Use RTI responsibly: CIC tells appellants

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New Delhi, Feb 2: Advising on the responsible use of RTI (Right to Information) Act,  the Central Information Commission (CIC) has urged appellants to exercise restraint in the number of queries filed under the Act.

The decision of the CIC came in response to an application filed by Kanhiya Lal, in which the applicant has asked 100 queries to seek information on the admission process of a Delhi government school, after he was dissatisfied with the city government's education department reply.

"The appellant has used the RTI without a sense of responsibility and has asked 100 queries stretching it to 16 pages. The citizen has been given a right but he must use this with some sense of responsibility and sending 100 queries over 16 pages or more does not display any sense of responsibility," information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi noted in his order.

He said that the Act which was made to assist the citizen in gathering information must not be used to overburden the government.

"A citizen must understand that it is in his interest that the government functions efficiently and it is not correct to try and overburden or pulverize the government's functions. In spite of this, the PIO (Principal Information Officer) has tried to give the information," he added.

Noting the irresponsible use of RTI, Gandhi said that the appellant failed to point at any instance where the information sought under the Act was not provided to him earlier.

"The appellant was asked to identify what information had not been provided to him. He is not able to give any instance of information which he has sought which has not been provided," Gandhi observed.

Gandhi advised people to use the RTI Act responsibly and to exercise some restraint in number of queries asked.

"A citizen must understand that it is in his interest that the government functions efficiently and it is not correct to try and overburden or pulverize the government's functions. In spite of this, the PIO (Principal Information Officer) has tried to give the information," he added.

As part of the decision, the government officials have been asked by the information commissioner to offer the appellant with 'an inspection of the relevant files' in such cases, instead of spending time and resources on such long RTI queries.

However, the information commissioner's order has brought opposition from an activist who feels that such decision would give the government officials an excuse to deny information to citizens.

"Such orders will encourage government departments and give them an excuse that giving information would require diverting of resources that would ultimately deny information to the applicant," activist Bibhav Kumar of Delhi-based NGO Kabir said.

Kumar criticized the information commissioner, saying that instead of helping the appellant to gather information, he was acting as a counselor to the government officials.

"By this decision, it seems the information commission is acting as a consultant to government officials whereas it should try to get the applicant the required information," he said.

Citing that the RTI Act 2005 does not impose restriction on the number of queries an appellant can asked, Kumar said that the decision of the information commissioner was against the spirit of RTI Act.

"I agree a citizen should not ask a lot of questions in one query. However, there is no provision in the RTI Act on the number of queries that a person can ask in one application. Such kind of orders by the information commission are against the spirit of the RTI Act," he added.

OneIndia News

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