Under RTI, can APIO be a person junior to the PIO?
In a strange twist of events, a RTI applicant who had filed application seeking information from his own department has now been appointed as the State Public Information Officer (SPIO) under the RTI Act. In a reversal of roles, a sample collector in Manipur Pollution Control Board (MPCB), Tourangbam Netrajit, has been appointed as the SPIO. He had filed a RTI application seeking certain information about recruitment rules and the ground water quality project taken up in Thoubal with funding from the Ministry of Forest and Environment.
The Environmental Engineer T Mangi, Principal Scientific Officer M Gonchandra and Assistant Environmental Engineer W Roshan have been appointed as Assistant Public Information Officers (APIOs) by the same order. All these officers occupy posts that are superior to the post of Sample Collector which was held by Netrajit.
The section 5(2) of the RTI Act under which the APIO are appointed does not put any limitation on the rank of the persons to be appointed as the APIO. However, in almost cases, the APIO is someone junior to the PIO and his job is mainly that of the post – office.
Would it help in expediting the free flow of information? The lessons of this experiment would be keenly watched by all.