RTI applicant can choose mode of info collection: SIC

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Says officers cannot dictate any particular mode

The State Information Commission has held that it is for the information seeker under the Right to Information Act to choose the mode of collecting the required information and that the State Public Information Officer (SPIO) has no discretionary power to dictate any particular mode.

The commission made the observation while issuing a show cause notice to the SPIO of the Revenue Divisional Office, Kottayam, for asking an information seeker to visit the office and gather the required information by perusing the relevant files there.

The commission pointed out that as per section 2(j) of the RTI Act, right to information meant the information held by or under the control of any public authority and which include the right to inspect work, documents, records, and take note, extracts or certified copies of documents or records. The Commission pointed out that section 2(i)(ii)(iii) and (iv) of the Act spoke of the right of the information seeker to gather information by adopting his/her own mode of choice.

The commission passed the order on a petition filed by D.B. Binu, RTI activist. According to him, he sought information on the total number of complaints received by the District Level Authorised Committee(DLAC) or District Collector on violations of the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wet Land Act, 2008.

Besides, he also sought information on the total number of stop memos issued and action taken by the DLAC or District Collector on violation of the Act from 2008 till now along with names, addresses and survey numbers of the land of violators. His application wanted the names and designations of officers who issued such stop memos. The SPIO asked the petitioner to peruse the files after appearing before the office of the SPIO and gather the required information and take copies of the selected documents.

The commission observed that the SPIO had gone terribly wrong in dictating the applicant to adopt a mode of gathering information which the SPIO was statutorily bound to collect and give. In fact, an applicant could be given a choice to verify records and collect information when the information had to be gathered from various records, instead of denying it. But those were exceptions, not the rule. The commission issued notice to the SPIO to show cause why penal action should not be initiated against the present SPIO as well as the former SPIO who held the charge during the relevant time.

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