In order to provide transparent and categorical information to an RTI applicant seeking copies of records/data relating to illegal/legal migrants, the Central Information Commission directed the Home Ministry Chief Information Commissioner Y. K. Sinha also ‘advised’ the Ministry to preserve, in the national interest, a consolidated record/database of identified legal/illegal migrants.
The Commission considered that a second appeal had been lodged by one of the RTI applicants, Utpal Kumar Roy, who, in his RTI application, demanded copies of the notes and records relating to illegal migrants, especially in West Bengal.
He approached the Commission alleging that MHA had transferred its RTI application to multiple public authorities instead of providing specific/desired information. The claim of the MHA before the Commission was that the duty of keeping records/data relating to illegal/legal migrants was entrusted to State agencies which are the actual custodians of the information sought, and hence the subject-matter of the RTI application is the subject-matter of the State and outside the jurisdiction of CIC.
Y. K. Sinha also observed that the replies given by the PIOs of the Home Ministry fail to do justice since no clear and categorical information covering the queries of the Appellant has been furnished by the Respondents. The Commission observed:
“As per the existing statutory regime, there are three categories of persons living in India i.e. citizens, legally resident foreigners/aliens, and illegal migrants. Therefore, to identify/detect illegal migrants and thereafter, follow the due process of law devolves on the Central Government. A combined reading of the Foreigners Act, The Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920, and the Citizenship Act, 1955 shows that it is the responsibility of the State to identify/detect illegal migrants and thereafter take action as per the due process of law. Preventing the entry of illegal migrants into the country is particularly important as they not only pose a burden on the public exchequer but could also constitute a security threat to the nation. National policy should ideally preclude illegal migration into the country and accordingly, the government should devise appropriate policies and mechanisms to achieve this objective.”
The Commission added that the PIO/MHA, acting as the nodal authority, should answer the queries more pragmatically and accurately, responding to the queries with information available on records, as permissible under the RTI Act, in the wider public interest. If necessary, the PIO, MHA, should depend on the provisions of Section 5(4) of the RTI Act and obtain the required information from the actual custodian(s), it said. In this regard, the court also ordered MHA to file a compliance report by 31.03.2021, failing which it claimed that necessary proceedings will be initiated.