In the Central Information Commission Munirka, New Delhi File No. CIC/MESER/A/2018/168728 Decided on: 29 December, 2020 Bench: Mr. Vanaja N. Sarna (IC)
The Hon’ble Central Information Commission has observed that an RTI application cannot be rejected merely for not annexing proof of identity of the applicant.
On 19.04.2018, R K Malik (herein referred to as “Appellant”) had filed RTI application before the Central Public Information Officer, Garrison Engineer office [hereinafter referred to as the “Respondents”] to sought the following information:
(a) Copy of the letter specifying whether GE (I) R&D Timarpur and Chief Engineer (R&D), Delhi are under MES or DRDO HQ New Delhi,
(b) Furnish information on GE (I) R&D letter No. 1609/RTI/382/EIC/ dt. 28/06/17, in which GE (I) R&D informed that HQ CE (R&D) and GE (I) R&D Timarpur are solely responsible for DRDO project and function under control of DRDO HQ for all works / matter and GE(I) R&D is an exempted organisation under section 24 of the RTI Act.,
(c) Provide a copy of the proforma of progress report for claiming pay and allowances of industrial staff.,
(d) And other related information.
On not getting the required information, the Appellant filed the first appeal on 08.09.2018. The Respondent rejected the appeal and stated that the Proof of ID was not provided as this was necessary under Section 3 of the RTI, Act. Aggrieved by rejection of his application, the Appellant filed the second appeal before this Commission on 15.10.2018.
- Whether the person would be required to prove his citizenship every time whenever he is asking for information through the RTI application.
Contentions put forward:
The Appellant submitted that till date no information has been provided to him either by the CPIO or the FAA.
It was further submitted that the Appellant had requested information from Director General of Kashmir House and hence, there is no locus of the CPIO, Garrison Engineer officer to give a reply in this case.
From a perusal of the relevant case records, it is noted that the Respondent had rejected the RTI application while stating that the IPO/DD was to be addressed to GE New Delhi and that the Proof of ID was not found enclosed. The Hon’ble Commission considers both these reasons are totally invalid and unacceptable and amount to blatant violation of the provisions of the RTI Act.
At this point, the Commission reviewed the landmark case of R.K. Jain v. CPIO, Delhi University and found the attitude of the Respondents in the current case as against the spirit of the RTI-Act. Actually Section 3 of the Act reads, ‘Subject to the provisions of this Act, all citizens shall have the right to information’. Nowhere does it say, nor imply, that a person would be required to prove his citizenship every time that he was asking for information. Thus, there are thousands of applications which are considered without a person providing a certificate to prove that he is an Indian citizen. This means that in the rarest of rare cases where there is a doubt that the applicant is indeed an Indian citizen, the Public Authority may ask him for proof. This, however, can only be an exception rather than the rule. Further, the Commission observed the CPIO ENC officer was not present to explain how the present case is a rarest of rare case in which there is doubt about the citizenship status of the appellant i.e., he is not an Indian citizen. However, the CPIO Garrison Engineer Office submitted that a suitable reply was given to the appellant on 11.08.2018 in which all the points of the RTI application was replied to.
The Commission observed that the given reply was not proper in which it was stated that Government policy is not traceable with the office. The CPIO should revisit the RTI application and provide a justified reply by substantiating the unavailability of the reply.
The Commission directed the CPIO Garrison Engineer office to provide complete information to the appellant within 15 days from the date of issue of this order under intimation to the Commission. A strict warning is also issued to the concerned CPIO, Engineer in Chief office, for such blatant violation of the RTI Act. He should note that such an act amounts to denial of information which violates the letter and spirit of the RTI Act. In case such a mistake is repeated in future by him, the Commission will be constrained to initiate penal proceedings under the Section 20 of the RTI Act.
Hence, it is concluded that the person is not required to prove his identity as he is a bona-fide citizen of India under the Section 3 of the Right to Information Act. Further, the Hon’ble Central Information Commission cleared that the Proof of ID is only to be submitted in the rarest of rare cases where there is a doubt that the applicant is indeed an Indian citizen.