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Raghunathan K.P. Vs. CPIO, Station Headquarter - (Central Information Commission) (06 Jun 2018)

Mere apprehensions of misuse of information or alleged inconspicuous actions of a citizen cannot take away their right to information


Right to Information

The Complainant sought information regarding under construction officer's mess, accommodation in Coastal Regulatory Zone in terms of copy of the NOC obtained from KCZMA, copy of Form-I of Annexure IV (CRZ) filled by LMA and submitted to KCZMA and site plan submitted to KCZMA. Complainant stated that he has not received the information till date and reiterated the grounds of his Complaint, wherein he has stated that Col. Purushothaman of the Respondent office harassed him and his family, by sending a police complaint against him on the grounds of suspecting him as a spy. He also enclosed a copy of this Police Complaint along with his Complaint.

The crux of the police complaint is that, Complainant has been seeking various information related to 'infrastructure development, employment of personnel, name and appointment of Commanders, location of various establishments in Kannur Cantonment through RTI and other sources'. It was also recommended that, activities of the Complainant be suspected, his movements be tracked and action be initiated against him by registering a FIR and asked to employ various state agencies for this purpose.

In the facts of the case, Commission deems it appropriate to direct an inquiry into the matter in as much as, filing a police complaint primarily citing suspicion upon accessing information under Right to Information Act, 2005/RTI Act appears far too stretched. In this particular case, the police complaint has been clearly filed subsequent to the filing of the RTI Application under reference. Even if the police complaint was filed following any stipulated protocol, the CPIO or the custodian of information had no right to deny the information to the Complainant unless they could exempt the same under any of the provisions of Section 8 and/or 9 of the RTI Act. The conduct of the CPIO amounts to deemed refusal to provide information on the RTI Application under reference.

As per Section 22 of the RTI Act, even if protocol of any other nature subsisted, it was the statutory duty of the CPIO to respond on the RTI Application by either providing the information or denying it under appropriate exemption clause of the RTI Act.

Mere suspicion of a RTI Applicant being a spy does not in any way justify the deemed refusal of the CPIO to provide information on the RTI Application. It will not be out of place to say that in the given circumstances, the conduct of the CPIO and Col. Purushotaman appears to be nothing short of causing harassment to a citizen who chose to file RTI Applications.

Commission has perused the inquiry report and all facts on record extensively and comes to the conclusion that, it has been established beyond reasonable doubt that lodging of FIR was in relation to the Complaint filed by Complainant with District Collector Office and not particularly with regard to the RTI Application under reference. The gravity of the issue as brought out in the inquiry report leaves little scope for the Commission to question the rationale of Station Commander in having recommended the lodging of FIR.

As observed in the interim decision, PIO's action of not having provided any reply on the RTI Application amounts to a deemed refusal to provide information. If PIO had reservations that the disclosure of information would compromise on national security, he could have replied on the RTI Application citing the appropriate denial clause of RTI Act. Merely apprehending that disclosure of information would impede on security aspects does not warrant inaction on a RTI Application.

Notwithstanding, the CPIO is severely warned to remain careful in future while dealing with matters under RTI Act. CPIO is not at liberty to take upon him the decision of not replying on RTI Applications, as it is a statutory duty cast upon him, it cannot be abdicated as has been done in the instant case. Mere apprehensions of misuse of information or alleged inconspicuous actions of a citizen cannot take away their right to information. CPIO or any officer of Respondent office does not have the right to obstruct or intervene with a citizen's right to information in the manner it has been done in the instant case.


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