Request for obtaining information, Duties of a PIO, Exemption from disclosure of information, Partial disclosure of information
Request for obtaining information
- A person, who desires to obtain any information under this Act, shall make a request in writing or through electronic means in English or Hindi or in the official language of the area in which the application is being made, accompanying such fee as may be prescribed, to:
- The Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, of the concerned public authority;
- The Central Assistant Public Information Officer or State Assistant Public Information Officer, as the case may be, specifying the particulars of the information sought by him or her:
Provided that where such request cannot be made in writing, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall render all reasonable assistance to the person making the request orally to reduce the same in writing.
- An applicant making request for information shall not be required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him.
- Where an application is made to a public authority requesting for an information:
- Which is held by another public authority; or
- the subject matter of which is more closely connected with the functions of another public authority, the public authority, to which such application is made, shall transfer the application or such part of it as may be appropriate to that other public authority and inform the applicant immediately about such transfer:
Provided that the transfer of an application pursuant to this sub-section shall be made as soon as practicable but in no case later than five days from the date of receipt of the application.
Duties of a PIO
- If an information sought by anyone is regarding his life or liberty, such RTI is compulsory to be answered within a time period of 48 hours of the receipt of the request.
- If out of various information sought, only a few are being answered by PIO then, it is the duty of Public Information Officer (PIO) to give a reason for not providing with the complete documents demanded and rights of the applicant with respect to review of the decision regarding non-disclosure of part of the information.
- On access to information, the RTI Act empowers citizen with the rights equivalent to a Member of Parliament. The information which cannot be denied to any Member of Parliament or State legislature cannot be denied to any person seeking RTI.
- It is the duty of PIO to suo motu (on its own) declare information such as mentioned in the exhaustive list of section 4 of RTI Act.
Exemption from disclosure of information
- Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen:
- information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence;
- information which has been expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law or tribunal or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of court;
- information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature;
- information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information;
- information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information;
- information received in confidence from foreign Government;
- information, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes;
- information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders;
- cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers: Provided that the decisions of Council of Ministers, the reasons thereof, and the material on the basis of which the decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken, and the matter is complete, or over: Provided further that those matters which come under the exemptions specified in this section shall not be disclosed;
- information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information: Provided that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.
- Notwithstanding anything in the Official Secrets Act, 1923 nor any of the exemptions permissible in accordance with sub-section (1), a public authority may allow access to information, if public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interests.
- Subject to the provisions of clauses (a), (c) and (i) of sub-section (1), any information relating to any occurrence, event or matter which has taken place, occurred or happened twenty years before the date on which any request is made under secton 6 shall be provided to any person making a request under that section: Provided that where any question arises as to the date from which the said period of twenty years has to be computed, the decision of the Central Government shall be final, subject to the usual appeals provided for in this Act.
Partial disclosure of information
You should remember that it is possible for information to be only partially withheld/released. This might happen where some of the information in the documents requested is sensitive and falls under an exemption, but the remainder is harmless. In such cases, the sensitive information should be removed or blacked out from the record, and the remainder of the information can still be released.
Section 10(1) of the Central Act permits partial disclosure of information. This makes good sense because public officials should only be able to withhold those pieces of information or portions of documents which are specifically covered by an exemption. If a 30 page document contains only 1 page of exempt information, it is not appropriate to withhold the entire document.
Section 10(2) of the Central Act specifies the content of decision notice where information is being only partially disclosed, requiring at a minimum that the requester is information:
- That only part of the record is being provided;
- The reasons for the decision, including any findings on any material questions of fact, referring to the material on which those findings were based;
- The name and designation of the person giving the decision;
- The details of the fees, including calculations;
- Right with respect to review of the decision regarding non-disclosure of part of the information, the amount of the fee or the form of access, including details of the “appellate authority“, time limits, the process and any forms.