Information which is already in public domain is not said to be ‘held’
The appellant filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) seeking information with reference to news clipping from Nav Bharat Times and a note by the person from Hindu College. The Public Information Officer (PIO) asked the appellant to visit the website of CBSE to get the sought information.
During the hearing before the Central Information Commission (CIC), the appellant submitted that a RTI petitioner is not supposed to have necessarily a facility of internet and as such all RTI responses should be provided in hard copy if not specified otherwise.
View of CIC
The Commission observed that as per section 4(2) It shall be a constant endeavour of every public authority to take steps in accordance with the requirements of clause (b) of sub-section (1) to provide as much information suo motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including internet, so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information. of the RTI Act, every public authority has to take steps in accordance with the requirement of section 4(1)(b) Every public authority shall publish within one hundred and twenty days from the enactment of this Act,- (i) the particulars of its organisation, functions and duties; (ii) the powers and duties of its officers and employees; (iii) the procedure followed in the decision making process, including channels of supervision and accountability; (iv) the norms set by it for the discharge of its functions; (v) the rules, regulations, instructions, manuals and records, held by it or under its control or used by its employees for discharging its functions; (vi) a statement of the categories of documents that are held by it or under its control; (vii) the particulars of any arrangement that exists for consultation with, or representation by, the members of the public in relation to the formulation of its policy or implementation thereof; (viii) a statement of the boards, councils, committees and other bodies consisting of two or more persons constituted as its part or for the purpose of its advice, and as to whether meetings of those boards, councils, committees and other bodies are open to the public, or the minutes of such meetings are accessible for public; (ix) a directory of its officers and employees; (x) the monthly remuneration received by each of its officers and employees, including the system of compensation as provided in its regulations; (xi) the budget allocated to each of its agency, indicating the particulars of all plans, proposed expenditures and reports on disbursements made; (xii) the manner of execution of subsidy programmes, including the amounts allocated and the details of beneficiaries of such programmes; (xiii) particulars of recipients of concessions, permits or authorisations granted by it; (xiv) details in respect of the information, available to or held by it, reduced in an electronic form; (xv) the particulars of facilities available to citizens for obtaining information, including the working hours of a library or reading room, if maintained for public use; (xvi) the names, designations and other particulars of the Public Information Officers; (xvii) such other information as may be prescribed and thereafter update these publications every year; to provide information suo motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including internet, so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information. The bench referred to an earlier decision of CIC wherein it was held that once the information is brought in to the public domain it is excluded from the purview of the RTI Act. The Commission noted that the Honourable High Court of Delhi in the case of Registrar of Companies and others Vs. Dharmendra Kumar Garg and others has held that Right to Information is specifically conferred to that information which “is held by or under the control of any public authority”. The Commission held that the contention of the appellant relating to the information available on the website be provided in hard copy cannot be met. The Commission noted that the respondent has not provided a response to some points of the RTI application and directed the PIO to provide a proper response to the appellant. The Commission also directed the PIO to give an explanation as to why departmental action should not be recommended against him for abstaining from the hearing.
Some benches have taken a contrary decision holding that if the applicant insists, a hard copy of the information available on the website should be provided.
Citation: Mr. Subhash Chandra Agrawal v. CBSE in File No. CIC/DS/A/2011/003029/RM
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2013/CIC/1033
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