New Delhi: Central Information Commission has responded to an appeal by an Indian citizen on refusal to provide information with details of break-up of faculty numbers across SC, ST, OBC & GEN category between April 2014 and January 2016, and ordered Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, (IIM-A) to furnish a point-wise response to the Appellant, within a period of 15 days under the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005.
Through its order passed by Central Information Commissioner Bimal Julka on 16 August 2018, the Commission has issued instructions that a copy of the Parliament question answered, if any, by the Respondent on a similar subject matter, should also be provided to the Appellant.
The Commission observed that there was a lack of clarity in respect of the implementation of the RTI Act, 2005 and instructed the Respondent Public Authority in this case (IIM-A) to convene periodic conferences/seminars to sensitize, familiarize and educate the concerned officials about the relevant provisions of the RTI Act, 2005 for effective discharge of its duties and responsibilities.
During the hearing in this matter, the Respondent had stated that vague and ambiguous information for the years from 2014 to 2016 had been sought by the Appellant. Hence it could not be termed as “information” under the provisions of the Act. About the reservation policy, it was stated that their Institute was specifically excluded from the purview of its implementation of the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act 2006 by the (Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). During the hearing, a reference was also made by the Respondent to Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, 2005 under which the information could not be disclosed.
On being queried by the Commission whether any such Parliamentary Question had been answered or not, the Respondent stated that he was not aware of this but at the same time admitted that in case any such question had been dealt with by them, it would be disclosed to the Appellant under the provisions of RTI Act, 2005.
It was pointed out by the Respondent that in most of the cases, there was no larger public interest. While referring to the decision of the Chief Information Commissioner of Gujarat (Appeal No. 133/2006-07 dated 01.09.2016), it was stated that the applicant should specify specific subject, specific time period, specific details while requesting for the information under the RTI Act, 2005.
A reference was also made to the decision of the Chief Information Commissioner Gujarat (SCA No. 16073/2007 dated 16.08.2007, decision of the Central Information Commission in CIC/OK/C/2007/00362 and 367 dated 05.06.2008, CIC/OK/A/2006/00605 dated 30.04.2007 and Judgement No. CIC/SS/A/2011/001765 dated 24.04.2012) to submit that the applicant was filing RTI applications in order to disturb the working of the Public Authority.
The Commission also received another Written Submission from the Respondent on 1 August 2018, stating that the Appellant had filed 74 RTI applications and 25 First Appeals during the last three years seeking voluminous information. In the absence of specific requests, it was difficult for the Institute to respond to such queries. Explaining that the Appellant was an FPM Student at Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, it was stated that he was publishing information related to IIM Ahmedabad in certain publications. On a number of occasions, he was requested to visit their institute to see the records but he did not turn up. In a separate order passed by Information Commissioner Bimal Julka in response to a series of complaints filed by the same appellant on 16 August 2018, the Commission has directed the Respondent to disclose the information sought by the Appellant in each of the matters taken up and heard by the Commission.
On hearing both the parties at length and on perusal of the available records, the Commission at the outset observed that contradictory response was provided by the Respondent during the hearing vis-a-vis the stand taken at the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) /First Appellate Authority (FAA) level. Moreover, no satisfactory response was furnished with respect to the Parliament question on a similar subject having been dealt with by them.
The Appellant, Siddharth Joshi, through an RTI application, had sought information on 3 points in relation to receipt of any request from MHRD to furnish details of break-up of faculty numbers across the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, Other Backward Classes and General category from April 2014 to January 2016. he was compelled to file an appeal with the CIC as he was dissatisfied with the reply given by the CPIO and also since the FAA had issued an order concurring with the CPIO’s response.