NEW DELHI: The government is not supposed to conduct ‘research’ on behalf of the citizen in response to Right to Information (RTI) pleas by way of deducing a conclusion from available material, states an update on the RTI Act, 2005 prepared by the Department of Personnel and Training.
Apparently exasperated by ‘vague’ RTI pleas, the DoPT has laid out rules on what is supposed to be entertained by Public Information Officers (PIOs). “Some information seekers request PIOs to cull out information from document(s) and give such extracted information to them. A citizen has a right to get ‘material’ from a public authority, however, the Act does not require the PIO to deduce some conclusion from the ‘material’ and supply it to the applicant,” the update states.
The DoPT document also says that PIOs are “not supposed to create information” that is not a part of the record of the public authority. “The PIO is also not required to furnish information which require drawing of inference and/or making of assumptions; or to interpret information; or to solve the problems raised by the applicants; or to furnish replies to hypothetical questions,” the document says, stressing only such information can be supplied that is “available and existing”.
DoPT also wants citizens to not list out their grievances in the RTI plea and rather be more specific on what information they need to avoid ambiguity. “Instead of simply asking why my area is not being cleaned, cleaning schedule of the area should be asked. Similarly, instead of asking when we will get water supply, water supply planning of the area should be asked,” the document says.
The government has also clarified that the RTI Act gives the right to information only to the citizens of India and not to corporations, associations or companies – which have been filing RTIs in vain. “They are legal entities or persons, but not citizens. However, if an application is made by an employee or office-bearer of any corporation, association, company or non-government organization indicating his name and citizenship, information may be supplied to him. In such cases, it would be presumed that a citizen has sought information at the address of the corporation,” the DoPT guidelines says.
The guide also says that the government has issued guidelines that certain categories of information should be suo-moto published on their websites by public authorities to avoid RTI pleas regarding them. This includes details on foreign tours of prime minister, ministers and senior officers, information relating to procurement, public-private partnerships, transfer policy and transfer orders and discretionary and non-discretionary grants.
(Source: The Economic Times, November 30, 2013)