Copy of all publications by National Library Kolkata since its formation, along with soft copy sought claiming he is BPL - PIO: cost price along with postal charges to be paid - CIC: information is not ‘held by’ or ‘under the control of’ public authority
Copy of all printed publications, published by National Library Kolkata since its formation, along with soft copy of all publications in CD - PIO: information could be supplied against payment of their cost price along with the requisite postal charges - Appellant claimed that he is below poverty line in view of his confinement in jail since 2006 - CIC: the publications sought by the Appellant cannot be regarded as information 'held by' or 'under the control of' the public authority
This matter pertains to an RTI application dated 21.11.2011 filed by the Appellant, seeking copy of all printed publications, published by National Library Kolkata since its formation, along with soft copy of all publications in CD. The CPIO responded on 7.12.2011, stating that the publications could be supplied against payment of their cost price along with the requisite postal charges. Not satisfied with the reply of the CPIO, the Appellant filed an appeal to the First Appellate Authority on 21.12.2011. In his order dated 31.1.2012, the FAA stated that the publications in question could not be treated as information or record under 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; and (i) of the RTI Act. The Appellant approached the CIC in second appeal on 14.3.2012.
2. The Appellant was not present in spite of a written notice having been sent to him. However, his stand is that he is below poverty line in view of an order of Additional Principal Judge, City civil and session court, Mumbai, which declares him to be below poverty line in view of his confinement in jail since 2006. Therefore, he seeks all the publications free of cost in terms of Section 7(5) Where access to information is to be provided in the printed or in any electronic format, the applicant shall, subject to the provisions of sub-section (6), pay such fee as may be prescribed: Provided that the fee prescribed under sub-section (1) of section 6 and sub-sections (1) and (5) of section 7 shall be reasonable and no such fee shall be charged from the persons who are of below poverty line as may be determined by the appropriate Government. of the RTI Act. We heard the submissions of the Respondents. They reiterated that since the publications in question were priced publications, these could not be given to the Appellant free of cost under the RTI Act.
3. The crucial question for consideration before us is whether these publications can be treated as information, whose disclosure is governed by the provisions of the RTI Act. This issue had come up for consideration before the Commission in the matter of K. Lall vs. M.K. Bagri (File no. CIC/AT/A/2007/00112) and the Commission had observed as follows:" 9. It shall be interesting to examine this proposition. Section 2(j) “right to information” means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes the right to- (i) inspection of work, documents, records; (ii) taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records; (iii) taking certified samples of material; (iv) obtaining information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts where such information is stored in a computer or in any other device; of the RTI Act speaks of 'the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority.....' The use of the words 'accessible under this Act'; 'held by' and 'under the control of' are crucial in this regard. The inference from the text of this subsection and, especially the three expressions quoted above, is that an information to which a citizen will have a right should be shown to be a) an information which is accessible under the RTI Act and b) that is held or is under the control of a certain public authority. This should mean that unless an information is exclusively held and controlled by a public authority, that information cannot be said to be an information accessible under the RTI Act. Inferentially it would mean that once a certain information is placed in the public domain accessible to the citizens either freely, or on payment of a predetermined price, that information cannot be said to be 'held' or 'under the control of' the public authority and, thus would cease to be an information accessible under the RTI Act."
4. Further, in Appeal no. CIC/WB/A/2008/00961/SM dated 26.9.2007, the Commission had held as follows:" it is indeed true as contended by the respondents, that the appellant had asked for number of information which was already available in public domain either by way of priced publication sold through book stores or already placed in the internet/website of the air force. Any information already available in public domain need not be provided by the CPIO."
5. A separate request of the Appellant to the National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organisation, for supply of all their maps and atlases was considered by the Commission in its order No. CIC/LS/A/2012/001651 dated 25.10.2012. The Commission had held that the Appellant was not entitled to copies of the above documents free of cost.
6. Two requests of the same Appellant to different public authorities for supply of priced publications and documents were also considered by the Commission in its order no.CIC/SM/A/2011/001713/BS dated 2.7.2012. In that order, the Commission held: "......once an information is brought into the public domain by means of a priced publication, the said information cannot be said to be 'held by' or 'under the control of' the CPIO and hence would cease to be information accessible under the RTI Act."
7. In the light of the foregoing, it is clear that the publications sought by the Appellant cannot be regarded as information 'held by' or 'under the control of' the public authority. Hence these publications cannot be treated as information accessible under the RTI Act.
8. With the above observations, the appeal is disposed of.
9. Copies of this order be given free of cost to the parties.
Citation: Sh. Entesham Qutubuddin Siddiqui v. National Library in File No. CIC/SM/A/2012/000564/SH