NEW DELHI: Setting a new ground for refusal of information under the RTI Act, the Central Information Commission has said filing of repeated RTI applications by an applicant seeking similar information shall be a reasonable ground for rejecting the plea for which reply has been given.
"The citizens have no right to repeat the same or similar or slightly altered information request under the RTI Act, 2005, for which he already got a response," the Commission observed on the basis of objectives of the RTI Act and interpretations given by other Information Commissioners.
In an order which might have serious implications on the Right to Information regime, Information Commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu said once an RTI application is answered the appellants shall refrain themselves from filing another RTI application against the public authority.
"...as once information is received and held by them or posted in public domain, because such information is deemed to have ceased to be 'held' by the public authority," he said basing his arguments on the observations given by previous Information Commissioners and objectives of the RTI Act.
Dismissing the appeals of an RTI applicant Nitesh Tripathi who was repeatedly seeking "information which are highly voluminous," Acharyulu said first appellate authority (within the department) and Commission may be right and reasonable to consider this as a ground for rejecting the first or second appeal, respectively among other reasons.
"An applicant or appellant repeating the RTI application or appeal either once or multiple times, suppressing the fact of earlier application and receipt of the answer, the CPIO of the public authority may reject it forthwith after intimating it along with reasons," he said.
Tripathi had filed number of RTI applications to various authorities in the Health Department and Hospitals seeking details on several issues.
The authorities including Delhi Health Department and Hospitals under it, to which applications were addressed,claimed before the Commission that Tripathi was interested in only filing RTI applications on issues like including reservation categories, roaster for 12 years, advertisements issued, electricity bills, maintenance of vehicles, purchases, patients' food etc.
They said he never received information dispatched by them by changing his address deliberately and replies are directed back to Public Information Officers as the applicant is not found on the given addresses.
The data submitted by these authorities showed Tripathi had filed at least 12 applications every year at Directorate of Health Services, 17 at Department of Health and Family Welfare, 62 to Hedgyan Arogya Sansthan, 200 applications at the rate of 30-31 applications per day at Baba Saheb Ambedkar
Hospital, 100 at Acharya Bhikshu Hospital of which CIC decided in 16 cases on the same issue among others.
The Information Commissioner said applications filed by Tripathi are "wide-ranging requiring lot of effort by authorities to collect the voluminous information which is difficult to be answered in one go.
"The Commission considers this case as the case of repetitive use of RTI assuming the proportion of harassment to the public authority and reckless abuse of RTI," Acharyulu said in his order.
To solve the problem of such repetitive pleas, the Commissioner recommended that respondent authority should analyse all the RTI applications filed by such appellants, compile all the questions and indicate the information provided against them.
"That consolidated information along with a background note based on facts, avoiding unfounded allegations may also be placed on web site besides sending a copy to the applicant and the concerned Information Commission," he said.