013.
3. We heard the submissions of the Appellant and the Respondents. Another request to NAI for provision of certain information under the RTI Act was considered by us at some length in our decision No. CIC/BS/A/2013/000081/SH dated 11.3.2014. Having examined the matter in the light of earlier pronouncements of courts and the Commission, we upheld the decision of the Respondents (NAI) to ask the RTI applicant in that case to search their records to obtain the requisite information, in terms of the Public Records Act, 1993 and the Public Records Rules, 1997. Our decision in the above case is equally applicable to the information sought from NAI by the Appellant in response to points No. 3 and 4 of his RTI application dated 22.2.2013.
4. In the above context, we also note that while the Commission has upheld the stand of the Respondents to ask information seekers to search and obtain the requisite information, in terms of the Public Records Act, 1993 and the Public Records Rules, 1997, we believe that it is equally important that the NAI take steps that are necessary to facilitate search through their voluminous records by information seekers. We had, therefore, noted in our above mentioned decision dated 11.3.2014 that there is a strong case for an organization such as NAI to convert the large volume of records held by it into microfilm or digitized form, accompanied by an elaborate index, so as to make it easier for researchers and scholars to look for the information that they need. We had advised the Respondents to pay attention to the above aspect. The Respondents informed us during today’s hearing that while they have completed the task of indexation, the task of digitization has just begun. We would strongly advise them to speed up and complete the process of digitization at the earliest possible to facilitate the task of researchers and scholars approaching them for information.
5. With the above observations, the appeal is disposed of.
6. Copies of this order be given free of cost to the parties.
Citation: Shri Subhash Chandra Agrawal v. National Archives of India in File No. CIC/BS/A/2013/001165/SH