Information regarding correspondence relating to proclamation of emergency
The appellant sought a variety of information ranging from the correspondence made by the then Prime Minister with the President of India in respect of the proclamation of emergency in 1975 to various correspondence made by the Prime Minister of India and others concerning the 2G Scam. In response to the first request regarding the correspondence between the PM and President, the PIO had informed him that no such records were available in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). In respect of the second request regarding the correspondence between the Prime Minister and others concerning the 2G Scam, the PIO stated that the Appellant had not indeed requested for any information in the first place but had, instead, offered to provide some such records. In both the cases, the First Appellate Authority had endorsed the stand of the PIO under the RTI Act.
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Regarding the non availability of the copies of the correspondence made by the then Prime Minister with the President of India concerning the proclamation of emergency in 1975, the Central Information Commission observed its surprise that the records relating to such an important event in the history of post independence India are being allowed to get lost in the labyrinth of the government offices. The Commission asked the competent authorities in the PMO to enquire into this matter and to ensure that these records are retrieved or traced, wherever they might be, and should be preserved appropriately for the citizens to access.
Regarding the second request, it was argued by the respondent that there was confusion arising out of the peculiar structure of the sentences in the RTI application which began with ‘Let me provide’. It was claimed that on merit too, the desired information could not now be disclosed as in the information has been presented by the Prime Minister's Office to the Parliamentary Standing Committee in the meanwhile which had been looking into this entire matter. Disclosure would amount to breach of privilege of Parliament and, therefore, would attract the exemption provision contained in Section 8(1)(c) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature; of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The Commission admitted that the appellant should be very careful in framing his request and not leave any ambiguity, the PIO should also not insist on grammatical or syntactic correctness of RTI requests but act on the thrust of the request instead. The Commission directed the PIO to examine the case on merit and inform the appellant accordingly in a speaking order.
The case provides a glimpse of the record keeping practice of the government department and points to possible loss of important historical data. It also points out that the thrust of the case should be given due importance rather than merely the grammar or the wordings of the RTI application.
Citation: Shri Paras Nath Singh v. Prime Minister’s Office in file no. CIC/SM/A/2011/000499
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2012/CIC/89
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