RTI Judgement Series: Queries must be answered if information is available on record
Moneylife Digital Team 24 December 2012

While the RTI Act does not expect the PIO to provide answers which are not on record, it does not mean that merely because the queries are prefixed with “why, what, when, whether” information can be refused. This is the 15th in a series of important judgements given by Shailesh Gandhi, former CIC that can be used or quoted in an RTI application
 

The Public Information Officer (PIO) cannot deny information available on record merely because the queries are prefixed with “why, what, when or whether”. While giving this important judgement, Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner said, “The Right to Information (RTI) Act does not state that queries must not be answered, nor does it stipulate that prefixes such as ‘why, what, when and whether’ cannot be used."

 

“The PIO and the First Appellate Authority (FAA) have erred in their interpretation of what constitutes ‘information’ as defined under the RTI act,” the Central Information Commission (CIC) said in its order dated 9 February 2009.

 

Mumbai resident TB Dhorajiwala, on 25 August 2008, sought information regarding a tender for disposal of unserviceable equipments of chemical engineering department at Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB). He wanted to know...

 

1. What happened of Tender No MD/CD/DISP/001/07/REG/L/ which was due on 24 August 2007 for disposal of Unserviceable equipments

2. Let me know why you had not Re-Invite of above tender

3. Let me know what stage the matter is at present

4. Let me know what action you had taken against offender 

5. Let me know person name who had involved in this matter

 

While denying the information, Dr Indu Saxena, the PIO at IITB, said, "The RTI Act does not cast on the Public Authority any obligation to answer queries, in which a petitioner attempts to elicit answer to the questions with prefixes, such as, why, what, when and whether.  The petitioner’s right extends only to seeking information as defined in section 2(f) either by pinpointing the file, document, paper or records, etc, or by mentioning the type of information as may be available with the specified public authority. You may only ask for specific information under RTI Act, 2005 rather than questioning the action of public authority.”

 

Dhorajiwala then approached the FAA. While returning the appeal, the FAA said, “...the CPIO has taken the right stand in dealing with your application dated 25 August 2008. However, you may mention what exact information as defined under Section 2(f) read with section 2(i) & 2(j) of the RTI Act, which will be provided.”

 

Dhorajiwala then filed a second appeal before the Commission. During the hearing, the PIO, in a written submission repeated the grounds for denying the information and adding that the appellant had stated in his appeal that he was seeking “clarification of his queries”.

 

Mr Gandhi, the CIC, noted that the PIO and the FAA have erred in their interpretation of what constitutes ‘information’ as defined under the RTI act. Section 2 (f) of the Act states,

 

“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”.

 

The PIO contended that the RTI Act does not cast on the public authority any obligation to answer queries, in which a petitioner attempts to elicit answer to the questions with prefixes, such as, why, what, when and whether. The petitioner’s right extends only to seeking information as defined in section 2(f) either by pinpointing the file, document, paper or records, etc, or by mentioning the type of information as may be available with the specified public authority, the PIO stated.

 

While accepting the contention of the PIO that what is asked must be a matter of record, the Commission said the PIO erred in imposing a new set of non-existent exceptions. Looking at the queries of Dhorajiwala, the Commission gave point-wise directions to the PIO...

 

1.       What happened of Tender No. MD/CD/DISP/001/07/REG/L/ which was due on 24/08/2007 for disposal of Unserviceable equipments.

Commissions direction: If there was such a tender, it will be on records and the PIO must provide the information.

 

2.       Let me know why you had not Re-Invite of above tender.

Commission's direction:  If the tender was there and there are any reasons on record why it was not re-invited, the PIO must provide them.

 

3.       Let me know what stage the matter is at present.

Commission's direction: If there is any record of this it must be given.

 

4.       Let me know what action you had taken against the offender. 

5.       Let me know person name who had involved in this matter.

Commission's direction: If there is any offender identified in the matter details of point 4 and 5 would have to given based on the records.

 

Mr Gandhi, while asking the PIO to provide information, said if there are no records about any of the aboe points, then the PIO must state it categorically.

 

 

CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION

 

Decision No. CIC /SG/A/2008/00347+00277/1554

https://ciconline.nic.in/cic_decisions/SG-09022009-36.pdf

Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2008/00347+00277

 

                                                                  

Appellant                                            : TB Dhorajiwala,

                                                            Mumbai - 400008.

 

Respondent 1                                     : Dr Indu Saxena,

                                                            Deputy Registrar(Admn) & P.I.O,

                                                            Indian Institute of Technology Bombay,

                                                            Powai, Mumbai - 400076.

Comments
pkv2172
4 months ago
???? 10??? postal order ?? ?? ?? ???? pio ?? ?????? ????? ????????? ?? ?? ???? ??
subham sharma
4 years ago
if possible provide the documents as well as a proof.
subham sharma
4 years ago
As per RTI does WILP running by BITS pillani is valid and approved by UGC...???? please suggest asap
Naresh Gupta
5 years ago
Can a RTI be rejected under section 2 f. If so please explain .
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