Inward and outward register of the police has records of all communications made and received by the department by post and hand-delivery. Citizens, who file grievances in police stations, have the right to see the progress of their complaints, which is possible with the open access of these registers, particularly under Right to Information (RTI) Act. This would make the functioning of the police department more transparent and accountable to the public.
However, when Mahesh Kumar Pardhi filed an RTI application seeking information on the copy of the dispatch register of Balaghat police station, he was denied information by the public information officer (PIO). The PIO replied that this information was barred under Section 8 (1) (j) of the RTI Act and it would also compromise sensitive personal information. The first appellate authority (FAA) too upheld the PIO’s reply and so Mr Pardhi filed a second appeal with state information commissioner (SIC) Rahul Singh.
At the second appeal hearing, MP’s state information commissioner Mr Singh ruled in favour of the applicant. He stated, “The information of inward and outward register maintained by police department and police stations should be given under the RTI Act, by using severability clause of the Act to hide out that particular part of confidential information while releasing the rest of the general information, I have said in my order that the MP Police headquarters should ensure separate inward and outward registers for general and confidential matters at all the police stations across the state.”
He used the information commissioner’s power to issue directions to the public authority under Section 19 (8) (iv) of the RTI Act for making changes in record maintenance. Mr Singh, evoking this Section, ordered the additional director general of police administration, police headquarters, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, to maintain separate inward and outward register for confidential and general nature of communication of the police department.
Elaborating the reason for directing the MP police to create a separate register for confidential information, Mr Singh stated, “I constituted an inquiry to verify veracity of claims and counter claims between the RTI applicant and the Balghat police over the dispatch register, I also constituted an inquiry under Code of Civil Procedure (CPC). All the original records were summoned before the Commission.”
While inspecting the original copy of the dispatch register, Mr Singh found one entry in the dispatch register regarding the codes sent for VVIP movement. But the rest of the entry was of normal nature which need not be denied under the RTI Act, he said.
Hence, Mr Singh ruled that, barring one entry which is confidential in nature, the rest should be given to the RTI applicant. Mr Singh said the police could have evoked Section 10 of RTI Act which has provision of not revealing information of confidential nature or any other information which is barred under Section 8 and 9 of RTI Act. Part of that information can be severed and the rest of the information can be given to the RTI applicant.
However, Mr Singh, who had earlier penalised the PIO of Rs25,000 (before conducting the inquiry) because he denied information, revoked it as the PIO had replied in a time-bound manner and was partially right about the contention of confidential information and it is not proved that the PIO deliberately denied the information to the applicant. But the commission also warned the PIO, saying he must dispose RTI applications in accordance to the Act in future.
Why the Inward and Outward Register Comes under RTI
Mr Singh, in his order, clarifies that the inward and outward registers, maintained in the office of any public authority, comes under the category of 'information' under Section 2 (f) and it is classified as 'record' under Section 2 (i). At the same time, under Section 2 (j) (ii) of the Act, any person has the right to take certified copies of such documents or records.
Reason To Order Changes in Maintenance Records in Police Department
After discovering that the Balaghat police was maintaining only one dispatch register, containing general as well as confidential nature of records in it, Mr Singh, in his order, said that there should be a separate dispatch register maintained for confidential nature of information as it would lead to security compromise of such records.
Indeed, this state information commission's order is beneficial to citizens across the entire country and should be followed by all police headquarters of the country.
(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”.)