A wide variety of information on various establishment related matters - many of the queries did not amount to information within the meaning of section 2(f) - CIC: not very clear as to what exact information sought - invite the Appellant for inspection
1. It was reported that the Appellant had not reported to the NIC studio at Itanagar for the hearing. The Respondents representing various public authorities were present in our chamber and made their submissions.
2. In four separate RTI applications, the Appellant had sought a wide variety of information on various Establishment related matters. The CPIO concerned in different offices had responded to her separately with some information against several of her queries while also holding that many of the queries did not amount to information within the meaning of 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; of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Not satisfied with the response of the CPIO in all these cases, the Appellant had preferred appeals. The Appellate Authority, at least in three of these cases, had directed the CPIO to recheck the records and provide the desired information and also allow the Appellant to inspect the records. We understand that the CPIO, in compliance of this direction, had rechecked the records and provided some further information. It is not known, however, if the Appellant had inspected the records or not.
3. Having gone through the contents of all the RTI applications, it appears that the Appellant has many issues with the administration and wants those to be sorted out through a plethora RTI requests. The CIC has already heard several such appeals in the past filed by not only the present Appellant but by others on similar subjects. One way to deal with such a situation is to invite the Appellant and allow her/ him to inspect the relevant records, once for all, so that she/he can find out all the information at one go. We have a word of advice to the Appellant also. The RTI must not be used for paralysing the government offices with endless queries having very little bearing on any larger public activity or interest. After all, public authorities are to discharge their primary duties and cannot be expected to be bogged down interminably in only dealing with RTI requests. Even the Supreme Court of India has expressed its concerns about this in its order in the CBSE case. Besides, from a close reading of the RTI applications, it is not very clear as to what exact information the Appellant wants on various issues.
4. In the light of the above, we think it would be useful for the CPIO concerned to invite the Appellant to the office and place all the relevant files and records relating to her queries before her or her authorised representative for inspection. After inspecting the records, if the Appellant chooses to get the photocopies of some of those records, the CPIO should provide the same to her free of charge. We direct the CPIO to invite the Appellant on any mutually convenient date within a month of receiving this order and allow her to inspect the relevant records.
5. In future, the Appellant is advised to specify very clearly and categorically the exact government record she wants and not frame her RTI requests in the manner she has done in these cases, making it very difficult for the CPIO to deduce what exact available record or document would address the query.
Chief Information Commissioner
Citation: Smt. Sharmila Chowdhury v. Prasar Bharati, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in Case No.CIC/SM/A/2013/000320, 600, 649 & 687