File noting and correspondence regarding the disposal of emails – PIO: no emails could be located - CIC: Cabinet Secretariat should make necessary arrangements to trace the trail of email received from any citizen till it's final disposal
1. Referring to 3 emails he had sent to the then Cabinet Secretary on three different dates, the Appellant had wanted the copies of all the file noting and correspondence made in respect of the disposal of those emails. When he did not receive any reply from the CPIO within the stipulated period of 30 days, he had preferred an appeal. The Appellate Authority had noted in his order that the delay on the part of the CPIO was on account of the fact that he had been searching to locate the emails within the Cabinet Secretariat but without any success. Nevertheless, he had directed the CPIO to complete the search and inform the Appellant. Following this direction, the CPIO wrote to the Appellant and informed him that none of these emails could be located anywhere in the Cabinet Secretariat.
2. The Respondent submitted that he had checked up with all the relevant sections in the Cabinet Secretariat about the receipt of the above three emails but had been told that there was no record to show that the emails had been received and acted upon. On the other hand, the Appellant had been informed by the Cabinet Secretariat in response to some other RTI application that it had forwarded one of his above emails in hardcopy form to the Public Grievance Division. This shows that the relevant division of the Cabinet Secretariat which had received the emails had acted on those, at least in one case, and sent it to the respective division for further necessary action. It has been claimed by the respective section that after sending the hardcopy form of any email received from the citizens for further necessary action, they did not retain any record about such emails. This arrangement is bound to create confusion. If the emails received from the citizens are forwarded to other divisions of the Cabinet Secretariat or to other public authorities not electronically but by way of taking out printouts, the relevant section must keep some record, at least for some time, so as to be able to follow up on those emails. Otherwise, it would be impossible to know what finally happened to the emails received from the citizens containing complaints and other requests. We hope the Cabinet Secretariat would make necessary arrangements so that, in future, it would be possible to trace the trail of the email received from any citizen till it's final disposal.
3. Now that the Appellant has managed to get some information regarding one of his three emails, it may be possible to find out about the remaining two. Therefore, we direct the CPIO to find out from the relevant section if they had acted on his remaining two emails also. In case there is any record, the CPIO shall provide the copies of those to the Appellant within 10 working days of receiving this order. However, if there is none, he shall also inform the Appellant suitably.
4. We accept explanation of the respondent that the delay on the part of the CPIO in responding to the RTI request was because of the time taken in searching out the emails through various sections of the Cabinet Secretariat.
Chief Information Commissioner
Citation: Shri Amit Bhargava v. Cabinet Secret in File No.CIC/SM/A/2012/001409