Check existence of info before seeking exemption: CIC to PMO
New Delhi: The Central Information Commission has directed the Prime Minister`s Office to first ensure existence of information within the department before seeking exemption under the RTI Act for not disclosing them.
The CIC`s observation came recently while it was hearing a plea by Delhi-based RTI activist Vivek Garg, who sought to know the details of correspondence made by the PMO with CBI, DRI, ED and RAW in connection with the 2G spectrum allocation.
The PMO has declined to give information citing exemption clause of the transparency law.
"In the scheme of things, it is very unlikely that the Prime Minister of India or the PMO would enter into correspondence with individual investigating or intelligence agencies on any such matters.
"Instead of routinely seeking exemption under one or the other provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, it would always be better to first find out if the information itself exists and only then to decide if the information could be disclosed or not," the CIC said in its order.
In the present case, the CIC said, there was a feeling that the concerned office in the PMO had not verified the records to find out if indeed such correspondence had ever been made.
"Needless to say, if any report or letter written by any of these organisations to their respective nodal departments had been forwarded to the PMO by the respective department in connection with any query from the PMO, that information is not what the Appellant has sought.
"All that he has wanted is to get the copies of the correspondence and other related documents directly arising between the PMO and those organisations," Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra said.
The CIC asked the PMO to address each queries raised by the appellants separately and confirm if the desired information exists and whether it can be disclosed.
"If the information or some of it can be disclosed, the Central Public Information Officer shall send the same to the Appellant," Mishra said in his order.
Garg had sought copies of correspondences made with the investigating agency by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or the PMO over the allocation of second generation spectrum to certain telecom companies.
The 2G spectrum allocation is being investigated by the CBI for alleged irregularities. Trial in the 2G case is also continuing in a court in the national capital.