Right to Information (RTI): India

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This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.



2023: a summing up

Himanshi Dhawan, August 13, 2023: The Times of India

Several parliamentarians and civil society activists have raised concerns that the Digital Personal Data Protection Act (DPDP) 2023 — passed by Parliament this week — may be the final nail in the coffin for the Right To Information (RTI) Act. When it came into force in 2005, it was hailed as a ‘sunshine law’ that would make governments transparent and accountable. But even before the data Act, RTI had suffered a thousand cuts.

Just ask Reena (uses only one name), a resident of Delhi’s Dakshinpuri resettlement colony and a divorcee who makes ends meet by cooking in people’s homes. Struggling with rising living expenses as a single mother, she tried to apply for scheduled caste certificates for her three children in 2012 in order to access government schemes and much-needed financial aid. After several months of petitions and pleadings, she hit a wall. The Delhi government required proof of her ex-husband’s SC status to move ahead. “I went from one office to another but there was no one who would listen. They just said that there is no policy for single divorced women like me. ”

Frustrated, Reena filed an RTI in 2016, with the help of a social worker, asking for information on the government policy for single SC mothers who required certificates for their children. There was no response, but Reena persevered. It took two years for the Central Information Commission (CIC) to take up her case, and in August 2018, it ordered the government to take action. “Even though the order said that I should be given information and some way devised by which I can be given a caste certificate, nothing happened. ” The six-year struggle appeared to be for nothing.

Reena’s story is not the exception but rather the rule. The initial promise of the RTI law of moving towards a rights-based culture where citizens could access information has been belied. Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS)’s Nikhil Dey, who was instrumental in conceptualising the RTI Bill, says, “It was a movement to overthrow the colonial legacy and move to a culture of transparency. ” Yet 18 years later, lack of proactive disclosure by the government, long delays, lack of punitive action when information is not given in time have contributed to its slow death. Shailesh Gandhi, former information commissioner in the CIC, sarcastically describes RTI as “the right to deny information. ”


The RTI Act was based on the premise that all information which was in public interest should be made public unless it impacted the nation’s security or impinged on someone’s privacy. However, it seems that public authorities did not get the memo. Information on spending taxpayers’ money, voter lists, criminal antecedents of elected representatives have only been made public after years of advocacy and court cases. Even then there is no consistency. In 2011, Gandhi as an information commissioner had ordered RBI to make the list of loan defaulters public. Four years later, he sought the same information from a public sector bank. “I attached my order and sought the same details from them which they denied,” he says. The first instinct of public authorities continues to be to deny information, says Venkatesh Nayak, director Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI). “The promise of providing proactive information is not being fulfilled under section 4 of the Act. It is now request-based information but even that demand is not met because the system sees RTI applications as a headache rather than a taxpayer asking for information,” he says.

Under the data Act, the personal information of public officials will not be disclosed under the RTI Act. The provision that such information could be disclosed provided it serves a larger public interest has been done away with.

A CHRI analysis showed that rejecting RTIs on the basis that it was personal information under section 8 (1) (j) of the Act was already becoming increasingly common. Of the applications rejected, 38% cited this section, Nayak says, with the ministries of finance and railways the most frequent users. With no political will or commitment towards transparency, applicants have to approach multiple levels of authority eventually ending up at the doorstep of the state information commissions and CIC.


A study by Satark Nagrik Sangathan (SNS) found that there were over three lakh appeals and complaints pending in 26 information commissions as on June 2022 across the country, up from about two lakh in 2019. Maharashtra state information commission has the highest backlog of applications at 1 lakh cases, followed by Uttar Pradesh with nearly 45,000 cases. Delays can make seeking information a redundant exercise. For instance, it would take the West Bengal information commission 24 years and three months to dispose of a case. The assessment by SNS shows that 12 commissions, including the Central Information Commission, would take one year or more to dispose of a matter. In some cases like Jharkhand the information commission is defunct as there are no officials to preside on cases. Anjali Bhardwaj from the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) says the backlash has been growing. “People have used the law to expose corruption, question human rights violations and show truth to power. This is perhaps the reason why there has been a strong backlash and consistent attempts have been made to weaken this right,” she says.


Rajsamand resident Chattar Singh, who works in an e-suvidha kendra in his village, helps people access government schemes, open bank accounts, create identity documents and get information about other digital services. Singh says that he often gets seniors complaining that their pension of Rs 1,000 a month has stopped abruptly. “Through RTI, I was able to check that they hadn’t submitted their annual verification and help restore their pension. If this information is stopped, there will be no method to check for ghost names on the list,” he says. The DPDP Act does not allow for collection or processing of third party data without consent like a NGO verifying names on an electoral list or NREGA muster roll and imposes a prohibitive penalty for those found using third party data. NCPRI’s Bhardwaj says, “This will restrict access to granular personal data that is necessary to hold the powerful to account in a democracy. ” MKSS’s Dey says, “The data Act extends the cloak of secrecy under the Official Secrets Act, that only bureaucrats were bound by so far, to every citizen of the country. ”


118 separate sets of rules

Oct 12, 2014

One RTI Act, but 118 complications

The Times of India Himanshi Dhawan,TNN | Oct 12, 2014

India has one Right to Information (RTI) Act but 118 separate sets of rules formulated independently by states, courts, information commissioners, Parliament and state assemblies that run a maze around the legislation.

The rules dictate varied fees, application format, number of words, type of identity proof required and mode of payment making the process of seeking information a complex one.

Just ahead of the RTI Act turning 10 on October 13, a report "Peoples Monitoring of the RTI regime in India-2011-2013" by Raag and NCPRI paints a bleak picture.

For instance 34 states and UTs have prescribed application fee of Rs 10. But cost of pursuing an RTI application could range between Rs 50 to Rs 100 excluding cost of information. Haryana charges Rs 50 for all RTI applications while Arunachal Pradesh charges Rs 50 for most applications but Rs 500 for information related to bids, tenders or business contracts.

Only Andhra Pradesh has cut down on the fees — Rs 10 for cities, free of cost for village level and Rs 5 for subdistrict level.

Sikkim charges Rs 100 for both first and second appeal, while filing a first appeal in Madhya Pradesh costs Rs 50 and a second appeal Rs 100. While the central government has mandated Rs 2 per photocopy, Chhatisgarh has limited the number to 50 pages while Arunachal charges Rs 10.

To complicate things further, inspection of documents is allowed free of cost by some states for the first hour and then charges of Rs 5 are levied in Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Sikkim and Uttarakhand. The cost of inspection of documents in Daman and Diu is Rs 100 a day for a maximum of 3 hours and if the information sought is older by a decade or more, the public authority can charge an additional Rs 25 an hour.

States have also placed odd restrictions on the format of the application. In Karnataka, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra the length of the RTI application cannot exceed more than 150 words while the Centre has mandated a 500 word limit.

There are similar inconsistencies in rules related to proof of identity required by public authorities. While the RTI act does not mandate any proof of identity section 3 does say that only Indian citizens can use the law. This has led to states like Goa, Gujarat, Odisha, Sikkim insisting on identity proof of the applicant.

Activists call it a ‘dilution’

Ambika Pandit , Oct 26, 2019: The Times of India

Rules to implement RTI Act amendments
From: Ambika Pandit , Oct 26, 2019: The Times of India

The Centre notified the rules to implement the recent amendments to the Right To Information Act reducing the tenure of the chiefs of central and state information commissions and the information commissioners to three years from five year.

The salaries of chiefs of commissions and ICs have been fixed at Rs 2.50 lakh and Rs 2.25 lakhs respectively. This is a critical shift from the preamendment status. Prior to amendments the law stated that the salaries and allowances payable to and other conditions of service of the chief and the information commissioners of the CIC would be same as that of the chief election commissioner and election commissioners respectively.

Those of the state chief information commissioners and state information commissioners were the same as that of the election commissioner and the chief secretary to the state government, respectively. The CEC and other election commissioners are paid a salary equal to that of a judge of the SC, which is decided by Parliament.

The rules also lay down that the central government will have the power to relax the provisions of any of these rules in respect of any class or category of persons.

The amendments drew criticism from opposition parties and RTI activists prior to the bill being passed in Parliament and even after that. Those opposing the amendments have been raising concerns that they dilute the autonomy and stature of the commissions.

Whistleblowers Act

The Times of India, May 05 2016

Whistleblower law not effected, activists fume

Two years after the Whistleblowers Act was first passed, the legislation continues to hang in limbo even as RTI activists continue to pay for government negligence with their lives. Around 60 RTI activists have been murdered and hundreds assaulted since 2002.

RTI activists under the aegis of the National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI) slammed the Modi government for its failure to bring in anti-corruption legislations, including Whistleblowers Act, Prevention of Corruption Act, Lokpal bill and the grievance redress bill.

NCPRI's Anjali Bhardwaj said even though the government came to power on the plank of anti-corruption and good governance, it had failed to live up to any of its promiseson these legislations.

The demand for a comprehensive Whistleblowers Protection Act picked up after Satyendra Dubey, an engineer on the golden quadrilateral project, was murdered for exposing corruption in the project. Finally in 2014, after 12 years, the Act was passed when families of whistleblowers and activists of NCPRI held protests for over 20 days. The Act provides protection of identity for whistleblowers and has provision for their security .

However, instead of promulgating rules to operationalise the whistleblowers law, the government has moved an amendment bill in Parliament which seeks to severely dilute the Act, Nikhil Dey from NCPRI said.

The amendments seek to remove safeguards available to whistleblowers from prosecution under the Official Secrets Act and also introduce wide-ranging exclusions by stating that disclosures should not contain information which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty , integrity, security , strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State.

Can’t charge over ₹50 for giving information: SC

Can’t charge over ₹50 for giving info under RTI: SC, March 21, 2018: The Times of India

The Supreme Court on Tuesday fixed a ceiling of Rs 50 for public bodies, including legislative assemblies and high courts, for providing information under the Right to Information Act.

A bench of Justices A K Goel and U U Lalit also ruled that the government bodies could not charge more than Rs 5 per page for giving photocopies of documents sought under the Act. It also ruled that public authorities could not force an RTI applicant to provide reason or motive for seeking information.

The court passed the order on a batch of petitions challenging the rules framed by different authorities fixing their own charges for providing information under the RTI Act although the parent law says that only Rs 10 has to be charged from information-seekers.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioners, told the bench that the Allahabad HC charged Rs 500 per information under the RTI Act which was illegal and it was intended to discourage citizens from seeking information. He said as per the HC rule, an application for information should be for only one item, it should be accompanied by Rs 500 by way of application fee and that the citizen should pay Rs 15 for every page of information.

He said that rules framed by the HC were quite different from the rules framed by the Centre which have also been adopted by the SC for disclosing information to citizens as the fee prescribed by the HC is 50 times the fee prescribed by the Centre. Similarly, the cost of one page of information is only Rs 2 as per the Central government rules whereas it is Rs 15 as per the Allahabad HC rules, he said.

He also referred to an order passed by the Central Information Commission which had held that such stringent restrictive conditions, including such high level of fees, would surely deter citizens from freely seeking information from the HC which was not in conformity with the spirit of RTI Act.

RTI applies to…

Bank audits

April 26, 2019: The Times of India

Supreme Court directs RBI to disclose information on bank inspection report under RTI

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court directed the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to disclose information pertaining to its annual inspection report of banks under the Right to Information (RTI) Act unless they are exempted under law.

A bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao also directed the federal bank to review its policy to disclose information relating to banks under RTI, saying "it is duty bound under the law". The bench, which did not go ahead with contempt proceedings against the RBI, made it clear that it was giving a last opportunity to it to comply with provisions of the transparency law.

The bench said it would have taken a serious view to the refusal of RBI to part with information under RTI.

"Any further violation shall be viewed seriously," the bench said.

In January this year, the top court had issued contempt notice to RBI for not disclosing annual inspection report of banks under RTI.

Earlier, the apex court and the Central Information Commission, both had held that the RBI cannot deny information to an information seeker under the transparency law unless the material is exempted from disclosure under the law.

The RBI, in its defence, had said that it cannot disclose information as the annual inspection report of the bank contained "fiduciary" information as defined under the transparency law.

The bench was hearing a contempt petition filed by RTI activist S C Agrawal against the RBI.


April 30, 2021: The Times of India

A last ditch attempt made by banks to get exemption from the Right to Information Act failed with the Supreme Court refusing to recall its order by which RBI was directed to disclose information about functioning of financial institutions under the transparency law.

Nearly six years after the SC ruled that RBI had to reveal information about functioning of banks under the Act, major banks, including SBI and HDFC, had urged the SC to recall its order, saying they can’t reveal confidential information of account holders.

A batch of senior advocates, including SG Tushar Mehta, Harish Salve and Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the banks, told the court that the banking industry could be adversely affected and the SC’s order might be misused for corporate rivalry. But a bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Vineet Saran turned down their plea. “No effort was made by any of the applicants to get themselves impleaded... The applications styled as recall are essentially applications for review,” the bench said adding that the plea of the banks was not maintainable.

BCCI, since 2018

K ShriniwasRao, CIC brings BCCI under right to info, October 2, 2018: The Times of India

The worst fears of an Indian cricket selector are about to come true. BCCI has been brought under the ambit of the Right To Information Act and faces the direct prospect of being answerable to the country and its public in the near future.

The Central Information Commission (CIC) — the top appellate body in all matters related to this 2005 Act of the Parliament of India — has directed the BCCI to be brought under the RTI Act and put in place, online and offline mechanisms to receive applications for information under the RTI Act.

Will a selection committee meeting now be public info?

“The BCCI should be listed as a National Sports Federation (NSF) covered under the RTI Act. The RTI Act should be made applicable to the BCCI along with its entire constituent member cricketing associations, provided they fulfil the criteria applicable to the BCCI, as discussed in the Law Commission's report,” CIC commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said.

Those who oversee the day-today functioning of the BCCI say they are least bit surprised with the development. “But there are massive pitfalls associated with this too. All hell will break loose if details of selection committee meetings are now made available to the public. Who will want to speak his mind then? Every decision taken inside a selection committee meeting will become a matter of national debate, leading to tamasha on prime time television news,” said a senior BCCI member.

Recently, the national women’s team coach was sacked by the BCCI because he — sources say — was asked to jot down details of team meetings and the cricketers rejected the idea the moment it was proposed.

“Now, where will the RTI Act limit itself to? Of course, the growing amount of conflict in cricket ensures that there needs to be some kind of checks in place. But at the same time, the age old question remains: ‘how does one determine conflict?’” say board members.

The BCCI itself is divided on this matter. There are those who want the RTI to come into effect so that some serious issues troubling Indian cricket are made public. The National Cricket Academy (NCA), for instance, says a member, “is one such hogwash” and needs to be brought to public notice.

The CIC says it has gone through the law, the Supreme Court order in the matter involving the BCCI, the report submitted by the Law Commission in this regard and the submissions made by the Central Public Information officer. In this regard, the CIC concludes: “The status, nature and functional characteristics of the BCCI fulfil required conditions of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act”.

Acharyulu came out with a 37-page order on Monday saying that the apex court itself has reaffirmed that the BCCI is an ‘approved' national-level body holding virtually monopoly rights to organize cricketing events in the country. The matter had first come before the CIC when a RTI applicant submitted that the sports ministry had not given any adequate response to an application seeking to know the provisions and guidelines under which the BCCI has been representing India and selecting players for the country.

CBI’s investigations

Rumu Banerjee, May 2, 2019: The Times of India

Disclose details of case probed, CIC tells CBI

Says Agency Can’t Seek RTI Exemption

New Delhi:

In an order that is likely to have wider ramifications, the central information commission has directed the CBI to disclose details of a case it had investigated.

Dismissing the agency’s contention of being exempt from RTI requests under section 24 of the RTI Act, CIC said the CBI had “grossly erred” in invoking exemption under sections of the RTI Act. It directed that the information be shared with the appellant within 15 days and that a compliance report be filed. The CIC also marked a copy of the order to the CBI director, noting that its personnel be sensitised regarding the scope and ambit of RTI Act, and section 24 in particular.

The order by information commissioner Divya Prakash Sinha came on an RTI application by N Parasher, who sought information into a CBI inquiry into irregular appointment of staff by the Leprosy Prevention Unit of the health department. The CBI inquiry had been at the behest of the Patna HC.

However, the CBI, through its CPIO, refused to share the information, citing exemption under section 24 of the RTI Act, which allows a number of intelligence and security organisations not to disclose information, provided the information doesn’t pertain to allegations of corruption or violation of human rights.

Dismissing the CBI’s argument for exemption, Sinha in his order said, “(The) Commission observes from the perusal of facts on record that the allegation of corruption is prima-facie evident from the subject matter of the information sought in the RTI application and therefore the proviso to Section 24(1) of RTI Act is applicable herein.”

Chief of defence staff

Dec 3, 2019 Times of India

A high-level committee headed by NSA Ajit Doval to finalise responsibilities and enabling framework for the proposed chief of defence staff (CDS) has submitted its report to the gover nment.

The government is likely make an announcement within next two weeks to appoint the CDS who will be the singlepoint military adviser to the government as suggested by the Kargil Review panel in 1999.

Junior minister for defence Shripad Naik said in the Rajya Sabha that the CDS would come under the the ambit of the Right to Information Act. PTI

Daughter-in-law’s right to information about assets

Rumu Banerjee, Can disclose pension info to bahu: CIC , August 3, 2017: The Times of India

The central information commission has ruled that a daughter-in-law has a right to information on pension arrears of her father-in-law. The order came in a case after the department of posts refused to share the information citing the right to privacy of a third party.

In a scathing order, information commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said it reflected the lack of knowledge of law displayed by the chief information officer of the department of posts. “It is pathetic that the CPIO did not bother to know the 2005 amendment to Hindu Succession Act, according to which sons and marriedunmarried daughters will have equal share and the family of the deceased son (wife, sons and daughters) will get the unit of that deceased son,“ Acharyulu said. The commission ordered the department of posts to disclose the information to the appellant and also issued a show cause notice to the public information officers as to why they should not be penalised for “illegally denying the information sought“.

Examination answer sheets

Rumu Banerjee, Students can seek answer sheets under RTI, says CIC, October 4, 2017: The Times of India

There's good news for students. The CIC in an order has ruled that educational institutions that are public authorities cannot refuse to provide exam answer sheets under the RTI Act. The Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University had refused to part with the information, instead asking the student to approach the university exam cell for the same service but with a fee.

The order came on an RTI filed by Swati Babbar, a student of architecture in IP university , who wanted a copy of the answer sheets of exams she sat for in 2016. The public information officer of Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University (GGSIPU) refused to give the information, asking the RTI applicant to approach the university to inspect the answer sheets at a fee of Rs 1,000, as per university rules.

Ruling that an examinee has a “statutory as well as equitable“ right to know about the evaluation process, information commissioner Yashovardhan Azad said, “Seeking access to an examination answer script is well within the ambit of the RTI Act.“ Azad added, “The Apex Court ... has held the evaluated answer scripts to be within the meaning of information.“ Azad also averred that since the appellant was the examinee herself, exemption under Section 8(1)(e) was also not available to the university .

The CIC was scathing about GGSIPU's practice of charging a fee for the service, observing that the university , as per the contention of the PIO, wasn't averse to disclosure, but wanted the appellant to approach under the university's internal mechanism.

Government departments, expenditure by

The Times of India

Anjaya Anparthi

May 11, 2015

Government department spending more on providing RTI info than fee charged

Despite clear orders, government departments continue to spend more on providing information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act than the charges recovered from applicants. The departments are wasting public money and machinery while violating the norms. Also, RTI activists and applicants are forced to face inconvenience.

TOI had reported how NMC was demanding Rs 6-8 to provide information under the RTI Act and asking applicants to deposit the paltry sum at its head office only. Following a complaint from RTI activist TH Naidu, the State Information Commission directed the civic body to make arrangements to collect RTI charges at zone offices.

Naidu and another RTI activist Avinash Prabhune say that the government departments should not even ask applicants to pay the paltry charges, but focus on giving the right information in the first instance. "In fact, government departments like NMC, Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT) and district administration are violating RTI rules. Government departments are supposed to display information asked under the RTI Act on its website. It will help applicants get the information from the website without any stress or charges. The government departments will save time and machinery along with expenses," the latter said.

Prabhune added government departments are not following the state government notification dated September 6, 2008. "Government had made it very clear that there was no meaning in spending Rs 50 or more on providing information under the RTI Act when the charges recovered are Rs 10 or less. The government officials first send letter asking us to pay charges and then provide information through another communication. This wastes valuable government resources like manpower, office hours, stationary and postal charges in case the fee is less than Rs 10. Besides, the applicants have to spend much more than charges and time. Therefore, the government directed the public information officers to provide information immediately if the charges to be recovered are very less lesser as compared to the conveyance or postal charges," he said.

Prabhune added that government officials are using the tool of communications to deliberately delay the information. "Many departments do not provide information in first instance. Applicants have to go for appeal after appeal. Many cases go up to the state information commission. Thus, the government is wasting so much money and time of the applicants too. The government had time and again directed public information officials to dispose off applications in first instance but not many are following it," he said.

Prabhune also said the state should not recover fee for appeals under the RTI Act. "Central government offices do not specify any fee for filing first and second appeal. The state charges Rs 20 for first and second appeal. Different norms are existing under one act," he said.

Husband’s gross income

Ajay Parmar, November 18, 2020: The Times of India

Woman can use RTI for info on husband’s gross income: CIC


A wife is entitled to know about her husband’s gross income and can seek information about the same through RTI, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has ruled, reports Ajay Parmar.

Such information cannot be considered as pertaining to a third party or beyond the definition of disclosable information under the RTI, the commission clarified while rejecting the denial of information to a wife seeking data about her husband’s gross and taxable income besides directing the Income Tax (I-T) department of Jodhpur to provide her with the same within 15 days of the order.

The petitioner had filed an RTI application with the department seeking a copy of her husband’s I-T return, following which an officer of the department issued a notice to the husband, apprising him about the data sought by his wife as it belonged to a third party.

“The husband refused to share the information terming it as personal, following which the I-T officer stated that the information couldn’t be provided citing section 8(1) (J) of the RTI Act,” the petitioner’s counsel said. The first appellate officer also upheld the decision of the I-T officer and rejected her first appeal.

Husband’s salary

Wife has right to know salary of husband: HC, May 29, 2018: The Times of India

A woman has the right to know the remuneration of her husband, the Madhya Pradesh high court has observed. An HC bench made the observation while hearing the petition of Sunita Jain who had sought a higher maintenance amount from her estranged husband claiming he was a senior officer with BSNL.

The petitioner’s counsel said Sunita had pleaded that her estranged husband, Pawan Kumar Jain, was a senior officer at BSNL and was drawing a high salary while she was being given a maintenance of just Rs 7,000 per month. After a trial court rejected Sunita’s plea that her husband produce his pay slip, she had filed an RTI plea to get his salary details.

The issue reached the CIC which, in 2007, asked BSNL to give P K Jain’s salary details. However, he challenged the order before a single bench of the HC, which set aside the CIC order in March 2015. Sunita then moved the HC’s double bench, which observed that a wife was entitled to know the remuneration of her husband.

IB’s corruption files can be disclosed

Abhinav Garg, WIDENING AMBIT - IB files on graft can be disclosed under RTI: HC, August 27, 2017: The Times of India

In a verdict widening the ambit of the Right To Information Act, the Delhi high court has declared that Intelligence Bureau (IB) reports concerning cases of corruption and human rights violation fall under the transparency law.These can be disclosed under the RTI Act, as long as they don't affect core security and intelligence operations of security agencies.

The HC declared that the exemption clause under the RTI Act can't be invoked if the information pertains to allegations of corruption and human rights violation.

“The proviso is not qualified and conditional on the information being related to the intelligence or security organisation exempted by the Act. If the information sought or furnished by the exempt organisation pertains to allegations of corruption and hu man rights violation, it would be exempt from the exclusion clause,“ ruled Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva.

The verdict came on an appeal filed by IB against an order by the Central Information Commission, asking it to disclose a report generated for the ministry of forest & environment on alleged harassment and false cases filed against IFS officer Sanjiv Chaturvedi, for exposing graft during his tenure as forest officer in Haryana.

Chaturvedi sought a copy of the IB report through RTI, citing to the CIC that he ought to know its details, since the report refers to alleged corruption by public servants who harassed him.

The IB report, prepared in 2014, was submitted in relation to false cases filed against him by “corrupt“ officers exposed by him.

Income details of spouse

The Times of India

Feb 07 2015

Himanshi Dhawan

Details of your property , investments and assets can be accessed by your spouse under the Right to Information Act (RTI).

The Central Information Commission (CIC) passed the judgment on Friday while dealing with the case of an applicant -an estranged wife and an alleged victim of domestic violence.

Overruling arguments that income details of someone is “personal information“, it directed Delhi Transco, where her husband works, to provide the relevant documents to her as it constituted her right to life.

In this particular case, the applicant had sought to know the details of her husband's property , including that given in dowry , and action taken against him for attempting to commit bigamy and abandoning her without financial support. So far such information has been considered exempt under the RTI Act and treated as private or third party information.

Ruling that the larger public interest overrides exemption under privacy of an individual, information commissioner M Shridhar Acharyulu said that the public information officer in Delhi Transco could not reject the request for such information if filed by the woman because the protection of privacy is overridden by the huge public interest in the duty of a government official to provide maintenance to his wife and children and not indulge in domestic violence.

The commission ordered the firm to furnish the man's income details within 48 hours. Citing a recent Delhi high court order, the CIC said that the court had asked both husband and wife to submit affidavits of income, assets and investments which were considered personal or third party information earlier. “Depending on the financial condition or non-availability of support from parents when husband does not maintain his wife, it challenges her right to live, and thus information related to maintenance becomes life related information,“ the order had said.

Wife entitled to know man’s salary for maintenance: HC

Khushhal Kaushik, January 22, 2024: The Times of India

Madurai : Observing that a wife is entitled to know the salary paid to her husband to seek relief of maintenance, Madras HC has dismissed a plea by a man challenging the order of the state information commission (SIC), which had directed his employer to furnish his service details to his wife.

The court was hearing the petition filed by the husband. Matrimonial proceedings are pending between the petitioner and his wife, who had sought maintenance from him. For effectively pursuing her claim, she needed certain basic service details pertaining to the petitioner. The wife applied to the employer for furnishing the information under the RTI Act.

Since the petitioner has raised an objection, the employer did not furnish the information. When the wife preferred an appeal, the SIC directed the employer to furnish the information. Challenging the same, the petitioner had filed the present petition in 2020.

Justice G R Swaminathan observed that the SIC had passed an appropriate order. In the present case, the wife cannot be called as a third party. When the matrimonial proceedings are pending between them, the wife does require certain basic details. 
The quantum of maintenance payable to her will depend upon the salary received by the petitioner. Unless the wife knows the quantum of salary received by the petitioner, she cannot make her rightful claim.

Referring to an order passed by Madhya Pradesh high court which held that the wife is entitled to know the remuneration her husband gets from his employer, justice Swaminathan upheld the order passed by the SIC and dismissed the plea by the husband.

The petitioner’s employer did not furnish the information sought by his wife as he had raised an objection. When she preferred an appeal, the state information commission directed the employer to furnish the information.

National security, foreign relations if a case is made out/ SC

Centre can't withhold documents under RTI citing national security, says SC, April 10, 2019: The Times of India

The Supreme Court said the Centre cannot withhold documents from disclosure under the RTI Act citing national security if it is established that retention of such information produces greater harm than disclosing it.

The observation was made by Justice K M Joseph in his 38-page separate but concurring judgment in which the Supreme Court allowed the plea relying on leaked documents for seeking review of its judgment on the Rafale fighter jet deal with France.

It dismissed the government's preliminary objections claiming "privilege" over them.

Justice Joseph said the RTI Act through Section 8(2) has conferred upon the citizens a "priceless right by clothing them" with the right to demand information even in respect of such matters as security of the country and matters relating to relation with foreign state.

"No doubt, information is not be given for the mere asking. The applicant must establish that withholding of such information produces greater harm than disclosing it," Justice Joseph said.

He said the premise for disclosure in a matter relating to security and relationship with foreign state is public interest.

"Right to justice is immutable. It is inalienable. The demands it has made over other interests has been so overwhelming that it forms the foundation of all civilised nations. The evolution of law itself is founded upon the recognition of right to justice as an indispensable hallmark of a fully evolved nation.

"The preamble to the constitution proclaims justice - social, economic or political, as the goal to be achieved. It is the duty of every State to provide for a fair and effective system of administration of justice. Judicial review is, in fact, recognised as a basic feature of the Constitution," he added.

The judge said that Section 8(2) of the RTI Act manifests a legal revolution that has been introduced in that, none of the exemptions declared under sub-section(1) of Section 8 or the Official Secrets Act, 1923 can stand in the way of the access to information if public interest in disclosure overshadows, the harm to the protected interests.

Justice Joseph said that Section 24 of the RTI Act also highlights the importance attached to the unrelenting crusade against corruption and violation of human rights.

"The most important aspect in a justice delivery system is the ability of a party to successfully establish the case based on materials. Subject to exceptions it is settled beyond doubt that any person can set the criminal law into motion. It is equally indisputable however that among the seemingly insuperable obstacles a litigant faces are limitations on the ability to prove the case with evidence and more importantly relevant evidence.

"Ability to secure evidence thus forms the most important aspect in ensuring the triumph of truth and justice. It is imperative therefore that Section 8(2) must be viewed in the said context. Its impact on the operation on the shield of privilege is unmistakable," he said.

He said that a citizen can get a certified copy of a document under the RTI Act even if the matter pertains to security or relationship with a foreign nation if a case is made out.

Justice Joseph said if such a document is produced before the court then surely a claim for privilege cannot be made by the government.

"It is clear that under the Right to Information Act, a citizen can get a certified copy of a document under Section 8(2) of the RTI Act even if the matter pertains to security or relationship with a foreign nation, if a case is made out thereunder. If such a document is produced surely a claim for privilege could not lie," Justice Joseph said.

The judge said that though there is no unqualified right to obtain information in respect of matters under Section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act, the court cannot be wholly unaffected by the new regime introduced by Parliament under the RTI Act on the question regarding a claim for privilege.

It is pertinent to note that an officer of the department is permitted under the RTI Act to allow access to information under the Act in respect of matters falling even under Section 8(1)(a) if a case is made out under Section 8(2).

He said the context for material being considered by the court is relevancy, and there can be no dispute that the manner in which evidence is got -- that it was procured in an illegal manner -- would not ordinarily be very significant in itself.

The judge said that the three documents in question have been published in 'The Hindu' and it is true that they have not been officially published but the correctness of the contents per se of the documents are not questioned.

"The case does not strictly involve in a sense the claim for privilege as the petitioners have not called upon the respondents to produce the original and as already noted the state does not take objection to the correctness of the contents of the documents. The request of the respondents is to remove the documents from the record.

"In the writ petition out of which the review arises the complaint is that there has been grave wrong doing in the highest echelons of power and the petitioners seek action inter alia under the provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act," Justice Joseph said.

NGOs, govt aided

From the archives of The Times of India 2010

NGOs getting govt aid in RTI ambit: HC


New Delhi: The Delhi high court has held that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which get government funds should come under the purview of RTI Act making it mandatory for them to disclose information pertaining to their functioning.

‘‘The term public authority has been given a broad meaning not only to include bodies which are owned, controlled or substantially financed directly or indirectly by the government but even NGOs, which are financed directly or indirectly by the government,’’ justice Sanjeev Khanna said while declaring the stock exchanges as public authorities in a recent order.

The court said it is not necessary that the government should have pervasive and deep control over an organization to bring it under the purview of the Transparency Act. ‘‘Even private organizations, which are enjoying benefit of substantial funding directly or indirectly from the governments, fall within the definition of public authorities under the Act,’’ the court said.

The court made these observations while passing an order on a petition filed by the National Stock Exchange (NSE) challenging a Central Information Commission order which had directed it to disclose information under the Act. The court dismissed the NSE plea that it cannot be forced to reveal information to public under RTI.

‘Notings’ on files, Junior-to-senior

Abhinav Garg, Junior-to-senior file notings no longer secret, February 23, 2018: The Times of India

File notings by a junior government officer to his superior can be disclosed under the Right to Information Act, the Delhi high court has held.

Unless such notings are secret or protected by any other law, these can’t be treated as third party information under clause 11 of RTI Act, the court clarified in a recent ruling.

Justice Vibhu Bakhru noted that “the reasoning, that the notings or information generated by an employee during the course of his employment is his information and thus has to be treated as relating to a third party, is flawed.”

Section 11 deals with information which relates to, or has been supplied by a third party and has been treated as confidential by that third party. In these cases the information officer has to give a written notice to such third party that an RTI plea has been recieved seeking the information and that the information officer intends to disclose the information or record. The objection or consent of the third party is often key in the final decision of the information officer if the information can be revealed.

While dealing with one such case where the Union home ministry refused information on file notings Justice Vibhu Bakhru said, “The contention that notings made by a junior officer for use by his superiors is third party information, which requires compliance of Section 11 of the Act, is unmerited.”

Prosecution information: Sharing with accused

The Times of India, Aug 01 2016

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has given a split verdict on holding information on the basis of which sanction of prosecution was sought by the CBI.It said the information cannot be disclosed as it would prejudicially affect prosecution.

Dissenting with the verdict, information commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said the basic tenet of the criminal justice system is that an accused should be given every bit of information.

The CIC refused to pass a verdict on whether the CBI could claim immunity from disclosure as it is on the list of organisations that are exempt from provisions of the RTI Act except when information sought is related to allegations of graft and rights violations.The majority decision by information commissioners Sudhir Bhargava and Sharat Sabharwal was since CIC had earlier taken two different stands and the matter is at a high court, it wouldn't pass an order.

Private firms in public work

Rumu Banerjee, Pvt firms in public work under RTI law, says CIC, October 29, 2017: The Times of India

In a move that could draw private companies into the ambit of the transparency law, the central information commission is deliberating on a mechanism for proactive disclosures by private entities involved in public work.

“The private sector is increasingly involved in public works, which makes it answerable to public... We need to move towards proactive disclosures by the private entity,“ chief information commissioner R K Mathur told TOI.

According to Mathur, countries like UK and Canada have already evolved a mechanism to make disclosures mandatory by private firms. With more private firms getting involved in public work here as well, especially through private public partnerships, it's a rule that should be mirrored in India.

Interestingly , Mathur recently gave an order that could impact the discussions over making disclosures mandatory for private companies involved in public work. The chief information commissioner in an order noted that while the Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS), which conducts banking exams, is not a public authority under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act and therefore does not come under its purview...“.

The order came on a string of RTIs filed by applicants who had sat for the exam, and wanted more information. Over four million candidates appear for these exams each year.

SIT on black money under RTI ambit: CIC

Rumu Banerjee, SIT on black money under RTI ambit: CIC, October 12, 2017: The Times of India

The Central Information Commission has said that the Supreme Courtappointed SIT on black money is a public authority , thus bringing it under the ambit of the RTI Act.

In an order, information commissioner Bimal Julka, citing several previous orders of the Supreme Court, said every action of the government must be seen in the context of public interest and for larger public good. While giving his order, Julka also cited the recent decision of the Supreme Court to upload the collegium's resolutions on the SC website for public scrutiny .

The SIT was set up on the orders of the Supreme Court in 2014 through a government notification to suggest methods to curb black money in the economy . Headed by former Supreme Court judge MB Shah, the SIT is responsible for investigating cases of black money stashed abroad through coordination of various agencies like the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Intelligence Bureau (IB), Enforcement Directorate (ED), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Financial Intelligence Unit, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Directorate of Reevenue Intelligence (DRI).

The order came on an RTI application by activist Venka tesh Nayak to the finance ministry demanding information on seven points including a photocopy of the letter reportedly written by Herve Falcini, former employee of the Geneva branch of HSBC Bank, to the SIT chairman.

The RTI however, was forwarded by the finance ministry to the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), which refused to give the information while referring it back to the finance ministry for a part of the query . It cited certain exemption clauses under the RTI Act.

Nayak said, “After waiting for a reply from the Black Money SIT for 140 days, I decided to file a complaint before the CIC not for demanding access to information but to declare the SIT as a `public authority' un der the RTI Act.

The substance of my argument was that being a multimember body , as per the government's May 2014 notification, the SIT was clearly a `body' and as this body was constituted by a notification in the official gazette, the SIT met both criteria for being recognised as a public authority under Section 2(h)(d) of the RTI Act.“

Julka in his order noted, “When a public authority is largely funded by the government and performs the duty of bringing back unaccounted money unlawfully kept in bank accounts abroad, it was essentially performing a public duty and thus every citizen has every right to know about certain information within the framework of the RTI Act, 2005.“

The order said the SIT was constituted by a central government notification thus there is “no scope of ambiguity“ in considering the SIT as a “body“ as envisaged within the definition of “Public Authority“ under the RTI Act.

The order said, “Considering the spirit of the RTI Act, 2005 and in light of conditions laid down under Section 2 (h) of the RTI Act, it would be just and appropriate to declare the SIT a public authority , more so for the reason that it was performing a pious public duty bestowed upon it by the Supreme Court...“

Soccer body is under a public authority, hence under RTI

Rumu Banerjee, Now, DSA comes under RTI Act, November 28, 2017: The Times of India

The Central Information Comission has declared the Delhi Soccer Association (DSA) a “public authority”, bringing it under the ambit of the RTI Act and answerable to public queries.

The ruling came on an RTI plea filed by DK Bose, who sought to know from the DSA the status of various complaints received by the association from girl footballers of Delhi against its office-bearers . However, when DSA didn’t provide the requisite information, Bose approached the CIC.

The association told the CIC that it did not come under the RTI Act as it was not defined as a ‘public authority’, and was not answerable to queries posed under the Act.

After going through the responses of DSA, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and arguments of the petitioner, information commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said even in performing its activities as the governing body of football in Delhi, the DSA was expected to act under the control and supervision of the AIFF, a public authority under the ministry of sports. Newly-elected DSA president Shaji Prabhakaran welcomed the move.

Acharyulu said the DSA’s monopoly, recognised, sanctioned and continued by the government through the sports ministry, was indirect and it had substantial funding by the government. “This factor is enough to declare the DSA as public authority, though another criterion could also be applied, i.e. the direct and real control of the government or governmental agencies over it,” the information commissioner said.

Acharyulu further said the football body did not deny having complete monopoly over the game in Delhi, but refused to be answerable under the RTI Act. “This is highly unbecoming of a sports body. In fact, being a public body concerned with public activity like football, the DSA should have voluntarily disclosed the entire information about it, including the bits and pieces asked by the appellant in this and several other appeals, and fulfil its obligation under Section 4 of RTI Act,” he said.

RTI does not apply to…

Army canteens not covered by RTI

Rumu Banerjee, `Army canteens can't be covered by RTI Act', Sep 20, 2017: The Times of India

The CIC has ruled that the popular Army canteen is not a public authority, and thus not covered by the RTI Act. The order came on an RTI application, which wanted the canteen at Garhi Cantonment in Dehradun to be declared a `public authority', so that information could be provided on it. However, re lying on judgements of the Kerala high court and the principle of creation, finance and control under the definition of a public authority ,a bench of the central information commission (CIC) has ruled that unit run canteens are not in fact, a public authority.

The matter came up when appellants Daya Shankar Shukla, Mathura Prasad Silori and Ashish Ranjan approached the CIC on being denied information by the ministry of defence and Army headquarters. The ministry had averred that the canteens run under the CSD (canteen store department) of the defence ministry were not public authority , and thus were not covered by the RTI Act, 2005.

A bench consisting of in formation commissioners Sudhir Bhargava and Yashovardhan Azad in their order ruled that the appellants had failed to establish the fact that the unit run canteens were to be treated as public authority . The information commissioners relied on the principle of creation, finance and control of an organisation as outlined in the definition clause of section 2(h) of the RTI Act, for the decision.

Central bureau of investigation

Agencies, Nov 8, 2022: The Times of India

KOCHI: The Kerala HC has held that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was exempted from furnishing information under the Right to Information Act (RTI) as CBI is one of several intelligence and security agencies which have been exempted from the purview of the transparency law.

The October 31 ruling by a Bench of Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly came on a plea moved by a retired assistant commissioner of Central Excise and Customs against a single-judge decision upholding the Central Information Commission's order declining his request under RTI for a CBI enquiry report on some Customs officials.

The appellant-petitioner contended that he needed the report to prove his innocence in a case lodged against him alleging that in 2012 while clearing certain sundry goods baggage of NRI labourers, proper assessment was not done by him for monetary benefits.

He was working in the unaccompanied baggage section, Air Cargo, Trivandrum, at that time. The case lodged against him by a Customs officials is pending before the Special Judge, Thiruvananthapuram.

The appellant claimed that while the allegations were made against all Customs officials working at the airport, however, an officer of CBI's Anti Corruption Bureau "with ulterior/corrupt motives, manipulated the statements under Section 161 of Cr.P.C of three passengers as prosecution version and department version" and based on the same managed exemption from prosecution for two inspectors.

CJI’s and HC CJs’ offices

Dhananjay Mahapatra, Nov 14, 2019: The Times of India

The RTI and the offices of the CJI and HC CJ/ 2019: 1
From: Dhananjay Mahapatra, Nov 14, 2019: The Times of India
The RTI and the offices of the CJI and HC CJ/ 2019: 2
From: Dhananjay Mahapatra, Nov 14, 2019: The Times of India

The Supreme Court declared offices of the Chief Justice of India and high court chief justices as “public authority”, making them liable to provide information to queries under the Right to Information Act, but weaved in caveats of “judicial independence, privacy and genuine public interest” to protect judges and judiciary against witch-hunting.

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices N V Ramana, D Y Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna said the SC, which is a “public authority”, would necessarily include the office of the CJI and judges in view of Article 124 of the Constitution. In the process, it upheld a 2010 judgment of the Delhi high court that directed the CPIO of the SC to furnish information on SC judges who have declared their assets. Although the SC stayed the HC order, judges have been voluntarily declaring their assets.

Writing the order, an attempt to balance competing considerations of accountability and transparency with the independence of the judiciary and the privacy of its members, Justice Khanna explained, “The office of the CJI, or for that matter the judges, is not separate from the Supreme Court, and is part and parcel of the Supreme Court as a body, authority and institution...”

RTI shouldn't be used as surveillance tool: Judge

Dhananjay Mahapatra, Nov 14, 2019: The Times of India

As part of a fivejudge Constitution bench led by CJI Ranjan Gogoi which ruled that the CJI’s office is amenable to RTI Act, Justice D Y Chandrachud made a remarkable suggestion — frame the quantifiable norms for selection of persons for appointment as judges of the HCs and SC and make them public.

Justice N V Ramana, also part of the five-judge bench, sounded caution by observing that in the name of transparency in the functioning of judges and judiciary, “right to information should not be allowed to be used as a tool of surveillance”.

Justice Chandrachud addressed a long pending grievance from most quarters that the collegium of SC judges headed by the CJI, which recommends to the Centre names for appointment of judges to the constitutional courts, functions in a translucent manner to invite a tag of arbitrariness to its decisions. This was reflected in the October 2015 judgement of another five-judge SC bench, which had struck down National Judicial Appointments Commission as an intrusion into judicial independence.

Justice Chandrachud said the basis for selection and appointment of judges to higher judiciary must be defined and placed in the public realm. “Due publicity to the norms which have been formulated and are applied would foster a degree of transparency and promote accountability in decision-making at all levels within the judiciary and government,” he said.

“There is a vital public interest in disclosing the basis on which those with judicial experience are evaluated for elevation to higher judicial office, particularly having regard to merit, integrity and judicial performance. Placing the criteria followed in making judicial appointments in the public domain would fulfil the purpose and mandate of Section 4 of the RTI Act, engender public confidence in the process and provide a safeguard against extraneous considerations entering into the process,” he said.

Justice Ramana, on the other hand, called for a balance between right to information and right to privacy. He said many factors were to be considered before coming to a conclusion whether information sought under RTI was private or public and whether it could violate a person’s right to privacy. For example, could sexual preference of a judge be disclosed, he asked.

Court cases

March 5, 2020: The Times of India

Holding that information held by a high court on the judicial side are “personal information” of litigants, the Supreme Court said a person cannot invoke the Right to Information Act to get details relating to a case, which can be disclosed only as per the rules framed by the HC.

A bench of Justices R Banumathi, A S Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy said different high courts have framed rules for a third party to have access to obtain certified copies of documents or orders and the procedures under the rules have to followed to get information instead of filing RTI application.

The court said the rule requiring a person to file an application/affidavit stating the reasons for seeking the information is not inconsistent with the provisions of the RTI Act but merely lays down a different procedure like payment of fees etc for obtaining information.

“This would involve wastage of both time and fiscal resources which the preamble of the RTI Act itself intends to avoid,” it said. TNN

Defence, diplomatic issues

Gorshkov cost hike should not be made public: Def min, April 2, 2018: The Times of India

India’s reasons for agreeing to a cost escalation by the Russian side for refurbished aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov should not be made public in national and diplomatic interest, the defence ministry has said in the Delhi high court, challenging an order of the central information commission.

The CIC had directed the defence ministry to disclose reasons why the country chose a refurbished warship in place of purchasing a new one and the net final cost including the expenditure on the modifications, renovations and remodelling done on the now 30-year-old ship and dates of payments made by India. However, through a a writ petition, the defence ministry claimed the Inter Governmental Agreement between India and Russia bars the disclosure of such details and would come under the RTI Act’s exemption clause. “The IGA in clause 9 specifically states the sides not to disclose the contents of the present agreement as well as all the correspondence and information related to its implementation without mutual consent.”

The ministry said any further information related to payments made by India or acceptance of upward revision in cost and time was not only bound by the clauses of the IGA but would also constitute a breach of parliamentary privileges and be prejudicial to the interest of the country.

The deal for purchasing the ship, rechristened INS Vikramaditya, was signed in 2004 by the then NDA government at $974 million. The cost was raised to the final price of $2.35 billion in 2010.

Information commissioner Amitava Bhattacharya had ordered the disclosure of information last year on a plea of activist Subhash Agrawal about cost escalation and others issues. The court has now asked Agrawal to appear before it on the matter on April 5.

Disciplinary Authority/ Group of Officers’ notings, deliberations

November 9, 2020: The Times of India

CIC lets govt hold back info on run-up to home secy resignation

New Delhi:

The Central Information Commission has allowed the Cabinet Secretariat to withhold records of deliberations and file notes leading to the resignation of former Union Home Secretary Anil Goswami, who was asked to put down his papers following allegations of his attempts to stall the arrest of a former minister by the CBI.

The panel has based its judgement on a Delhi high court order in a separate case in which it had held that file notings and deliberations of the Group of Officers or the Disciplinary Authority cannot be disclosed.

The court had, however, allowed information on action taken in relation to complaints against an officer to be provided to an applicant.

Chief Information Commissioner Y K Sinha buttressed his argument to withhold the information citing a Supreme Court verdict, which had held “..professional records, including qualification, performance, evaluation reports, ACRs, disciplinary proceedings, etc. are all personal information... Such personal information is entitled to protection from unwarranted invasion of privacy and conditional access is available when stipulation of larger public interest is satisfied.”

Goswami was forced to resign in February 2015 for allegedly trying to stall the arrest of a former Union minister in a case by the CBI. RTI applicant and IPS officer Amitabh Thakur had sought to know from the Cabinet Secretariat the details of action taken on a complaint against Goswami, including communication exchanged between various authorities and file notings. Not getting a satisfactory response, Thakur appealed before the CIC.

He argued that he wanted the information in public interest “to know the sequence of events which led to the forced resignation of Goswami”. Sinha said the contentions put forth by Thakur did not establish the larger public interest which would be served by the disclosure of the information. AGENCIES

Electronic voting machines (EVMs)

Dec 23, 2019 Times of India

The Delhi high court set aside an order of the Central Information Commission (CIC), which held electronic voting machines (EVMs) as coming within the definition of “information” under the RTI Act.

Justice Jayant Nath passed the order on a plea by the Election Commission of India (ECI) challenging the CIC’s February 12 order.

The CIC concluded that EVMs, available with the ECI in a material form and as a sample, is “information” under the RTI Act, on a plea by an applicant, who had sought access to an EVM maintained by the EC under the RTI Act.

However, the ECI moved the HC challenging the ruling and argued that EVMs do not fall under the scope of the RTI Act, which is primarily concerned with documentary records and representative models. “EVMs maintained by the petitioner (ECI) are utilized in the conduct of elections all over the country in accordance with law. Further, the petitioner also maintains a small number of EVMs for the purposes of training election officials and use in awareness programmes under the strict supervision of the petitioner. It is further submitted that the petitioner does not maintain any EVM in sample or model form,” the poll panel had maintained. TNN

Income tax details of judges

CIC: SC can’t give I-T details of judges

Dhananjay Mahapatra | TNN

From the archives of The Times of India 2007, 2009

New Delhi: In a rare instance, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has agreed with the Supreme Court and said that its registry could not be asked under the Right to Information (RTI) Act to provide details of the income tax returns filed by its judges.

In earlier instances — be it declaration of assets by the judges or revealing the details of the collegium meeting process for appointment of judges — the CIC’s ruling advocating transparency had been challenged by the apex court first before the Delhi high court and then before the Supreme Court.

But, on the income tax return details of the judges, the CIC saw reason to agree with the SC’s response to an RTI query and agreed with its counsel Devdatt Kamat that the registry did not have the details of the information sought by RTI applicant Dr Lal Bahadur.

Chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, in a five-page decision, said: “It should be clear that it is not the Supreme Court that would hold information on the income tax returns of the high court judges even at the time of their elevation as Supreme Court judges, coming as they are, from different states in the country.”

“Application will then have to be made to the department of revenue, ministry of finance, that administers income tax for all,” Habibullah said.

The original RTI application was filed by Dr Bahadur before the Supreme Court, which routed it to the ministry of law and justice. The ministry returned it to the apex court and tersely said: “Perhaps the Supreme Court of India could be in a better position to furnish the information, as sought by the RTI application.”

Judgments: RTI Act does not apply

SC: RTI Act doesn’t apply to judgments

Dhananjay Mahapatra | TNN

From the archives of The Times of India 2007, 2009

New Delhi: Can a judge be asked under the Right to Information (RTI) Act as to why and how he came to a particular conclusion in a judgment?

No, says the Supreme Court. The apex court saw the mischief potential of queries under the RTI Act in relation to a judge and his judgments and a Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice B S Chauhan firmly said that a judge speaks through his judgments and he could not be made to answer questions relating to his verdict in a case.

“A judge speaks through his judgments and he is not answerable to anyone as to why he wrote a judgment in a particular manner,” the Bench said dismissing an appeal filed by one Khanapuram Gandaiah, who had not even challenged the verdict in his case before an appellate forum.

What he asked using an RTI query was why the judge concerned did not consider parts of his submissions, parts of the voluminous documents while additionally putting questions about other aspects of the judgment against him.

Terming all these grievances as valid grounds for filing an appeal, which Gandaiah did not, the Bench minced no words in criticising the appellant for resorting to the RTI Act rather than seeking remedy before higher courts. Gandaiah had made an appliaction under Section 6 of RTI Act, which provides that any information possessed by a public authority under the Act has to be given to an applicant on such a request made either electronically or in writing. The District Judge had rejected his RTI plea.

The Bench agreed with the rejection of his plea seeking information about the judgment under the RTI Act and said: “A judge can only speak through his judgments and he cannot be made to go on explaining why he took a particular view in a judgment.”

“Moreover, as the judge has given his views in the judgment, he cannot give any other reason for his judgment, RTI Act query or otherwise. No party has a right to ask the judge concerned through RTI about the judgment,” the Bench said dismissing Gandaiah’s appeal.

Judges’ dictation to stenographer

PTI, Notes of judges' stenos not under RTI: HC, Oct 10 2016

Notes dictated by a judge to a stenographer during the hearing of a case would not be considered as a record held by a public authority and hence cannot be sought under the Right to Information Act, the high court has ruled.

“Shorthand notebook can at best be treated as a memo of what is dictated to a steno to be later transcribed into a draft judgement or an order.

“When draft judgements and order do not form part of a `record' held by a public authority , a shorthand notebook which is a memo of what is dictated and which would later be typed to become a draft judgement or an order can certainly not be held to be `record' held by a public authority,“ Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva said.

The court further clarified that shorthand notebooks were not retained and cannot be equated with a judgement or an order, which forms part of the judicial record. The ruling came in a judgement dismissing the plea of a man seeking copies of the shorthand notebooks in which the stenographer takes dictation of the court.

The court upheld the March 7 order of Central Information Commission (CIC) by which petitioner Tapan Choudhury was denied copies of shorthand notes taken in the high court on May 27, 2013.

The petitioner was denied the information by the Public Information Officer of the HC, who said that shorthand notes were not retained.The first appellate authority had also held that “no such record was maintained and thus the same cannot be furnished“ to the petitioner.

Justice Sachdeva in his decision also relied on a full bench judgement of HC, which had held that even draft judgements are not to be considered as final judgement but only a tentative view liable to change.

Ministers not under RTI: Delhi HC

December 8, 2017: The Hindu

Court overturns CIC verdict, says ‘direction issued by panel outside its scope’

The Delhi High Court has set aside the Central Information Commission order declaring Ministers as “public authorities” and answerable under the Right to Information law.

Justice Vibhu Bakhru overturned the March 12, 2016, CIC verdict saying “there was no occasion for the CIC to enter upon the question as to whether a minister is a 'public authority' under Section 2(h) of the Act”. “Further, directions issued by the CIC are also wholly outside the scope of the matter before the CIC,” the judge said, adding that the order cannot be sustained and was, accordingly, set aside.

The High Court’s order came on the Centre’s appeal against the CIC order.

The case emanates from an application filed by a Maharashtra resident who wanted to know how to get an appointment with the Union Law Minister. In November 2014, the man moved an application before Additional Private Secretary, Ministry of Law and Justice, seeking to know the time period of the Minister or Minister of State meeting the public.

As the information sought was not received, the matter reached the CIC. Here the Commission went on to frame the questions whether the Minister or his office was a “public authority” under the RTI Act.

It gave the Cabinet Secretary at the Centre and Chief Secretaries in the States two months to appoint public information officers for each Minister’s office. Also, the CIC said each Minister should get a website of his/her own where information can be disclosed.

The HC said that the Commission could not have gone into the above question. “The information as sought for by respondent No.2 (man) was provided to him and there was no dispute that he was entitled to such information,” the court said.

Unaided religious trusts

SagarKumar Mutha, HC: Unaided religious trusts not under RTI, December 9, 2018: The Times of India

Hyderabad high court has held that religious institutions like temples, churches and mosques that are not funded by the government do not fall within the purview of the Right to Information Act-2005 (RTI).

Justice Challa Kodanda Ram pronounced the judgment after hearing nearly 100 temples, their trustees and officials from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, who had challenged the decisions of their states’ endowments departments, which had asked these religious entities to furnish information regarding their administrative activities under the RTI Act.

Stating that these temples and their officials do not fall under the definition of public authority, as defined in the RTI Act, the judge saidthat the question of these entities following the directives issued by endowments department officials in respect of RTI does not arise. The judge held that for a temple to be called a public authority it should be either set up by the state, statute or controlled by it The judge also set aside several such directives of endowments department officials asking these temples to designate some of their staff as public information officers or assistant public information officers.

Though the two state governments are exercising some control over these temples by appointing trust boards, resolving temple staff disputes through endowment tribunals, among others, that does not bestow on the state the power to bring these temples under the purview of the RTI Act, Justice Kodanda Ram said.

Personal/ commercial gains, misuse of RTI for

Rumu Banerjee|RTI cannot be used for commercial gains: CIC|Jul 31 2017 : The Times of India (Delhi)

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has ruled that RTI cannot be used as a tool to exert pressure for commercial gains. The order came on a complaint filed by the editor of a magazine against the Dargah Khwaja Sahib Ajmer, which he complained had denied him information under the RTI Act.

The appellant had complained against the public information officer of the dargah, who he said had denied him information under the RTI Act. The appellant had sought information on complaints filed against employees of the dargah and the status report of the inquiry conducted by the dargah.

In his order, information commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu, while directing the dargah to furnish the information to the appellant, observed that RTI Act could not be used “to build pressure“ for personal gains. The observation came after the public information officer of the dargah said the RTI applications were filed after the dargah stopped giving advertisements in the magazine edited by the appellant. The appellant, in a counter argument, had said that he had a “right“ to the advertisements.


In the order, Acharyulu said, “ As a journalist, appellant has every right to criticise the functioning of public authority . As a citizen, he can also file RTI application. But he has no right to demand advertisements for his magazine building pressure of RTI applications.“ Acharyulu also cited the Press Council of India Act, which allows a public authority to file a complaint against a journalist for unethical conduct, if any . The reminder came after the appellant said he had also filed a complaint to the Press Council of India against the dargah for not giving advertisement.

The order assumes importance in the backdrop of complaints from several quarters about the misuse of the RTI Act. While the Act enables citizens to get information from government bodies on a host of issues, complaints of the misuse of the Act as a means of intimidation have also been doing the rounds.

Research and Analysis Wing

May 5, 2023: The Times of India

New Delhi: India’s external intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) is an exempted organisation under the Right to Information Act and unless the information sought relates to human rights or corruption issues, it is not liable to be disclosed, the Delhi high court has ruled.

The order came recently on apetition by an RTI applicant for disclosure of information on the residence of a former RAW chief during a certain period. Justice Prathiba M Singh refused to interfere with a Central Information Commission (CIC) order. The judge observed that RAW was covered under Section 24 of the RTI Act, which provided that security and intelligence organisations specified in the second schedule of the Act, were exempted.

The petitioner, Nisha Priya Bhatia, had in 2012 sought “certified copies of applications for allotment of government accommodation made by SK Tripathi; IPS (UP; 1972) between 1986 to present”, from the Directorate of Estates, Government of India, under the RTI Act. 
When the matter reached the CIC after the petitioner received no response, the information watchdog concluded that RAW was an exempted organisation under the RTI Act. TNN

Solicitor general’s advice to govt

Dec 25, 2023: The Times of India

Solicitor general’s advice to govt exempt from RTI: HC

New Delhi : Delhi high court recently held that the legal advice given by the solicitor general of India (SG) to the government of India and other government departments is exempt from disclosure as per Section 8(1) (e) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act of 2005.

The single judge bench of Justice Subramonium Prasad observed that the solicitor general is duty bound to work for the benefit of the central government and other departments in good faith. 
The court made the observation while setting aside an order passed by the central information commis sioner (CIC) on December 5, 2011, in the case filed by one Subhash Chandra Agrawal.

The central government had filed the petition challenging the CIC order, which directed the central public information officer (CPIO) of the Union ministry of law and justice to provide a copy of the note/opinion of year 2007 given by the then solicitor general of India to the department of telecommunications of erstwhile minis try of communications and information technology.

Holding that Agrawal failed to demonstrate as to what is the public interest that would be subserved by procuring the details of the advice of the solicitor general, the court remarked: “The petitioner has not been able to demonstrate as to what is the public interest that would be subserved so as to invoke the provisions of Section 8(2) of the RTI Act. In the absence of any public interest, the information sought by the respondent, which is exempted under Section 8(1) of the RTI Act, this court is not inclined to invoke the provisions of Section 8(2) of the RTI Act.”

UPSC civil services (Prelims) marks can't be made public: SC

AmitAnand Choudhary, SC: Can’t make civil services (Prelims) marks public under RTI, February 22, 2018: The Times of India

The Supreme Court has held that raw and scaled marks awarded to candidates in Civil Services (Prelims) examination cannot be revealed under the Right to Information Act and set aside the Delhi high court order asking UPSC to disclose the marks.

A bench of Justices A K Goel and U U Lalit allowed the plea of UPSC which contended that disclosure of marks could lead to compromising the integrity of the examination system and people would come to know about the scaling system used by it. The Commission contended that the corrections made in the answer book would likely arouse doubt and perhaps even suspicion in the candidate’s mind and this would not only breed grievances, but would likely lead to litigation.

“Weighing the need for transparency and accountability on the one hand and requirement of optimum use of fiscal resources and confidentiality of sensitive information on the other, we are of the view that information sought with regard to marks in Civil Services Exam cannot be directed to be furnished mechanically. Situation of exams of other academic bodies may stand on different footing. Furnishing raw marks will cause problems as pleaded by the UPSC which will not be in public interest,” the bench said.

NGOs, private bodies getting govt funds/ SC

AmitAnand Choudhary , Sep 18, 2019: The Times of India

In a significant order intended to inject transparency and accountability in functioning of NGOs and other private institutions receiving substantial government funds, Supreme Court ruled that such bodies fall in the ambit of right to information law, making them liable under the RTI Act.

“This Act (RTI) was enacted with the purpose of bringing transparency in public dealings and probity in public life. If NGOs or other bodies get substantial finance from government, we find no reason why any citizen cannot ask for information to find out whether his/her money which has been given to an NGO or any other body is being used for the requisite purpose,” a bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose said.

The bench held that there cannot be a “hard and fast rule” to decide if funds provided by government agencies amount to be being called substantial to bring them under the RTI Act. It said substantial funding does not mean a major portion or more than 50% of the budget of the bodies concerned.

“Another aspect for determining substantial funding is whether the body, authority or NGO can carry on its activities effectively without getting money from the government. If its functioning is dependent on finances of the government, there can be no doubt that it has to be termed as substantially financed,” said Justice Gupta, who wrote the judgement.

The court noted that very establishment of an institution, if dependent on largesse of the state, would mean substantially financed. “Merely because financial contribution of the state comes down during actual funding, will not by itself mean indirect finance given is not to be taken into consideration”.

The verdict came on a batch of petitions filed by NGOs including DAV College Trust and Management Society against decision of high court to declare them as public authority.

RTI is available to…

Non-citizens as well

HC: RTI is available to non-citizens too, March 15, 2023: The Times of India

The right to information is available not just to citizens of India but also to non-citizens, and denying the same to the latter would be contrary to the Constitution and the RTI Act, the Delhi HC has ruled, reports Vineet Upadhyay. Pronouncing the verdict on a plea by the public information officer of Central Tibetan Schools Administration, who was penalised for denying information sought by a teacher, Justice Pratibha Singh on Monday said section 3 of the RTI Act would have to be read as a “positive recognition of the right in favour of citizens, but not as a prohibition against non-citizens”.

Denial of information

Misuse of ‘personal information’ exemption

Shailesh Gandhi, RTI Act is being steadily emasculated by spurious use of ‘personal information’ exemption, November 17, 2018: The Times of India

The right to information is being steadily constricted by gross subversion of the law and Constitution. RTI Act mandates in Section 7 (1) that information can only be refused for exemptions specified in Section 8 and 9. Personal information may be exempted under Section 8 (1)(j) when “disclosure … has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information: Provided that the information, which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.”

A simple reading of the words shows that information under this clause can be denied if it is personal information whose nature has apparently no relationship to any public activity or interest; or whose disclosure would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual. If the information is personal information, it must be seen whether the information came to the public authority as a consequence of a public activity. Generally, most of the information in public records arises from a public activity. Applications for a government job, ration card, passport, caste certificates are some examples of public activity.

However, there may be some personal information which may be with public authorities which is not a consequence of a public activity, eg medical records, or transactions with a public sector bank. Similarly, a public authority may come into possession of some information during a raid or seizure which may have no relationship to any public activity. These would be exempt.

Unfortunately, it has become commonplace for adjudicators to truncate this clause and deny all information which can be connected with any person. Across the country information about MLA funds expenditure, officer’s leave, caste certificates, file notings, educational degrees, beneficiaries of subsidies and much more is being denied. Many PIOs are denying information which may have the name of a person claiming it is personal information and hence exempt.

Even if the information has arisen by a public activity, it could still be exempt if disclosing it would be an unwarranted invasion on the privacy of an individual. The denial of information from public records on grounds of privacy has to be in line with Article 19 (2) of the Constitution which allows placing restrictions on Article 19 (1) (a) in the interest of ‘decency or morality’. If, however, it is felt that the information is not the result of any public activity, or disclosing it would be an unwarranted violation of ‘decency or morality’, before denying information it must be subjected to the acid test of the proviso: “provided that the information, which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.”

Public servants have been used to answering questions raised in Parliament and legislatures. Hence, when they have a doubt, the law requires them to consider if they would give this information to the elected representatives. They must first come to the conclusion that they would not provide the information to MPs and MLAs, and record it when denying information to citizens.

Another perspective is that information is to be denied to citizens based on the presumption that disclosure would cause unjustified harm to some interest of an individual which should be protected. If, however, the information can be given to legislature it means the likely harm is not very high since what is given to legislature will be in public domain. Hence, it is necessary that when information is denied based on the provision of Section 8 (1) (j), the person denying the information must give his assessment that such information would be denied to Parliament or State legislature if sought in the decision.

This exemption has been illegally made so wide as to deny most information. This is an illegal and unconstitutional emasculation of RTI by a majority of officials, commissioners and courts. An important fundamental right is being curtailed and the right to publish could be next.

India’s global rank

2011-13: no.2; 2017: #5; 2018: #6

Rumu Banerjee , RTI rank: India slips a spot to No. 6, October 12, 2018: The Times of India

Growing Vacancy In Info Commissions In Many States Behind Poor Show

All is not right with the Right to Information (RTI) Act in India. A recent rating of 123 countries with functional right to information laws saw the country slip to number six on the list. While it slipped by only a notch from last year, it is several rungs down the list from 2011, when the global RTI rating started. India was at number 2 then.

The rating, which is under a project by Access Info Europe and the Centre for Law and Democracy, looks at how RTI laws function across countries that have introduced such a law. The list uses a 150-point scale to indicate the strengths and weaknesses of freedom of information laws around the world. The score is based on 61 indicators categorised under seven heads – right to access, scope, requesting procedure, exceptions and refusals, appeals, sanctions and protections, promotional measures.

The global ratings, which started in 2011, have usually had India giving a good show: number two in 2011, 2012 and 2013. It thereafter slipped down the following year, and has now fell to number six, behind Sri Lanka, Mexico and Afghanistan, which came first this year.

According to a survey of information from the annual reports of state information commissions and the CIC, there are myriad reasons for the poor show. Transparency International India, which carried out the survey, found an increasing vacancy in multiple state information commissions including the central information commission (CIC). Rama Nath Jha of TII says RTI needs “affirmative will” of the government. “Or else it will end up being the power of the powerful,” added Jha. Recent attempts to make changes in the RTI Act have added to the disquiet, add activists.

The vacancies are staggering across most of the state information commissions. Over 30 per cent, or 48 out of 156 total posts are vacant across the state information commissions (SICs) and the CIC. Only 12 states have filled all posts – of state chief information commissioners and information commissioners – in their commission, leading to no vacancy.

Despite a push for digitisation by the government, most states are yet to make RTI accessible online. For instance, only 11 – out of a total of 29 states – have provisions for online appeals/complaints. Chhattisgarh is the only state that has updated annual reports online from 2005-2017. Also, only 10 (out of total 29) have updated their annual reports.

While the government has maintained that “frivolous” RTIs add to the burden of government employees – CIC too has come down hard on some RTI applicants—the fact is that most RTIs filed are by common people to access basic information, says Jha. “Data reveals majority of the applications are not filed by activists but ordinary citizens, on having been denied legitimate rights and entitlements, hence RTI Act by and large also serves as an alternative grievance redressal mechanism.”

Public authority

Attorney General is not a public authority

HC: AG not a public authority under RTI, Feb 4, 2017: The Times of India

The Delhi high court held that the office of the Attorney General of India is not a “public authority“ as defined under the Right to Infomation Act, since AG's “predominant function“ is to give advice on legal matters to the government.

A division bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath reversed the decision of a single judge and observed that the AG appears in court on behalf of the government of India, having a fiduciary relationship with the government, due to which his opinions cannot be put in the public domain.

The court set aside a March 2015 verdict by a single judge, which had said the office of the top law officer was answerable to public under the transparency law as he performs public functions and is a Constitutional appointee.

“Essentially , the function being that akin to an advocate of the government, he is in a fiduciary relationship with the Centre and cannot put in the public domain his opinions or the materials forwarded to him by the government,“ the Chief Justice's bench noted in its verdict on Friday .

HC added that, “The service of the AG is to advice the government on legal matters and perform other duties such of a legal character as may be assigned. The AG is not a functionary reposed with any administrative or other authority that effect the rights or liabilities of persons.“

Rulings/ judgements

IAF, 'which lacks accountability': 6,443 applications against

RIGHT TO INFO - CIC junks ex-officer's 6k RTIs but admits low accountability in IAF, April 23, 2017: The Times of India

Wing Commander Sanjeev Sharma (retired) was a one-man army, filing as many as 6,443 Right to Information (RTI) applications in the last three years with the ostensible purpose of fighting corruption within his parent organisation, the Indian Air Force, over the misuse of “non-public funds“ and other issues.

But they virtually came to a naught earlier this month, with the Central Information Commission dismissing his appeals on the ground that “the means adopted by the appellant regrettably speaks volumes of his ignorance of the spirit of the RTI Act“.

Information commissioner Divya Prakash Sinha, however, did take note of the “accountability , which appears to be lacking“ in the IAF on the issues raised by Sharma. Issuing an advisory to the IAF chief and defence secretary , Sinha said the number of central public information officers and assistant public information officers should be increased in all the com mands of the IAF. “It should be incumbent on the controlling officers to conduct appropriate workshops and sensitisation programmes regarding the various provisions of the RTI Act,“ said Sinha.

Sharma, an advocate in the Punjab and Haryana high court, had sought information on a whole range of issues, from spen ding of contingency funds by commanding officers and acceptance of giftsdonations to the killing of wildlife and felling of trees in air force stations. He contended that though he was proud of the IAF, there was a “parallel economy“ running in the force, with non-public funds being misused by the hierarchy .

But the IAF said Sharma, who had been “diagnosed as a case of generalised anxiety disorder“ before he took premature retirement in 2013, had taken to filing “RTI applications with a vindictive attitude“ and most of them were “vexatious and repetitive in nature“.

Motives of RTI query cannot be questioned: HC

Sep 17, 2023: The Times of India

New Delhi : Delhi High Court has underlined that the purpose of Right to Information (RTI) Act is to bring in transparency and questioning the motive behind seeking information is not present in the Act.

If any information has been sought, it should be made public unless exempted from disclosure under the law, the court clarified while hearing a plea seeking details of Aarogya Setu mobile application. It was started by the central government in the wake of Covid-19 outbreak.

“The RTI Act only says if there is information, it should be made public unless it is protected by any of clauses under Section 8 (exemption from disclosure of information) of the RTI Act. Otherwise any person or citizen of this country is entitled to get the information.... question mark about the motive, etc, is not there under the Act. So, the information has to be given, otherwise the legislation has to be amended to say that the motive can be questioned. Because the purpose of the Act is to bring in transparency,” Justice Subramonium Prasad remarked, when the Centre’s counsel sought to question the petitioner’s agenda in seeking the information. The petitioner challenged an order of the Central Information Commission dropping penal proceedings against the central public information officers (CPIOs) of various agencies for obstructing access to public records relating to the Aarogya Setu app under the RTI Act.

During the hearing, ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) and various CPIOs of its departments, said whatever information they have, has already been provided to the petitioner and they do not have any other information available with them. The counsel said since the pandemic was going on at that time, no written notes were prepared, and everything was done through videoconferencing.

To this, the court sought an affidavit “regarding file notings relating to the app, whether there were any written communications with the private people involved in the making and development of the app, whether any written communications received from contributors or advisors, whether any written responses were given to the app, whether any files were prepared having written notes etc. or all these things happened only orally through videoconferencing,” posting the matter for further hearing on November 2.

Prime Minister’s flights/ 2018

Rumu Banerjee, Give info on PM flights, amount paid to AI: CIC, May 9, 2018: The Times of India

The CIC has directed state-owned Air India to divulge details of flights undertaken by the PM, including cost of the flights and the amount paid to the national carrier. The order came after AI refused to share the details citing exemption under RTI clauses.

Information commissioner Amitava Bhattacharyya said the CIC observed that the sought details are disclosable “as these details are widely reported in the media”.

The RTI application had been filed by retired Commodore Lokesh Batra in 2016.

Prime Minister’s educational qualifications \ 2023

April 1, 2023: The Times of India

Ahmedabad: The Gujarat high court quashed a seven-year-old order of the chief information commissioner (CIC), directing Gujarat University to provide information sought by Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal on PM Narendra Modi’s postgraduate degree under the RTI Act.

Justice Biren Vaishnav, who was hearing the university’s plea challenging the CIC’s “suo motu order”, fined Kejriwal Rs 25,000 for “making a mockery of the very intent and purpose of the RTI Act”. The Delhi CM is required to deposit the penalty with the Gujarat State Legal Services Authority within four weeks.

“There has been indiscriminate misuse of the salutary provisions of the RTI Act in the present case for purposes not contemplated by the legislature while enacting the said Act,” the court said.

Questioning the propriety of then CIC Sridhar Acharyulu’s order to Gujarat University, the court said a quasi-judicial forum like the information commission ought not to assume suo motu authority. “The commission transgressed its jurisdiction. . . and ventured into judicial activism on being overwhelmed by the fact that the information (on the PM’s degree) is sought by a citizen occupying the post of chief minister, and thus is liable to be disclosed. ”

The court felt that disclosure of PM Modi’s postgraduate degree could not be considered a matter of public interest. “Extraneous considerations have gone into the decision-making process,” it said of the CIC’s order.

Justice Vaishnav noted that Gujarat University had already posted PM Modi’s MA degree on its website, about which Kejriwal was aware. Kejriwal later tweeted in Hindi, “Doesn’t the country even have the right to know how much the PM has studied?

RTI applicant must disclose interest: HC

Abhinav Garg, January 17, 2021: The Times of India

RTI applicant must disclose interest in seeking info, says Delhi HC

NEW DELHI: The Delhi high court has held that an RTI applicant seeking information should disclose his/her interest in it to prevent a “roving and fishing enquiry”.

Justice Pratibha M Singh upheld the order of the Central Information Commission to deny material sought by an applicant under the Right to Information Act about appointments to a particular position at President’s Estate in Rashtrapati Bhavan.

“This court is of the opinion that whenever information is sought under the RTI Act, disclosure of an interest in the information sought would be necessary to establish the bonafides of the applicant. Non-disclosure of the same could result in injustice to several other affected persons whose information is sought,” the court noted, while also slapping a cost of Rs 25,000 on the applicant.

Har Kishan had sought information that included the complete address and father’s name of all those who had been appointed to the post of multitasking staff, and alleged irregularities.

Ulterior motives in seeking RTI info, says HC

Later a probe was carried out that showed 10 candidates obtained jobs on the basis of fake certificates, and their appointments were terminated, but President's Estate refused to furnish the details sought in the RTI.

During the hearing of Har Kishan’s appeal against the CIC order, the HC found that his daughter had also applied for appointment, which he didn’t mention. He also hid the fact that he had himself worked at President's Estate on an ad-hoc basis.

"The seeking of the above information, especially after the petitioner’s daughter did not obtain employment, clearly points to some ulterior motives," the court observed.

It pointed out that even otherwise "the information sought in respect of the names of the fathers and residential addresses of the candidates is completely invasive”.

”A body blow to RTI”

Shailesh Gandhi, January 18, 2021: The Times of India

Shailesh Gandhi is a former Central Information Commissioner

If we are asked to give reasons for seeking information, we will then be asked for reasons to speak and to

Delivering its order in Har Kishan vs. President Secretariat, where the petitioner had sought information about appointments made for the multi-tasking force of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the court effectively gave a licence to government officials to demand reasons for seeking information. The order states: “This Court is of the opinion that whenever information is sought under the RTI Act, disclosure of an interest in the information sought would be necessary to establish the bonafides of the applicant. Non-disclosure of the same could result in injustice to several other affected persons.”

This is like an illegal amendment to the RTI Act and will be taken as a precedent gleefully by government officials across the country. RTI is a fundamental right of citizens under Section 19(1)(a), which includes right to free speech, publication and information. Hence the law stipulates that denial of information to citizens can only be permitted if it falls in the exemptions listed in Section 8 (1). To ensure that this fundamental right is respected, Section 6 (2) of the Act states: “An applicant making request for information shall not be required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him.” Despite this clear stipulation, the judge has passed its order which will have the effect of weakening the citizen’s right to seek information. It appears the court had not referred to the RTI Act, nor appreciated the fact that this is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution.

This is the second time such an order has been delivered. The first order had to be withdrawn.

In September 2014, a Bench of Justice N Paul Vasanthakumar and K Ravichandrabaabu of the Madras High Court had stated: “If information is to be furnished to a person, who does not have any reason or object behind seeking such information, in our considered view, the intention of the Legislature is not to the effect that such information is to be given like pamphlets to any person unmindful of the object behind seeking such information.

Deploying verbal sophistry, the Bench added: “The word ‘right’ is not defined under the RTI Act. In the absence of any definition of ‘right’, it has to be understood to mean that such ‘right’ must have a legal basis. Therefore, the ‘right’ must be coupled with an object or purpose to be achieved. Such object and purpose must, undoubtedly, have a legal basis or be legally sustainable and enforceable. It cannot be construed that a request or query made 'simpliciter' will fall under the definition of ‘right to information’. The ‘right’ must emanate from legally sustainable claim. There is a difference between the ‘right to information’ and the ‘right to seek information’. It is like the ‘right to property’ and the ‘right to claim property’. In the former, such right is already accrued and vested with the seeker, whereas, in the latter, it is yet to accrue or get vested.

Likewise, a person who seeks information under the RTI Act, must show that the information sought for is either for his personal interest or for a public interest. Under both circumstances, the information seeker must disclose, at least with bare minimum details, as to what is the personal interest or the public interest, for which such information is sought for. If such details are either absent or not disclosed, such query cannot be construed as the one satisfying the requirement of the RTI Act. The restrictions imposed under the RTI Act, though are in respect of providing certain informations, certainly, there are certain in-built restrictions imposed on the applicant as well.”

A week later, the Bench realised its error. It said its general observations were made without noticing section 6 (2) of the RTI Act. “Therefore, it is evident that a person seeking information was not required to give any reason for doing so. Hence, the general observations made in the order were an error, apparent on the face of the record, and contrary to the statutory provision. The error had been noticed after pronouncing the order and in order to rectify it, the Bench had Monday directed the registry to post this matter Tuesday under the caption “Suo Moto Review”, the Bench said, and added, “we are of the view that those two paragraphs of the said order have to be deleted. Accordingly, paragraph 20 and 21 are deleted in the order. The suo motu review application is disposed of.”

However, a large number of officials even now quote the Madras High Court order. The new Delhi High Court order again reiterates the same mistake without even realising that a similar order given earlier had to be withdrawn. I am sure in a review petition this order will also have to be withdrawn. But for years officials will quote the earlier order and misuse it. When deciding matters relating to fundamental rights courts must be cautious and decide matters based on the law and the Constitution. Citizens must protest such a casual approach to Right to Information. Free Speech, Right to publishing and Right to Information flow from Article 19 (1)(a) of our Constitution. There is generally a very tepid response to curtailment of Right to Information. If we are asked to give reasons for seeking information, we will then be asked for reasons to speak and to publish. Citizens must realise this is dangerous path for our democracy.

The order is modified

Abhinav Garg, January 30, 2021: The Times of India

Delhi High Court modified an earlier order where it had made disclosure of interest of an RTI applicant mandatory while seeking information.

Justice Pratibha M Singh clarified in her new order that the disclosure of interest would be necessary only when seeking personal information and modified the previous ruling, saying it was wrongly interpreted.

Transparency activists had raised concerns, pointing out that the parent Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005 didn’t contain any such requirement and the Act provided enough safeguards.

The court inserted the word “personal” in the operative part of the order, which now states, “This court is of the opinion that whenever personal information is sought under the RTI Act, disclosure of an interest in the information sought would be necessary to establish the bonafides of the applicant.”

Earlier this month, HC had disposed of a plea while noting that an RTI applicant couldn’t be allowed to conduct a “roving and fishing enquiry”. It had upheld the order of Central Information Commission, represented by standing counsel Gaurang Kanth, to deny material sought by one Har Kishan about appointments made for multitasking staff at the President’s Estate.

HC had also underlined that the information sought “is clearly protected under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, which provides that any such information shall not be provided which constitutes personal information and is invasive of the privacy of individuals”. Alleging irregularities, the application had included a demand for complete residential address and father’s name of all selected candidates. Later, a probe had found that 10 candidates obtained jobs using fake certificates, and their appointments were terminated; but the Estate refused to furnish the details sought in the RTI.

During the hearing, the high court had found Har Kishan’s daughter also applied, but it was not mentioned in the writ petition. He also hid the fact that he himself had worked at the Estate on an ad hoc basis.

 No authority can force applicant to submit ID: Panel

Ajay Sura, August 10, 2021: The Times of India

In a landmark order, the state information commission (SIC) Haryana has made it clear that no authority in the state can force an RTI applicant to apply in a particular format or submit identity proof with the application.

“The RTI Act, 2005 is the central Act and Section 6 (2) of the same allows an applicant to conceal his identity and to seek information without giving any reason. An applicant making a request for information shall not be required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him,” the commission has held.

The commission held that the Haryana government nowhere made it mandatory till date that the provisions included in the rules notified in 2021 that to have information under RTI, one has to use the Form A performa and submit identity card and to give any other details as mentioned in the Form A.

“The Form A given in Haryana Right to Information Rules, 2009 is substituted in the Haryana Right to Information (Amendment) Rules, 2021 and this Form A is a preferable proforma as per the rules notified in the year 2009 and the same is not made mandatory in the rules amended in the year 2021. Hence it is purely on the wish of a RTI applicant, whether to use the said Form A or not and whether to give an identity card or not,” held the SIC.


Uttar Pradesh: poor performance under RTI

UP government's RTI record miserable: Study

Ashish Tripathi,TNN | Feb 26, 2014

The Times of India

Section 4 of the RTI Act says that every public authority shall maintain all its records duly catalogued and indexed and ensure that they get computerized so that all important details related to these public authorities get published within 120 days of enactment of this Act. However, a study conducted by RTI activists Amitabh Thakur and Nutan Thakur.reveals that ground realities of Uttar Pradesh government are contrary to the mandate.

The couple studied the status of RTI in 81 Departments of the UP Government mentioned at the Home page of the website (http://upgov.nic.in/allsites.asp), particularly related to the mandatory information that needs to be provided under section 4(1)(b). The study found that almost none have provided the rules, regulations, instructions, manuals and records, required for discharging functions in the electronic form.

It was also found that in many cases information provided was old. In fact, some of websites of departments are still carrying names of ministers in previous BSP rule - Nasimuddin Siddique in cane development, Narayan Singh in horticulture, Lalji Verma in parliamentary affairs and JN Rai in handloom department. These ministers left office in March 2012. Similarly, the names of retired officers like RK Sharma in the horticulture, Sri Krishna in handloom and SC Gupta in the IT department can also be found in respective websites.

Names of the public information officers and Appellate Authority of many departments are also old. In many cases only names have been provided with no other necessary detail. Further, while many departments have not provided details of annual budget, some departments have uploaded budgets but they are of financial years 2008-09 or 2009-10.

Departments like basic education, coordination, culture, finance, fisheries, infrastructure development etc have provided almost negligible information. Samagra gram vikas, small scale industries and export promotion departments do not even mention about the RTI Act while revenue and vidhai departments have links to the RTI section but these links are not operational. The governor office has information only in English while the chief minister office has limited information provided under RTI Act.

RTI activists

2005-15: Silencing RTI activists through murder

The Times of India, Sep 06 2015

RTI activists murdered in India, statewise, 2005-15; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, Sep 06 2015

Anahita Mukherji

Maha most unsafe for RTI activists, 10 killed in 10 years

Gujarat & UP follow with 6 murders each

Data compiled by the Comonwealth Human Rights Initiative shows 60 RTI activists were attacked, harassed or killed in the state, the highest for the country . When it comes to murders, Gujarat and UP come second with six each, followed by Karnataka and Bihar with four each. Maharashtra has recorded the highest number of murders or harassments -60 -of RTI activists since the law was passed a decade ago, followed by Gujarat (36), UP (25) and Delhi (23).

“While we have no idea how many RTI applications are filed in UP , available data shows us that the highest number of RTI applications filed across India is from Maharashtra. This may have to do with organized networks of social activists and a long tradition of using RTI. People are more aware of social problems in the state. With such high volumes of RTI applications seeking information on accountability and governance and exposing corruption, it's natural that a number of activists will be under threat for taking on powerful people,“ says Venkatesh Nayak of Comonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI).

That a lion's share of RTI applications in the state are filed over land use may have much to do with why many of the RTI activists killed in Maharashtra were working on exposing land scams. Take for instance Abrar Shaikh, who was working to expose illegal construction in Bhiwandi when he was killed, or slain activist Vasant Patil who sought information on illegal construction in Mumbai.

Compensation for activist denied police protection, injured

The Times of India, May 27 2016

Prafulla Marpakwar

Maha pays RTI activist Rs 10L for not protecting him

In a first of its kind, the Maharashta home department led by CM Devendra Fadanvis has paid Rs 10 lakh to an RTI activist as interim compensation following an order passed by the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) headed by former Chief Justice S R Bannurmath.

Since Arun Sawant had sought information on some politicians and public servants, he was apprehending danger to his life. On February 9, 2010, Sawant had requested the Thane police commissioner to provide him police protection but his plea was ignored.Two persons fired at him and he was seriously injured on February 26, 2010.

Justice Bhannurmath had passed the order on September 2, 2015, while a cheque of Rs 10 lakh was handed over to Sawant by a senior official of the Thane Police commissionerate a week ago. “After the proposal was approved, a cheque was handed over to the RTI activist, a senior IPS official told.

An SHRC official said it was found that the state government was reluctant to implement the order, as the commission does not have executive powers to implement its directives.

“I think, in the recent past, it is highest amount paid to an RTI activist. We are glad the government has implemented the order, he said.

2005-16: 56 deaths

RTI activists killed between 2005 and 2016

Himanshi Dhawan, Death toll of RTI activists goes up to 56, Oct 20 2016 : The Times of India

Maha Tops List Of Attacks, Gujarat Follows

The son of a former Mumbai corporator under the scanner for alleged illegal constructions has confessed to the murder of an RTI activist in the city last week, police said on Wednesday . The victim, 61year-old Bhupendra Vira, was known to challenge illegal constructions and had filed several RTI petitions against former municipal official Razzak Khan's properties.

Police said Khan's son Amjad, 40, admitted during custodial interrogation that he shot Vira with a 7.65 bore countrymade pistol. A police officer said they were in the process of recovering the murder weapon.

Police picked up Amjad, Razzak's youngstest son, after a witness said he saw him in the vicinity of the crime scene. Amjad has told police his father is innocent, and didn't know about the plan to murder Vira. Police said the weapon had no silencer but it was possible that no one heard the gunshot since only one bullet was fired, and that too with a TV on at the scene. Amjad is believed to have told police that he was upset with a demolition notice issued to Razzak by the lokayukta. His father is said to have been “disturbed“ about Vira's RTI pleas. Amjad reportedly told police he got the weapon in 2010, the year Vira's son Mayur was attacked by Razzak and Amjad.

The duo, who were arrested, struck after Mayur fought with them for allegedly grabbing his 600sqft godown. With the recent murder of RTI activist Bhupendra Vira's, the death toll of those using the transparency law to target corruption and malpractices has gone up to 56. In fact, there has been more than 311 instances of harassment of citizens including murder, attacks and intimidation from the time the law came into force in 2005, according to an analysis by Delhi-based advocacy group CHRI.

Reports indicate at least 51 murders and five suicides have taken place between October 2005 to 2016. Maharashtra tops this list with 10 alleged murders and at least two suicides (12 deaths) followed by Gujarat with eight alleged murders and one suicide (nine deaths) and Uttar Pradesh with six alleged murders and one suicide (seven deaths).

In addition, there have been at least 130 instances of attacks or assaults, including attempts to murder RTI users, during this period. The total number of persons attacked or assaulted could be more because more than one person was attacked in some incidents. Again, Maharashtra tops this list with 29 incidents, followed by Gujarat (15 incidents), Delhi (12 incidents), Karnataka (10 incidents), Odisha and Uttar Pradesh (9 incidents each).

Meanwhile, the whistleblo wers protection law which was passed by Parliament in February 2014 has not been enacted to date. The BJP government had told Parliament that it planned to amend the law.

“The current status of the WBP Amendment Bill is not clear. On April 28, MoS to PMO Jitendra Singh said in Parliament that the Whistle Blowers Protection Amendment Bill had been sent to a committee. However, in response to an RTI application, the Rajya Sabha secretariat has stated on August 16, 2016, that the bill is not pending with any parliamentary committee, Anjali Bharadwaj of NCPRI said.

National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI) has demanded an inqu iry into the murder of Vira. In a letter written to Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis, the NGO has asked for Vira's RTI applications and the replies placed in the public domain. According to reports, he had filed several RTI applications and was leading a campaign against the land mafia for unauthorised structures and encroachments in and around Kalina, Mumbai.

“The NCPRI strongly condemns the attack. We urge the Maharashtra government to ensure a thorough investigation into the murder of Bhupendra Vira. The state government must ensure that all the information sought by Vira is put in the public domain and widely publicised, which would act as a deterrent against such attacks in the future. Further, the state must look into the various cases of wrongdoing exposed by him and take stringent action against the guilty, the letter said.

2017 provisions endanger whistleblowers’ lives

New RTI provisions endanger whistleblowers' lives: Activists, April 4, 2017: The Times of India

A new provision that allows for an RTI case to be closed in the event of death of the applicant has come under criticism from activists who fear that this will encourage attacks on whistleblowers.The provision is part of the draft RTI rules made public by the Modi government recently, which replace the 2012 provisions, do not have any new clauses either for increasing the fees or prescribing a wordlimit to the application.

The proposed rules have been placed by the department of personnel and training on its website for comments from public. The controversial clause says, “The proceedings pending before the Commission shall abate on the death of the appellant. In 2017, there have been more than 375 recorded cases of attacks on citizens who sought information to expose corruption and wrongdoing in various public authorities. Of these, 56 are murders, at least 157 cases of physical assault and more than 160 cases of harassment and threats -some of which have resulted in death by sui cide, activists said.

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative's (CHRI) Venkatesh Nayak said, “By legally permitting withdrawal of appeals vested interests will feel emboldened to pressurise RTI users to withdraw their appeals before the CIC. If this proposed rule becomes law at the Centre, most other states will make similar amendments, thereby unwittingly jeopardising the life and safety of RTI users. These amend ments must not be allowed to go through when the Whistleblower Protection Act, 2011has been put in cold storage.“

A new proposal now allows the CIC to convert a complaint into second appeal which would mean it can order the disclosure of information to an applicant who has come under complaint clause of the RTI Act which was not the case earlier. This follows a Supreme Court order that had said that the CIC while hearing a plea under complaint clause cannot order disclosure of the information which can only be provided if the person is approaching it under second appeal or Section 19 of the Act.

Some activists criticised the short time period of a fortnight offered for comments.“The time given is too less.How will people know that something like this is placed on website for them to give opinion,“ RTI activist Comm (retd) Lokesh Batra said.


See graphic:

RTI appeals in 2017

Penalty for denial of information

Penalty rarely imposed

Reluctance to penalize weakening RTI: Study

Himanshi Dhawan The Times of India Oct 26 2014 New Delhi:

Information commissioners across the country are using a light touch to tackle RTI complaints sparing imposition of penalty in over 96% of the cases according to an independent study.

Penalties have been imposed in just 3870 or 3.72% of the cases between January 2012 to December 2013 in 21 information commissions across the country. Activists say that commissions are turning a blind eye to delays or complete denial of information which can sound the death knell for implementation of the RTI act.

There are three million RTIs filed every year but only a fraction reach up to the level of appeal. The RaaG-NCPRI study on the RTI act reveals that between January 2012 to December 2013 3.89 lakh complaints and appeals were received by the Central Information Commission and 25 information commissions. Of these 3.06 lakh or 79% were disposed off. Based on RTI responses from 21 information commissions, the study found that 2.21 lakh cases had been dis posed of between January 2012 to No vember 2013. Analysis of orders sug gests that penalty should have been imposed on 1.04 lakh cases but in fact information commissions imposed it only on 3870 cases. The quantum of penalty imposed was about Rs 5.03 crore in 22 states. Shockingly only Rs 85.57 lakh was recovered by 18 states.

Maharashtra imposed penalty in the maximum number of cases (844) while the quantum of penalty--Rs 1.27 crore-was the highest in Karnataka. Madhya Pradesh imposed penalty only in two cases, Tripura in one case while West Bengal's information commission was equally generous imposing penalty in just three cases. Commissions can impose Rs 250 per day as penalty up to a maximum of Rs 25,000.

Information commissions are also empowered to award compensation to a complainant for the loss suffered. Despite the large percentage of appeals and complaints that result in wrongful denial or delay in providing information compensation has been awarded in only 1339 cases. The amount of compensation imposed was Rs 29.68 lakh of which only about Rs 4.07 lakh was recovered. Karnataka and Haryana information commissions awarded the highest amount of compensation Rs 7.69 lakh and Rs 7.50 lakh.

Applicants denied information to be compensated

Compensate RTI applicant for denying info, NCW told, Sep 25 2017: The Times of India

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has ordered the National Commission for Women (NCW) to compensate an RTI applicant who was denied information by the women's rights body . It also asked the NCW to probe the reason behind the abrupt removal of its joint secretary , who was hearing the plea of a former employee -the RTI applicant.The applicant had filed a sexual harassment complaint against another NCW official.

The case pertains to a former woman research assistant who had accused the central public information officer of the NCW of sexually harassing her. It was alleged that the commission decided not to extend her contract.The woman filed an RTI application, demanding inspection of the files, contract and reports of NCW officials related to her complaint. When she failed to get a response, she approached the CIC.

Information commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu found serious irregularities in the manner in which the woman's RTI plea was handled. Acharyulu directed Satbir Bedi, member secretary, NCW, to find facts and suggest action against officers responsible for denial of information under the RTI Act and look into the “antiRTI working“ at the NCW.

He also reiterated a previous order directing the NCW to pay Rs 50,000 as compensation to the applicant, while putting a penalty on the public information officer. In a previous hearing, the CIC had noted that the NCW CPIO was the same person who was facing the charge of sexual harassment. It had said the official obstructed access to information.

Acharyulu had imposed a penalty on the CPIO, but he had filed a plea for reconsideration, which was rejected.

Acharyulu also questioned the “abrupt“ removal of the first appellate author ity, Vandana Gupta, who was also the joint secretary . “It is clear from her written submission that Gupta was not allowed to complete the hearing process. She was abruptly removed from service in violation of norms that suggest a joint secretary should not be relieved until a substitute officer is appointed,“ Acharyulu said.

The first appellate authority is an official senior to the central public information officer who responds to an RTI application. If an applicant is not satisfied with the response of the CPIO, he or she can file a first appeal before the FAA.

The information commissioner directed Bedi to complete the fact-finding process within a month and file a report before October 20 along with relevant documents.

Overall performance: RTI

The Times of India, Jul 14 2015

Anahita Mukherji

Data mined by the Common wealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) shows that an estimated 40-50 lakh people over the age of 18 used RTI between 2012 and 2014 -that's 0.5-0.6% of the electorate. However, there has also been a 57% spike in first appeals over the last year, taking them to 94,945. This shows rising dissatisfaction with replies received under RTI. The CHRI data shows that 280-odd activists have allegedly been harassed, assaulted or killed till date. Vacancies continue to plague various information commissions. Retired bureaucrats make up a disproportionately high number of information commissioners; women commissioners are few. Moreover, various states' information commissions differ over how much information they share on their websites.

Stonewalling information

The Central Information Commission (CIC) reported 60,127 RTI applications rejected by PIOs (public information officers) in 2013-14. 57% Increase in first appeals over the last year to 94,945. Rejections and first appeals are indicators of people's dissatisfaction with information received under RTI.

But this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are cases where RTIs are not rejected but replies are sketchy and evasive. Not all such cases result in second appeals because applicants often don't have the time or energy to pursue the matter.

While four information commissions are headless, the remaining 25 (including the CIC) are headed by retired civil servants. Over 76% of chief information commissioners are retired IAS officers, up from 69% in 2014.

Only Nagaland's information commission is headed by a woman; just 12.6% of India's information commissioners are women.

The large proportion of retired civil servants heading information commissions continues despite the Supreme Court advocating diversity among the post holders. “I find this a big problem,“ says Venkatesh Nayak of CHRI. “Many retired bureaucrats may have received RTI applications to their departments while they were serving bureaucrats, and now find themselves hearing those very same cases in their role as information commissioners. That amounts to hearing your own cases, or being a judge in your own court,“ he adds.

RTI activist and former central information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi feels most people appointed as information commissioners are not fit for the job, and lack both the skills and commitment for the position. He advocates a transparent process for selecting information commissioners.

Activists under attack 279

The number of cases of alleged murder, attacks, harassment of RTI activists till July 2015.This includes 39 murders, 4 suicides & 231 cases of assault or harassment.

“The incidence of assault against RTI activists is extremely unfortunate, especially in a country whose motto is Satyamev Jayate (the truth shall prevail). When people ask for the truth from their government, it is the job of the state to ensure they are not harmed,“ says Nayak.

Gandhi, however, points out that RTI activists aren't the only ones to get attacked. “Anyone who challenges the powerful is under threat.“ he says.

Website update

Only 20.7% of information commissions have displayed annual reports on their websites for 2013-14. These include the central information commission and state commissions of Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Nagaland and Rajasthan.

MP, Manipur, Tripura and UP commissions have never published annual reports on their official websites.

Only 27.5% of websites display case disposal statistics up to 2014-15. 41% of information commissions display the current status of pending appeals and complaints.

Nearly 75% of information commissions don't have a website in the local language.

In this day and age, when a lot of people using RTI are from urban areas and are internetliterate, it is important for information commissions to provide access to information on what the commission is doing in real time on their website, says Nayak, adding that this would result in more transparency and accountability .

Ministry-wise performance

2018-19: MHA, tribal affairs rejected most RTI pleas

Ambika Pandit, Nov 23, 2019: The Times of India

Rejections of RTI pleas: 2018-19
From: Ambika Pandit, Nov 23, 2019: The Times of India

The ministries of home and tribal affairs rejected the most number of RTI applications in 2018-19 which also saw in jump of 11% in number of petitions received by central public authorities over the previous year.

The Central Information Commission’s annual report, tabled in Parliament, said as many as 1.36 lakh (11%) more RTI applications were received by central public authorities over the previous year, but rejection rate of applications under various provisions of the law was 64,344, lower by 0.43% at 4.70% compared to 5.13% in 2017-18. Highest percentage of RTI applications rejected was reported by ministry of tribal affairs (26.54%) and ministry of home affairs (16.41%), it said.

Under the RTI Act, Section 8(1) exempts such information from disclosure which affects the sovereignty and integrity of the country as also its security , scientific or economic interest, commercial confidence, trade secrets, and intellectual property. It also exempts from disclosure information which is forbidden to be published by any court of law / tribunal or which may constitute contempt of court. This section of the law also exempts information “causing breach of privilege of Parliament or the state legislature, or those available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, or those received from foreign government, those disclosures which would endanger the life of physical safety of a person, or those which would impede the process of investigation and finally cabinet papers including deliberations of council of ministers, secretaries and officers”.

The report shows that Section 24 was invoked 9,661 times. This exempts information from being disclosed in respect of intelligence and security organisation.

Misuse of RTI

Bihar: turning schools into marriage bureaux

Sukhbir Siwach, RTI query turns schools into marriage bureaus, Aug 26 2016 : The Times of India (Delhi)

You would expect government school headmasters to have better things to do than to create an exhaustive list of unmarried people of a particular community among their teachers. But that is precisely what authorities in Haryana's 10,000-odd government schools are doing these days -creating a databank of eligible single people from the Punjabi community .

The harried headmasters are creating the data after a woman from Rewari filed an RTI application with the Haryana education department for the information. Instead of questioning the application's intent, it was promptly sent to all schools of the state. TOI is withholding the applicant's name as she is herself embarrassed with the query to day . Sources said the woman was looking for a marriage alliance for a relative, who is also a teacher. She filed the RTI query as she simply wanted to know abo ut a specific teacher at a school in Karnal.

But the applica tion asked the infor mation officer to provide her with the name, address and phone number of all elementary school teachers. The government readily obliged and thus began a laborious exercise.

Under the RTI law, personal information can be given only with the consent of the person concerned, making matters even more difficult for the school authorities.

There are some 60,000 ele mentary teachers in schools across Haryana from which the marital status of Punjabis has to be culled out.

“We are careful in such cases as the information can often be misused, especially when it comes to unmarried women,“ said PK Das, Haryana additional chief secretary (school education).

Superintendent of the education department, Balbir Singh, has asked district education officers of all 21 districts to send the requisite information by email or fax. “You will be responsible for any delay , for that you will be liable for disciplinary action apart from penalty of Rs 250 daily as per section 5.4 of the Act,“ Singh has warned in the letter.

Bulk pleas a misuse of RTI

Shikha Salaria, Filing bulk pleas a misuse of RTI Act: CIC, January 14, 2018: The Times of India

Chief information commissioner Bimal Julka said that many people are misusing the RTI Act by filing bulk applications. Speaking at the national youth festival here, the CIC also claimed that getting information from the government is not a difficult process. However, the young participants contradicted the CIC, saying they had spent a lot of time trying to get crucial information from the state information commissions.

“One person is trying to seek information through thousands of RTIs. And one thing is being asked in different ways and languages. It is wrong to ask many things about a single subject and get into details. This is being misused also,” Julka said.

Aadesh Sabale, vice-president of RTI activists association, who had come from Surat, said he had sought information about one of his friends who had lost his visa abroad. “You can complain about such issues to the state information commission and they would definitely reply. If the state information commission does not reply, you can go to the high court,” the CIC said. On hearing this, Aadesh wondered how practical it will be to approach the high court for an information that should come in 72 hours.

Medical science queries, “academic” questions

Applicant poses medical science queries; misuse of RTI, says CIC, January 10, 2018: The Times of India

CIC has come down hard on an RTI applicant for what it termed an “abuse of the process of law”. The RTI, which had sought “academic” answers to “inane” medical science queries, was dubbed as an attempt to “harass public officials,” said information commissioner Yashovardhan Azad.

The RTI applicant had approached AIIMS, ILBS, GB Pant Hospital, PGIMER, Chandigarh, and National Organ and Tissue transplant organisation at Safdarjung hospital for the queries. When the appeal filed by GB Pant Hospital came before the central information commission (CIC), it termed the RTI a “misuse” of the RTI Act.

The applicant had sought to know from the premier institutes the definitions (as per King’s College, London criteria), symptoms, causes, treatment, precautions monitoring 18 complex medical conditions related to liver transplant, Pneumonitis Sepsis, Small For Size syndrome, Ischemic Necrosis of liver, bile duct dilation, portal vein thrombosis etc.

He had also sought information on handling of liver transplant patients, technical causes of conditions developing after that, waiting period criteria for the patients.

During the hearing before CIC, RTI activist Subhash Agrawal represented the GB Pant hospital to argue against the disclosure of the information as it was available in medical journals and the application seemed like abuse of the RTI Act. “These are academic queries, to be studied from medical books and journals, not information as envisaged under Section 2(f) of the RTI Act,” said Azad.

Azad said seeking these information through an RTI application actually is an abuse of the process of law and if such a request is allowed, the day will not be far when information from any textbook will be sought to be answered by filing an RTI application.

Misuse of RTI results in 5-year ban

Paul John, January 16, 2021: The Times of India

Guj info panel bars family from filing RTI pleas for 5 yrs


Perhaps in a first, the Gujarat state chief information commissioner (SCIC) has banned three people — all members of a family — from filing any RTI application before any designated public information officer (PIO) for the next five years.

SCIC DP Thakar has taken refuge in Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution to ban the family from seeking any further information under RTI. Article 19(2) authorises the government to impose, by law, reasonable restrictions upon the freedom of speech and expression “in the interests of… public order”. Thakar accused the family members of “misusing” the “sunshine law” for harassing government officers in the time of the pandemic.

According to Thakar’s order dated January 5, Dilhari Makwana, a Class-III employee of Bhavnagar district health department, her husband Chintan and mother-in-law Bharti had shot off more than 1,000 emails and 21 RTI applications to various offices to protect themselves from eviction from their allotted Class-II government quarters. The quarter occupied by them was now allotted to a Class-II officer.

Strangely, the SCIC order does not mention under what Section of the RTI Act were the citizens banned from filing applications. This has invited ire of RTI activists.

“There is no such Section under the present Act that bans citizens (from filing applications). The SCIC has clearly gone beyond the law in this order,” said Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pehel , an NGO, executive secretary Pankti Jog.

UP: Settling personal scores

The Times of India, Dec 06 2015

Neha Shukla

UP families take RTI route to settle personal scores 

Right to Information Act 2005, conceived to bring transparency in the system by providing government information to citizens, is being used by some residents of Uttar Pradesh to meet a different goal: settling family disputes. Information commissioner (IC) of UP State Information Commission (UPSIC) Hafiz Rehman told that in the last one year, his court heard six cases where family members confronted each other. Most such cases relate to property disputes and are pending in various courts.Quick hearing and saving on hefty fee which is otherwise paid to a lawyer have made the RTI route popular.

The latest is the case of a man from Badaun who filed an appeal with the UPSIC seeking information about his wife, a government teacher in Baghpat.

He filed the appeal after school authorities refused to give him details of his wife's attendance and salary .

“My wife wants me to abandon my parents and stay with her. She says she cannot give up her job to stay with me,“ he said in his appeal. “She does not go to work.School authorities are hand in glove with her and she gets salary for doing nothing. If I could get her attendance record to prove this, she will lose her job,“ he added.

Interestingly, the man's father had helped his wife get a job but she deserted him soon after. “He told me he is ready to make peace with his wife provided she gives up her job and stays with him,“ said Usman, who has issued a notice to the wife to appear in the next hearing and directed school authorities to provide the information.

Few families have also reached a happy ending. Like this woman from Bareilly who approached the commission to know whether her husband was a low caste Muslim after his workplace refused to give his caste certificate. The woman was seeking divorce saying her husband had kept his caste hidden for 15 years of their marriage.The husband, however, said it was his refusal to throw his sister out of the house that led the marriage to such a pass.The couple later reached a compromise after counseling by the commission.

Quite a few family disputes are pending at UPSIC, to be taken up for hearing this month. The case of a man from Muzaffarnagar who has sought `marriage certificate' of his sister-in-law to prove she is not the wife of his late brother and should not get his property is one of them. Interestingly , he is also a claimant to his brother's property .

In few cases involving family disputes, RTI information has become the basis of police inquiry. Take the case of Mithlesh Kumari from Bijnor who was given 60 bighas of land by her father-in-law.Her husband's younger brother's wife allegedly used fake identity certificate to pose as Mithlesh and sold off a portion of the land. The KYC details sought from the bank, where the imposter had deposited the money after the land deal, revealed the truth.

2017 provisions endanger whistleblowers’ lives

New RTI provisions endanger whistleblowers' lives: Activists, April 4, 2017: The Times of India

A new provision that allows for an RTI case to be closed in the event of death of the applicant has come under criticism from activists who fear that this will encourage attacks on whistleblowers.The provision is part of the draft RTI rules made public by the Modi government recently, which replace the 2012 provisions, do not have any new clauses either for increasing the fees or prescribing a wordlimit to the application.

The proposed rules have been placed by the department of personnel and training on its website for comments from public. The controversial clause says, “The proceedings pending before the Commission shall abate on the death of the appellant. In 2017, there have been more than 375 recorded cases of attacks on citizens who sought information to expose corruption and wrongdoing in various public authorities. Of these, 56 are murders, at least 157 cases of physical assault and more than 160 cases of harassment and threats -some of which have resulted in death by sui cide, activists said.

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative's (CHRI) Venkatesh Nayak said, “By legally permitting withdrawal of appeals vested interests will feel emboldened to pressurise RTI users to withdraw their appeals before the CIC. If this proposed rule becomes law at the Centre, most other states will make similar amendments, thereby unwittingly jeopardising the life and safety of RTI users. These amend ments must not be allowed to go through when the Whistleblower Protection Act, 2011has been put in cold storage.“

A new proposal now allows the CIC to convert a complaint into second appeal which would mean it can order the disclosure of information to an applicant who has come under complaint clause of the RTI Act which was not the case earlier. This follows a Supreme Court order that had said that the CIC while hearing a plea under complaint clause cannot order disclosure of the information which can only be provided if the person is approaching it under second appeal or Section 19 of the Act.

Some activists criticised the short time period of a fortnight offered for comments.“The time given is too less.How will people know that something like this is placed on website for them to give opinion,“ RTI activist Comm (retd) Lokesh Batra said.

Number of RTIs filed


The Times of India, Jul 03 2015

Number of RTIs filed, state-wise: 2013-14

Himanshi Dhawan

Indians use RTI to the hilt, but govt fails to keep up

Curious Indians are prolific users of the Right to Information (RTI) Act and public authorities are unable to keep them satisfied. Indian citizens have filed close to 50 lakh RTIs in a year (2013-2014) but the number of rejections and appeals indicate that public authorities are often failing to give the information that people are seeking. A country-wide study on the functioning of the Central Information Commission (CIC) and state information commissions by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) reveals that the number of RTIs has increased exponentially . While the number of RTI applications in the Jammu & Kashmir has increased by 127%, the same for Rajasthan has almost doubled. Gujarat has recorded 41% increase in the number of RTI applications while Karnataka witnessed a 31% rise within a year.

The study `State of Information Commissions and the Use of RTI laws in India' by CHRI's Venkatesh Nayak found that public authorities under the central government received the most number of RTI applications in 2013-14 at 8.34 lakh (with 73% public authorities revealing the number of applicants).Maharashtra came in second with 7.03 lakh RTI applications. In fact, between the central government and Maharashtra, the two received 62% of RTI applications among the 12 commissions that submitted their details.

If the increase in the number of RTIs is a heartening sign, the rejections of applications are not. CIC reported that 60,127 RTI applications were rejected by public information officers in 2013-14, the number of first appeals filed with various First Appellate Authorities (FAAs) was 57% higher at 94,945. “However, the number of first appeals is disproportionately large and indicates lack of satisfaction amongst the RTI applicants with the information or reply provided by the PIOs,“ the report says.

Nagaland clocked a 1,325% increase in the number of first appeals (228) filed as against the number of rejections (16) at the application stage.


The Times of India, Mar 18 2016

Himanshi Dhawan

Decline in RTI queries & replies worries activists

In a blow to transparency in governance, the number of RTI queries have declined as have the number of public authorities submitting data on the legislation.The annual report of the Central Information Commission (CIC) shows that a total of 7.55 lakh RTI applications were filed in 2014-2015, a decline of 79,000 since 2013-14. Almost 90,000 RTI applications were pending decision at the start of the reporting year of 2014-15. Of the 2,030 public authorities registered with the CIC, only 75.27% submitted data on RTI for the year. This is much lower than 2012-2013, when of the 2,333 registered public authorities 79% submitted RTI returns.

The proportion of rejection of RTI applications has shot up by 1.2% in 2014-15. While only 7.20% of the RTI applications was rejected in 2013-14, this figure increased to 8.40% in 2014-15. “This is cause for worry and must be examined.On the face of it, this comparative figure appears to support the anecdotal experiences of many an RTI user that the public authorities under the government has begun rejecting more and more RTI applications under the NDA regime, Venkatesh Nayak, from CHRI who analysed the data said.

Data related to CIC is not encouraging either. The commisison received 35,396 appeals and complaints cases in 2014-15. It decided 20,181 cases during the year while 37,323 cases were pending before the CIC as on April 1, 2015.

CIC imposed penalties of over Rs 7 lakh on errant public information officers in 2014-15. This figure has come down by 61% since last year, when fines worth Rs 19.25 lakh were levied. However during 2014-15, the CIC recovered penalties better as compared to the previous year. It recovered Rs 11.31 lakh as compared to Rs 10.19 lakh which is about 10% higher.

Among the ministries and departments who have submitted information on RTI applications, the largest number have been filed with the finance ministry as it includes banks, financial institutions, insurance companies and tax authorities.The number of RTIs filed are about 1.4 lakh which has declined by 6%. The other public authorities that have fewer RTI applications as compared to last year are President's secretariat and ministry of external affairs.

Aug-Sept 2015: 95% drop in cases

The Times of India, Oct 16 2015

Sharp decline in RTI cases in 2015 after August; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, Oct 16 2015

CIC sees 95% drop in cases in August-September 2015

Himanshi Dhawan  The Central Information Commission (CIC) has registered a 94.61% drop in the number of cases with an average daily number plummeting from 223 cases in January-July to 12 cases in August-September 2015. Disposal of cases has also come down by 11% from an average of 99 cases a day (between Jan-July) to 88 cases between Aug-Sept according to analysis by Commonwealth Human Rights Iinitiative's Venkatesh Nayak.

The number of cases admitted between January to July were 178 and an equal number was disposed of. Between August-September a total of 567 cases were admitted by the commission while 4,066 were disposed of. As of October there are 35,407 cases pending.

Information commissioner Sharat Sabharwal's office admitted the least number of cases ­ 52 during the August-September period while Chief Information Commissioner Vijai Sharma's office admitted more than double that number ­ 106 cases.

2015: CIC returns 12% of pleas

The Times of India, Nov 07 2015

Himanshi Dhawan

CIC returns 12% of '15 pleas, activists wary

Almost 12% of the appeals and complaints filed with the Central Information Commission (CIC) this year were returned to the senders. The highest number of returned applications were in July , when over one-fifth (21.68%) of the appeals were sent back, a sharp spike from January's 10.55%.

Analysis by Venkatesh Nayak of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) revealed that of the 71,166 appeals filed between January and October 2015, 8,536 were returned. In July , 1,800 of the 8302 appeals received were returned. In comparison, around 759 of 7,194 applications (10.55%) filed in January were returned.

The CIC has, however, held that the appeals in question were “deficient“ or had missing papers, which forced the commission to return them. It also cited a Punjab & Haryana high court order that a photo identity card is necessary to file an RTI appeal.

Anjali Bhardwaj of National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI), in a letter to the CIC, pointed out that in 75% of the cases, the “deficiency memo“ was not accessible online. Gurgaonbased activist Aseem Takyar said around six of his ap peals were returned recently on the grounds that he didn't attach an identity proof.

Takyar said this was against Section 6(2) of the RTI Act, which held that an applicant is not required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him.

2015-16: applications increase 20%; 40% rejected

Himanshi Dhawan, 9.8 lakh RTIs filed last year, but 40% of them junked, March 18, 2017: The Times of India

Indians filed an astonishing 9.76 lakh applications under the Right to Information Act in 2015-2016, an increase of over 20% as compared to the previous year's numbers. However, four out of every 10 RTI pleas were rejected on mysterious grounds, according to the central information commission's annual report made public.

The number of applications filed in 2014-2015 were 7.55 lakh, which rose by 22.67% or 2.21 lakh in 20152016. Unfortunately the number of RTI pleas rejected continue to be high as well. Public authorities rejected 6.62% of the they applications received. While this is lower than last year's figure of 8.39% applications rejected in 2014-2015, the number remains high.

According to an analysis by CHRI's Venkatesh Nayak, the highest proportion of RTI applications was rejected not under the permissible exemptions under the RTI Act such as national security, fiduciary relationship, Cabinet papers while a decision is still to be taken but under the mysterious category of “others“. At 43% rejections recorded under this category , more than four out of every 10 RTI applications rejected were for reasons other than those permitted by the RTI Act.

About 47% of RTI pleas rejected under various clauses in section eight of the RTI act (against national interest and others), about 1% were rejected under Section 9 (private copyright) and 7% of the RTI were rejected by the 26 security and intelligence organisations partially excluded under act except in cases of corruption and life or death.

In 2014-15, almost a quarter of the registered public authorities failed to submit data related to RTI applications they received. Compliance was considerably higher with 94% of the 1,903 public authorities submitting data in 2015-2016.

The CIC disposed of 28,188 appeal and complaints cases in 2015-16 while 25,960 cases were registered during the same period. Pendency of second appeals and complaints on April 1, 2016, was at 34,982 cases.

The Commission reported that the amount of fees and penalties reported by public authorities had increased by 12.31% in 2015-16.It had imposed penalties to the tune of Rs 10.52 lakh out of which Rs 9.41 lakh was paid up by the public information officers.

Penalties worth Rs. 1.25 lakh imposed in various cases have been stayed by various high courts.


See graphic:

RTI appeals in 2017

The backlog

Administration paralysed with RTI: SC, 2019

Dhananjay Mahapatra, Dec 17, 2019 Times of India

The Supreme Court said incessant queries under the RTI Act had spooked officials into becoming reluctant to put views on file, which had a paralysing effect on the administration, and sought suggestions on whether RTI pleas to public authorities be filed only by those having a connect with the issue.

“There is a pervasive fear of RTI. Officials have become afraid of putting anything on files. We are informed that Mantralaya in Mumbai is getting paralysed because of incessant RTI applications,” said a bench of CJI S A Bobde and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant. The bench gave an unexpected turn to a hearing on a simple application by advocate Prashant Bhushan seeking implementation of the SC’s February 15 judgment directing the Centre and state governments to expeditiously appoint information commissioners under the RTI Act.

Bhushan said restricting the RTI Act to relevant parties may harm the transparency law. For example, a person who lost out on a contract due to corruption will never seek information fearing blacklisting. “It has to be a public spirited person who on gathering information could seek details of the contract from authorities,” he said.

The bench remained sceptical and said, “There are innumerable instances of blackmail through RTI.”

Bhushan said if someone got information through an RTI application and used it for blackmail, it was “just a sideeffect” and asked how this could harm anyone.

2014: All India

RTI backlog burden: Waiting period 60 yrs in MP, 17 in WB

Himanshi Dhawan The Times of India Oct 10 2014 New Delhi:

2014 The backlog.jpg

2 Lakh Pleas Pending Before 23 Commissions Across Country

If you were to file an RTI in Madhya Pradesh information commission your appeal would come up after 60 years while it would be a 17year wait in West Bengal. In Rajasthan the appeal would take over three years, while in Assam and Kerala the applicant would have to wait two years to be heard. Nearly six information commissions including the Central Information Commission have a waiting period of over a year.

Days before the tenth anniversary of the Right to Information (RTI) Act -that falls on October 13 -a study by RTI Assessment and Advocacy Group (RaaG) and Samya-Centre for Equity Studies in collaboration with NCPRI paints an alarming picture of Infor mation Commissions across the country caving in under the weight of pending cases.The collective backlog in 23 commissions is about 1.98 lakh as on December 31, 2013. The maximum number of appeals and complaints were pending in UP (48,442), Maharashtra (32,390) and the Central Information Commission (26,115).

“The massive backlog in disposal of appeals and complaints in the information commissions is effectively denying people their fundamental right to information-it is resulting in citizens having to wait for excessively long periods of time to have their appeals and complaints heard,“ the report `People's Monitoring of the RTI Regime in India 2011-2013' said.

2015 Dec: the state-wise pendency

Himanshi Dhawan, RTI appeal hearing may take 30 years in Assam. Nov 05 2016 : The Times of India

The pendency in the worst five states, and CIC in 2015 Dec

If you file a query under the Right to Information (RTI) Act in Assam today, you might have to wait 30 years for your appeal to be heard by the information commissioner (IC).

The “waiting period“ in West Bengal is over 11 years and seven in Kerala.

A new study of the working of information commissions in 16 states shows that the RTI Act's purpose of en suring greater transparency is being throttled by the sheer pendency of cases -1.87 lakh as on December 2015.

Though the Act empowers the ICs to impose penalties of up to Rs 25,000 on erring public information officers for violations, penalties have been imposed in only 1.3% of the cases in the 16 states, causing a potential loss of Rs 290 crore in fines defaulting public authorities would have paid. Despite an increase in the number of ICs in the Central Information Commission, pendency has increased from 13 months to 22 months.

A study of the performance of information commissioners is being carried out by the Research Assessment and Analysis Group and Satark Nagrik Sangathan.

The key findings don't bode well when it comes to implementing the RTI Act as matters have worsened since the last RTI study in 2014.

The waiting time in the Assam IC, which was two years eight months in 2014, has now shot up to 30 years. West Bengal has improved its pendency , cutting the waiting time down from 17 years 3 months to 11 years and 3 months. But Kerala fares badly , with the waiting time increasing to seven years four months from two years three months in 2014.

2017>2019: waiting time on appeals doubles

Ambika Pandit , Oct 12, 2019: The Times of India

A report on the performance of central and state information commissions based on data from January 2018 to March 2019 shows that the number of pending RTI appeals and complaints stood at a high of 2,18,347 in 26 information commissions. In the central information commission alone, the estimated waiting time on appeals nearly doubled between November 1, 2017 and April 1, 2019, going up from 10 months to 1 year and seven months, the report suggests.

As per the report put together by voluntary organisations Satark Nagrik Sangathan and Centre for Equity Studies, as of January 1, 2018, the CIC was functioning with eight information commissioners, including the chief.

Backlog of RTI appeals stood at 29,995 as on Mar 31: Report

With one commissioner finishing her term on January 15, 2018, the total number of vacancies went up to four. More than 23,500 appeals/complaints were pending at the time.

Four more commissioners, including the chief of the CIC, retired between November 21, 2018 and December 1, 2018, leading to eight out of 11 posts in the CIC falling vacant. By January 1, 2019, the backlog increased to nearly 27,500 appeals/ complaints, it is stated.

“Finally, on the directions of the Supreme Court, posts of four information commissioners in the CIC including the chief were filled with effect from January 1, 2019. Since then, the CIC has been functioning with six information commissioners and one chief. Four vacancies have persisted and the backlog of appeals and complaints on March 31 stood at 29, 995,” it is pointed out in the report.

RTI activist Anjali Bhardwaj from Satark Nagrik Sangathan shared that as of Friday the pending cases as per the CIC website is over 33,045. Between January 2018 and March 2019, CIC registered 28,174 and disposed of 23,629 complaints and appeals.

According to the report, every year 40 to 60 lakh RTI applications are filed across the country. Close to three lakh (2,80,288) appeals and complaints were registered, and a little over two lakh (2,16,354) were disposed of, between January 1, 2018 and March 31, 2019 by 28 information commissions.

The assessment found that for the period January 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019, 25 commissions imposed penalty in 2,455 cases (appeals and complaints). Penalty amounting to Rs. 3.15 crore was imposed by 26 commissions which provided the relevant data. In terms of quantum of penalty imposed, Karnataka was the leader (Rs 77 lakh), followed by Haryana (Rs 72 lakh) and the CIC (Rs 47.8 lakh). Analysis of the figures for 22 ICs shows that penalty was imposed by them in just 1.8% of the cases disposed. It is pointed in the study that in most of ICs with high pendency, the reason for the long waiting time for disposal of appeals and complaints can be traced to vacancies in the posts of commissioners not being filled in a “timely manner”.

Police force unaware of RTI provisions

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat , Police force unaware of RTI provisions "Daily Excelsior" 18/9/2017

It is now more than 13 years that we have a law on Right to Information enacted in Jammu & Kashmir. Initially it was J&K RTI Act 2004 enacted during PDP-Congress Government way back in 2004. The said law got amended in 2008 and finally J&K state enacted present version of RTI law in 2009 which is known as J&K RTI Act 2009. Even after so many years of its enactment , there are many public authorities especially the Government departments which are still unaware about RTI legislation. Police force is one of these Government organization. It is not the fault of Police officers who do not respond to RTI queries, but very less number of RTI applications are filed before the police department in J&K as compared to other Govt organizations who undertake developmental works or are responsible to recruitments in Government. Recently State Information Commission (SIC) decided an RTI appeal wherein an information seeker was not only denied information by J&K Police but the officers of the department seemed completely ignorant about this law.

RTI filed before SHO :

An information seeker from Nishat Srinagar namely Abdul Qayoom filed an application under Right to Information (RTI) before the Station House Office (SHO) ofPolice Station Awantipora in December 2016. The information seeker wanted some details about an FIR registered in PS Awantipora way back in 1998. After being denied the information aggrieved information seeker filed 1st appeal again before the SHO as he was ignorant about First Appellate Authority (FAA). Getting no response , Abdul Qayoom filed second appeal before State Information Commission (SIC) in April 2017. It is important to mention that SIC happens to be the 2nd Appellate Authority under RTI law.

The appellant told State Information Commission (SIC) that information sought from Police Station Awantipora was provided to him, but that is incomplete as no information has been provided about the persons against whom the FIR 49/1998 stands registered in the Awantipora Police Station . Appellant Abdul Qayoom requested State Information Commission (SIC) to direct the Public Information Officer (PIO) to provide him the complete information sought vide his RTI application dated 22.12.2016.

Information seeker being unaware of RTI Act , filed application before SHO , which otherwise he was supposed to file before the office of District Superintendent of Police (SSP Office). I want to make it clear that PIOs have been designated in Police Force at District level not at Thanalevel and neither RTI applicants nor police officers are aware of this. I have been told that at Sub Division level as well some SDPOs have been designated as PIOs , but there is no clarity on this.

On 31.01.2017, the appellant Abdul Qayoom filed First Appeal before the First Appellate Authority (FAA) in the office of Police Station Awantipora on the ground that no information with regard to his RTI application has been provided to him. As per my information Police has designated Additional SP’s as First Appellate Authorities (FAAs) at district level and Deputy Superintendent of Police Headquarters (Dy SP Hqs) is the designated Public Information Officer (PIO), but this doesn’t means that Sub Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) , SHO, Chowki Officer or any other police officer will not address the RTI pleas. They have to address the RTI pleas even if they are not designated officers to receive RTI applications. Section 6 (3) of J&K RTI Act 2009 , makes it clear that if the RTI plea comes to an officer who is not a designated PIO , the officials have to forward the application to the designated PIO. If SHO Awantipora was not a designated PIO , he was supposed to forward it to his Dy SP Hqs or Additional SP of the concerned Police District. But it seems SHO was unaware about these provisions. After several months SHO , Police Station Awantipora vide letter dated 21.02.2017, provided a limb of the information to the appellant. Not satisfied with the reply of the aforesaid SHO, the appellant filed 2nd appeal before the State Information Commission (SIC) .

Providing information was again a mistake committed by SHO , as he is not a designated officer to do so. Under RTI Act , Public Information Officer (PIO) is the custodian of Information and he has to provide the information under RTI Act.

Appeal before SIC :

While responding to the notice of the State Information Commission (SIC) , the SHO Police Station Awantipora vide letter dated 06.05.2017 informed the Information Commission that the RTI application of the appellant has already been replied vide letter dated 21.02.2017. Thereafter, SHO Police Station Awantipora filed another reply dated 04.07.2017 wherein he gave the factual report regarding the FIR No.49/1998 registered in Police Station Awantipora with respect to which the information was sought.

The 2nd appeal came up for hearing initially on 04.06.2017 before the State Information Commission (SIC) and then on 04.07.2017. Sub Inspector Mohammad Rafiq representing SHO, Police Station, Awantipora and appellant Abdul Qayoom attended the hearing before the Chief Information Commissioner Mr Khurshid Ahmad Ganai. The appellant submitted that the full information has not been provided to him by the PIO and names of the persons against whom FIR has been lodged have not been revealed . The representative of SHO Police Station Awantipora requested CIC , to give him some time to file para wise reply to the queries of the RTI application which was agreed. The hearing in the 2nd appeal was adjourned on 04.07.2017 with the following directions:

“PIO/SHO Police Station Awantipora is directed to give para wise/point wise response to the queries of the RTI application to the appellant within two weeks time under intimation to the Commission.”

Thereafter, in pursuance of the above directions of the State Information Commission, SHO Police Station Awantipora produced copy of the letter dated 11.08.2017 addressed to the appellant in which point wise reply to all the queries of the RTI application was given. The 2nd appeal was again heard by the Commission on 11.08.2017. Sub Inspector, Mohamamd Rafiq Belt No.170/S of Police Station, Awantipora and appellant Abdul Qayoom attended the hearing. During the hearing, it was noticed by CIC that no proceedings had been conducted at the level of the First Appellate Authority (FAA) before the submission of the 2nd appeal to the Commission. It was also not clear to the Information Commission as to which officers have been designated/appointed as the PIO & FAA in the Police District Awantipora.

CIC in his order said :

“It also needed to be ascertained as to whether SHO Awantipora is indeed the PIO or is it the SDPO who is designated as the PIO. Accordingly, the case was adjourned on 11.08.2017 with the following directions: “Reference be sent both to the Director General of Police, J&K and to the Superintendent of Police, Police District Awantipora to clarify designation of officer(s) as PIO and FAA for the Police District Awantipora.”

Final order :

The 2nd appeal came up for final hearing on 25.08.2017 before CIC Mr Khurshid Ahmad Ganai . Appellant Abdul Qayoom attended the hearing, however PIO did not attend. The appellant stated before the Commission that complete information has not been provided to him till date. The 2nd appeal was disposed of with the directions that Superintendent of Police, Police District Awantipora will first identify the PIO of Police District Awantipora.

Order issued by CIC further reads as :

“If no officer has been duly designated as the PIO, then have an officer designated as such. Then the said identified/duly designated PIO will furnish the requisite information in response to the basic RTI application submitted by the appellant to the SHO, Police Station Awantipora on 22.12.2016 mentioned herein above. Information in response to the RTI application may be provided within a period of 30 days from the date of receipt of this order. Copy of this order be served on Superintendent of Police, Police District Awantipora for compliance and a report in response to the Commission’s order dated 11.08.2017”

Conclusion :

There is a huge gap between police and public and ordinary citizens are reluctant to seek information from Police. Most of the people are under this impression that police officials will harm them if they seek information under RTI from a police station or SP’s office. It is true that people have bad experience while they encounter police officers but there are lot of officers who are very much supportive and cooperate with RTI applicants. Recently IG North Kashmir Mr Nistish Kumar directed his officers to facilitate an RTI awareness programme in Gurez. RTI Movement plans to undertake similar awareness programmes in remote areas of state. I would request DGP J&K Police Dr S P Vaid to facilitate capacity building programmes for police officers vis a vis RTI Act so that officers are made aware about the provisions of J&K RTI Act 2009. CIC Mr Khurshid Ahmad Ganai has already written to him in this regard. Once police officers are trained how to address RTI queries, it will help smooth disposal of RTI petitions that remain pending in police offices for months together. Had SHO Awantipora or his staff been trained on the provisions of RTI Act , Abdul Qayoom would not have suffered and he would not have been compelled to knock the doors of State Information Commission.

See also

Central Information Commission: India

Right to Information (RTI): India

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