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Sunday, January 7, 2007

‘Frivolous’ RTI plea angers CIC

Times Of India Delhi; Date:2007 Jan 06; Section:Times Nation; Page Number 10, Manoj Mitta TNN, New Delhi: In the first order of its kind under the RTI Act, Central Information Commission has come down heavily on a request for information that was found to be “frivolous and even bordering on the absurd.”
CIC held that “diverse and lengthy information” sought by one S K Lal of Faridabad in his five applications to railways ministry “seemed to be designed only to put authorities under uncalled for pressure.” But since the RTI Act allows citizens to seek any information other than the 10 categories exempted by it, a CIC Bench headed by O P Kejariwal went beyond the letter of the law in sparing public authorities from catering to frivolous applications.
Laying down a controversial proposition, Kejariwal said that disclosure of information would be determined not just by the provisions of the RTI Act but also by the “objectives” spelt out in its preamble: namely, “to introduce the elements of transparency and accountability in the functioning of public authorities and to contain corruption.”
In the given case, though railways ministry was “duty bound” to supply information to him, Lal was also “required to keep in mind the objectives of the RTI Act as outlined in the preamble to the Act.”
This is because it was not at all clear, Kejariwal said in his order delivered on December 29, “how these objectives would be met with if the appellant asked for such diverse and lengthy information which seemed to put the public authorities under undue and uncalled for pressure.”
What was the provocation for CIC to use such language against an information seeker? Rather than seeking any pointed information, Lal had in his five applications asked for “all the records” regarding various services and categories of staff in the railways. Such applications, Kejariwal held, “only amount to making a mockery of the Act.”
While dismissing the case, CIC recorded its appreciation of the efforts made by railways.

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