Should the translation of the records be provided under RTI?
A case related to land acquisition titled ‘Naib Kaur versus Punjab Housing and Urban Development, New Oustee Policy (Policy related to compensation to the individuals)’, came before the full bench of the Punjab State Information Commission (SIC). An application was filed seeking translations of certain paragraphs of the government order from English to Punjabi. Further, the applicant wanted to know if the policy applied to her as well.
After a delay caused due to absence of a designated Public Information Officer (PIO), the matter was finally decided wherein the PIO rejected the request holding that the PIO is not legally bound to get any policy translated into Punjai. Initially, the state information commissioner Surinder Awasthi ordered that “It was startling that the said three passages, of which the complainant was seeking Punjabi translation, were of just 150 words and the entire New Oustee policy not more than 1,000 word …..The contention of the deemed PIO is that the Punjabi version of the policy can't be supplied as it is not available. Thus, getting it translated in Punjabi would be creation of information which is not mandated under RTI Act …… The information seeker was not demanding a moon, but a mere translation of three paragraphs and it did not entail a rocket science but required simple translation skill which almost every government officer in Punjab is expected to have.”
The full bench of the SIC took a different view and ruled, “The PIO is required to supply the 'material' in the form as held by the public authority and is not required to do research on behalf of the citizen to deduce anything from the material and then supply it to him or her”.
While the order may be legally tenable to the extent that the PIO is required to provide the documents as they exist, it raises another unanswered question. Is the state government not mandated to bring out the policy in Punjabi which is the state language? If it is so, the translation should be available and if not, the state government should be asked to provide the translation.