New Delhi: Confidential documents received by
one government department from another should only be
disclosed under RTI Act after consulting the concerned office
which has sent them, the Department of Personnel and Training
DoPT, the nodal office for managing RTI affairs in
the country, has issued a circular recently asking the
departments to invoke `Third Party` clause given in Section 11
of the Right to Information Act.
The section says that disclosure of information about a
third party -- neither an information seeker nor a supplier --
should only be done after consulting the concerned party.
"Section 11 of the Act provides the procedure of
disclosure of `third party` information. According to it, if a
Public Information Officer (PIO) intends to disclose an
information supplied by a third party which the third party
has treated as confidential, the PIO, before taking a decision
to disclose the information shall invite the third party to
make submission in the matter," the circular said.
The PIO cannot disclose such information unless the
procedure prescribed in section 11 is completed, it said.
"Reading of the definition of the term ... it is clear
that if a public authority `X` receives some information from
another public authority `Y` which that public authority has
treated as confidential, then `X` cannot disclose the
information without consulting `Y`, the third party in respect
of the information and without following the procedure
prescribed in Section 11 of the Act," it said.
The DoPT said it is a statutory requirement,
non-compliance with which may make the PIO "liable to action".
RTI activists claimed the move would make the process of
seeking information cumbersome as PIOs will use the
instructions to withhold information.
"I consider it a serious setback to the smooth
functioning of information seeking as was being practised
hitherto," RTI activist Commodore (Retd) Lokesh Batra said.