New Delhi: Public authorities cannot take excuse of "missing files" for denying information under the RTI Act as such claims have no legality under the transparency law for withholding records, the Central Information Commission has held.
"Unless proved the record was destroyed as per the prescribed rules of destruction/retention policy, it is deemed that record continues to be held by the public authority," Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said in his order.
The case came before the CIC after one Om Prakash sought to know information from Land and Building Department of Delhi Government regarding allotment of alternative plot in lieu of his land acquired by the Government.
The Department admitted before the Commission that the relevant file is missing and it could not be traced even though the officers personally inspected room of the Land and Building Department after receiving the RTI application.
The official representing the department said there is no possibility of retrieving the missing record.
In a terse order, the Commissioner said loss?of records that are required to be kept and maintained permanently, if considered as evidence in a case, should invite criminal complaint against officials under section 201 of Indian Penal Code (punishable with imprisonment which is directly proportional to seriousness of offence charged from seven years to 10 years and for life.)
"Claim of file missing or not traceable has no legality as it is not recognised as exception by the RTI Act. By practice "missing file" cannot be read into as exception in addition to exceptions prescribed by RTI Act.
"It amounts to breach of Public Records Act, 1993 and punishable with imprisonment up to a term of five years or with fine or both," Acharyulu said.