Not mandatory for authority to call for info under RTI: HC

New Delhi, Jan 28  Even if a public authority has the power to call for certain information, it is not mandatorily required to seek the data to provide it to an applicant under the RTI Act, the Delhi High Court has held.

The court said that the authority can only provide information which is available with it to an applicant under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

“The Act is available to make transparent any information that they have. You cannot ask a public authority to mandatorily procure an information, even if they have the power to do so,” Justice Vibhu Bakhru observed.

The observations by the court came while disposing of a plea challenging an order of the Central Information Commission (CIC) which had declined to direct the Delhi government to call for further information from a private unaided school regarding terms and conditions of service of its employees.

The CIC had disposed of the plea of the RTI applicant, who was employed in the private school, with a direction to the Delhi government to provide him an audit report of affairs of the school which the institution would have submitted under the Delhi School Education Rules, 1973.

Upholding the CIC’s September 21, 2017 decision, the high court said there was “no infirmity” in it and added that private unaided schools are open to scrutiny by the Delhi government, but not the general public.

It also said,”

The fact that the public authority has the power to call for certain information does not make it mandatory for the said authority to seek that information and provide the same to any information seeker under the provisions of the RTI Act.

“The public authority can only provide the information as is available with it, provided disclosure of such information is not exempt under section 8 of the Act.”

The court, in its order, however, said that if the Delhi government has any information other than the audit report pertaining to the affairs of the private school, the petitioner-RTI applicant can seek the same.

“Needless to mention that such information would be provided to the petitioner subject to the provisions of the Act,” it said.

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