An applicant, who has been filing numerous right to information (RTI) applications to seek redressal from various public authorities—over 118 of them in the last several months—was slammed by chief information commissioner YK Sinha for not only filing them to irrelevant public authorities but also remaining absent for each and every second appeal hearing, that he asked for!
Mr Sinha, in his order, stated that RTI applicant Chitresh Kumar Banjare filed his application to public authorities which are “not even the actual custodian of information” and “notwithstanding the multiplicity of cases filed, inevitably he remains absent during the hearing of his cases.”
Of course, the RTI Act provides a clause wherein the PIO has to forward the RTI application to the relevant public authority in case the RTI applicant has wrongly addressed it to him or her, but apparently Mr Banjare did so a bit too often, much to the consternation of the CIC.
Mr Sinha, who clubbed 26 of Mr Banjare’s second appeals together during the hearing last week (many others were disposed of by other information commissioners earlier), observed that “perusal of documents and averments made during the hearing indicates that replies have been duly provided to the appellant, in terms of provisions of the Act in the aforementioned cases.”
Most of his RTI applications were addressed to the JNU.
Mr Sinha—pointing to the judgment of the Supreme Court in Central Board of Secondary Education & Anr vs Aditya Bandopadhyay & Ors—directed Mr Banjare, “not to disproportionately divert the resources of the public authorities by filing multiple RTI applications on similar issues.”
While several information commissioners face this issue of multiple RTI queries by a single RTI applicant, often on the same issue, RTI activists have a different take. Time and again, they have been advocating that if the public authorities follow in letter and spirit, the suo motu disclosures mandatory under Section 4 of the RTI Act, then to a large extent, not only such multiple RTI applications but RTI applications filed under Section 6 of this law will reduce to over 90%. They also have stated that the CIC must, time and again, slam public authorities which do not upload information required under Section 4, on their websites, at regular intervals.
Mr Banjare, the RTI applicant in question, was also reprimanded for asking the public information officer (PIO) for seeking disputes.
Mr Sinha, in his order, stated that “the judgement of the Apex Court in Union of India vs Namit Sharma (Review Petition [C] No.2309 of 2012) dated 3 September 2013 wherein it was held that the information commission does not decide a dispute between two or more parties concerning their legal rights other than their right to get information in possession of a public authority. Yet, it is found that the Appellant has undermined the spirit of the RTI Act by clogging the system with a barrage of RTI applications, merely claiming irregularities within the JNU administration.”
Mentioning that more than 118 cases of the same appellant on the same subject matter have so far been adjudicated by different information commissioners of this commission, Mr Sinha concluded in his order, “The Commission is not inclined to entertain any further adjudication on the same subject, since no cause of action subsists under the RTI Act. Hence, all the above-mentioned appeals are disposed of as such.”
It may be recalled that recently, Gujarat-based RTI applicant Paresh Gandhi, had filed over 100 RTI applications to get information on various civic works of the Padra municipality. He was blacklisted by a general body resolution of the Padra municipality in April 2021. He then filed RTI applications to the information commissioners of Gujarat, the state secretariat, and the governor’s office, seeking information on whether an RTI activist can be blacklisted and the answer was a `No’ from the Gujarat state information commissioner but that is another story!
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife. She is also the convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting, which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)