The details of the RTI applicant should not be made public
Informing the third party of the details a Right to Information (RTI) applicant carries the risk that the applicant may be inundated with phone calls or worse some persons come knocking on his door. In rare cases, it may carry a danger to the physical security and safety of the person. The rise in number of attack on the RTI applicants has strengthened the demand for maintaining secrecy to avoid murderous attacks on such applicants.
RTI activists have claimed that revealing names of information seekers had become a practice for PIOs of various departments. As a result, the RTI applicants are pressurised and sometimes inducements are offered to withdraw the application. In cases involving contracts, the affected contractor may feel threatened by the disclosure and try to stop the flow of information by all possible means. The house of the applicant may be visited sometimes at awkward hours and the family members of the applicant may also feel the heat. The objective of all these measures is to make the applicant back out and agree on a settlement.
While releasing the guidelines for the whistle-blowers, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has pointed out many measures to avoid the disclosure of the identity of the complainant. Sensitive information on specific files should be known only to a select few and files should not be left unattended. Many of the RTI activists use the information obtained through the applications to expose the wrongdoings.
There have been cases of assault on the RTI applicants in the past which necessitate the need to maintain discretion. Therefore, a PIO must ensure that the details of the applicant are not disclosed to anyone routinely by way of transfer of the RTI application. While seeking comments, it would be prudent to reproduce the specific questions on which the comments of the third party are required. In case someone seeks a copy of the application using RTI, the PIO should treat such a application as third party information and deal with it accordingly.