Under RTI, can the priced publications be given free of cost to a BPL citizen?
The appellant sought for copies of cultural packages, reports & books (19 publications) published by Centre for Cultural Research and Training (CCRT). The Public Information Officer (PIO) furnished the Product Catalogue having the details of all the cultural packages mentioning that all these cultural packages are the priced publication of CCRT and also requested to send the Demand Draft of Rs. 3573/- towards the total cost of available ASI publications. The applicant was an under trial and he filed the first appeal claiming that he wanted the books free of cost as he falls in the Below Poverty Line (BPL) Category. The First Appellate Authority (FAA) rejected the appeal stating the applicant had not sought any information from the CCRT under the RTI Act, instead have asked for the priced publications produced by the CCRT.
The appellant enclosed a copy of an order dated 13/08/2010 issued by the 1st Additional Principal Judge, City Civil Court, Greater Mumbai as appellate authority under the RTI Act to support of his contention that there is no necessity to have a certificate from the competent authority to treat him below the poverty line as the appellant is a under trial prisoner from 2006. Referring to section 2(f) “information” means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force; and section 2(i) “record” includes. (a) any document, manuscript and file; (b) any microfilm, microfiche and facsimile copy of a document; (c) any reproduction of image or images embodied in such microfilm (whether enlarged or not); and (d) any other material produced by a computer or any other device; of the RTI Act, the Central Information Commission (CIC) observed that there is be no doubt that any material in the form of documents, books, cultural packages, reports etc. available with the Centre for Cultural Resource & Training (CCRT) qualifies as ‘information’. The Commission stated that whether the mere fact that the said material constitutes ‘information’ is sufficient to entitle a citizen to invoke the provisions of the RTI Act to access the same. The Commission also referred to section 2(j) “right to information” means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes the right to- (i) inspection of work, documents, records; (ii) taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records; (iii) taking certified samples of material; (iv) obtaining information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts where such information is stored in a computer or in any other device; and observed that if a particular information is not be held by, or under the control of the public authority concerned there would be no right in a citizen to seek such information from that particular public authority. The Commission stated 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. In respect of such information, which the public authority is statutorily obliged to disseminate, it cannot be said that the public authority - hold or - controls the same. The Commission cited its previous orders, [Mr. K. Lall vs. Mr. M.K. Bagri, Assistant Registrar of Companies & CPIO] in appeal no. CIC/AT/A/2007/00112 and Appeal No. CIC/WB/A/2008/000961-SM dated 26.09.2007 and held that once information is brought into the public domain by means of a priced publication, the said information cannot be said to be “held by” or “under the control of” the PIO and hence would cease to be information accessible under the RTI Act.
View of CIC
The Central Information Commission (CIC) observed that in the instant case, information is available without the need for a request as these are priced publications. Therefore, to cast an obligation on the public authority to provide copies of the same under the RTI Act is not justified and it also violates the Copyrights Act. Further it may not be saved even under section 9 of the Act as copyright may subsist in a person other than the State. The Commission also held that though the information seeker falls under the BPL category the information cannot be supplied to him free of cost under proviso to section 7(5) Where access to information is to be provided in the printed or in any electronic format, the applicant shall, subject to the provisions of sub-section (6), pay such fee as may be prescribed: Provided that the fee prescribed under sub-section (1) of section 6 and sub-sections (1) and (5) of section 7 shall be reasonable and no such fee shall be charged from the persons who are of below poverty line as may be determined by the appropriate Government. of the RTI Act as the information is not held by the PIO and access to this category of information which is a priced publication(s) shall be on the basis of payment of such costs as may be prescribed for the purpose. The Commission rejected the appeal.
Citation: Mr. Ehtesham Qutubuddin Siddiqui v. Ministry of Culture Superintending Archaeologist in File No. CIC/SM/A/2011/001713/BS & CIC/SM/A/2012/000239/BS/0284
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2012/CIC/603
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