RTI Judgement Series: PIOs at PMO and MEA clueless about information
Moneylife Digital Team 12 September 2013

The CIC remarked that it was a sad reflection on two of the most important offices in India if the knowledge of where the information is held is not available in both places. This is the 172nd in a series of important judgements given by former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi that can be used or quoted in an RTI application

The Central Information Commission (CIC), while allowing an appeal, directed the Public Information Officers (PIOs) at the Prime Minister's Officer (PMO) and Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to provide information about selection of media, expenses during the PM's foreign tour to BRICS Summit and Kazakhstan. The PIO at PMO simply forwarded the Right to Information (RTI) application to MEA, despite having available on its records the information sought by the applicant.

 

While giving the judgement on 13 December 2011, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner said, "If a government does not know where its information lies on such important matters it should be a cause of concern to everyone. The PIO of MEA is directed to transfer the relevant queries back to PIO of PMO. The PIO of PMO is directed to provide the information as per the available records to the appellant".

 

Gurgaon (Haryana) resident Aseem Takyar, on 18 April 2011, sought from the PIO information regarding selection process and expenses incurred for media persons during the Prime Minister's foreign tour to BRICS Summit and Kazakhstan. Here is the information he sought and the reply provided by the PIO under the RTI Act...

 

1. For the sake of transparency, provide information containing copies of all noting, decisions, and correspondences take place for choosing and ultimately selecting 'media persons' to accompany, Prime Minister of India recent official foreign tours for 'BRICS' Summit and 'Kazakhstan'.   

PIO's reply—The selection of media representatives, who accompany the Prime Minister on his foreign tours, is undertaken by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). XP Division (i.e. External Publicity Division) of the Ministry makes necessary logistical arrangements and also takes care of briefing the journalists.

 

2. Provide information as to what basis particular organisation and which empowered to finalise the whether any nomination solicited from media persons were short listed section or ministry of Government of above process. Who makes the necessary arrangement for the media?

PIO's reply—The selection of media representatives, who accompany the Prime Minister on his foreign tours, is undertaken by the Prime Minister's Office. XP Division of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) makes necessary logistical arrangements and also takes care of briefing the journalists.

 

3. Provide information regarding particulars of each media person accompanied both tours and cost of traveling, accommodation and other facilities, if any, for media persons, provided by which particular department.         

PIO's reply—XP Division of the Ministry extends necessary facilitation to the media and takes care of briefings to ensure suitable coverage. Facilitation includes procurement of visas, media accreditation in host country, establishment of media centres, arranging hotel accommodation (paid for by journalists) and media briefings. The journalists travel on the VVIP flight, and they are not required to bear any travel cost. A list of the media persons accompanying Prime Minister on the twin visits to BRICS Summit and Kazakhstan is enclosed at Annexure.

         

Not satisfied with the PIO's reply, Takyar filed his first appeal. In his order, the First Appellate Authority (FAA), said, "The CPIO of the Ministry of External Affairs had responded to the applicant's letter of 18 March 2011 vide his letter no.RTI/551/361/2011 dated 3 June 2011 forwarding the information available with the Ministry of External Affairs. I am satisfied that the CPIO has forwarded the information requested by the applicant that is available with this Ministry".

 

Citing unsatisfactory reply from the PIO and FAA order, Takyar, the appellant approached the CIC with his second appeal.

 

During the hearing before Mr Gandhi, the then CIC, the PIO stated that the RTI application was originally filed with PMO, which was transferred to the MEA. This implies that the PMO did not hold the information and that the information is held by MEA.

 

The PIO of MEA categorically stated that he held some of the information, which has been provided to the appellant and the balance information should be with the PMO.

 

Mr Gandhi said, "The Bench feels that it is a sad reflection on two of the most important offices in India if the knowledge of where the information is held is not available in both places."

 

While allowing the appeal, he then directed the PIO of MEA to transfer the RTI Application back to the PMO mentioning the points on which points information would be with PMO. The PIO at PMO was directed to provide the information as per the available records to the Appellant as per the provisions of the RTI Act.  

 

CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION

 

Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2011/002605/16276

http://ciconline.nic.in/cic_decisions/CIC_SG_A_2011_002605_16276_M_72217.pdf

Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2011/002605

 

Appellant                                            : Aseem Takyar,

                                                            Udyog Vihar, Gurgaon, Haryana.

                  

Respondent                                        : Manish Chauhan

                                                           Public Information Officer & Director (RTI)

                                                            Ministry of External Affairs

                                                            619- Akbar Bhawan

                                                            Chanakyapuri

                                                            New Delhi-110021

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