Information regarding the death sentence awarded to Sardar Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev & Rajguru etc. was sought - Respondent: Appellant was advised to carry out research under the Public Records Act, 1993 & the Public Records Rules, 1997 - CIC: order upheld
This matter pertains to an RTI application dated 19.2.2013 filed by the Appellant, seeking information on three points regarding the death sentence awarded to Sardar Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru and related details. The CPIO responded on 10.4.2013 and advised the Appellant to consult the records available at the National Archives of India under the Public Records Act 1993 to obtain the information desired by him. Not satisfied with the reply of the CPIO, the Appellant filed an appeal to the First Appellate Authority on 2.5.2013. In his order dated 3.6.2013, the FAA upheld the CPIO’s reply. He also advised the Appellant that in case he was not in a position to visit the National Archives of India personally to consult the relevant records, he could depute someone else for the purpose. The Appellant filed second appeal dated 7.9.2013 to the CIC, which was received by the Commission on 17.9.2013.
2. We heard the submissions of the Appellant and the Respondents. The Respondents reiterated the reply given by the CPIO. They further submitted that they have some volumes on the trial proceedings that led to the death sentence, which run into hundreds of pages and that the Appellant can consult the same to obtain the information that he desires. They further submitted that many research scholars approach them for information on various issues. If the staff of the National Archives of India (NAI) has to cull out the information in each case after searching through the relevant records, it would place an extremely heavy burden on them. Therefore, they advise all concerned to carry out research through their records under the Public Records Act, 1993 and the Public Records Rules, 1997 to cull out the information desired by them.
3. The Appellant submitted that in terms of the DOPT O. M. No. 1/4/2009IR dated 5.10.2009, the Respondents cannot deny him the information which is held by them.
4. We have considered the submissions made by both the parties before us. The issue of similar requests made to the NAI under the RTI Act was considered at some length in our order No. CIC/VS/A/2013/000081/SH dated 11.3.2014. In that order, we had noted, inter alia, the following observations made by the High Court of Delhi while deciding the issue of interplay of Section 610 of the Companies Act and the RTI Act in the case of Registrar of Companies and Ors. Vs. Dharmendra Kumar Garg & Ors. in W.P. (C) No. 11271/2009 (decision dated 1.6.2012):
“34…….it appears that the expression “held by” or “under the control of any public authority”, in relation to “information”, means that information which is held by the public authority under its control to the exclusion of others. It cannot mean that information which the public authority has already “let go”, i.e. shared generally with the citizens, and also that information, in respect of which there is a statutory mechanism evolved, (independent of the RTI Act) which obliges the public authority to share the same with the citizenry by following the prescribed procedure, and upon fulfillment of the prescribed conditions. This is so, because in respect of such information, which the public authority is statutorily obliged to disseminate, it cannot be said that the public authority “holds” or “controls” the same. There is no exclusivity in such holding or control. In fact, the control vests in the seeker of the information who has only to operate the statutorily prescribed mechanism to access the information. It is not this kind of information, which appears to fall within the meaning of the expression “right to information”, as the information in relation to which the “right to information” is specifically conferred by the RTI Act is that information which "is held by or under the control of any public authority".
35. The mere prescription of a higher charge in the other statutory mechanism (in this case Section 610 of the Companies Act), than that prescribed under the RTI Act does not make any difference whatsoever……………. ……The said rules being statutory in nature and specific in their application, do not get overridden by the rules framed under the RTI Act with regard to prescription of fee for supply of information, which is general in nature, and apply to all kinds of applications made under the RTI Act to seek information.”
5. In our above mentioned order dated 11.3.2014, we had come to the conclusion that there were no grounds to interfere with the decision of the Respondents, advising the Appellant 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.
6. In the light of the foregoing, there is no ground to interfere with the decision of the Respondents in this case also.
7. With the above observations, the appeal is disposed of.
8. Copies of this order be given free of cost to the parties.
Citation: Shri Rajeev Kumar Khare v. National Archives of India in File No. CIC/BS/A/2013/002340/SH