HYDERABAD: Central Information Commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu has held that land records are public documents and names of land owners cannot be termed personal information.
Ruling on an appeal filed by one Surender Pal Singh against the order of a sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) in Delhi, Sridhar Acharyulu said land records with names of different owners, describing boundaries and extent of the land, were public records. Information such as names of persons and the extent of land owned or possessed by the public authority is neither private information nor ‘third party’ information, he said and directed the government to explore “writing of records on the walls” in villages as that had practically resolved several problems in Telangana State.
The Commissioner rejected the contention of the PIO on this point and termed the present practice of calling such information ‘personal’ unreasonable, exploitative and secretive and such attitude of some public servants “Raj-era mindset.”
The Commissioner observed, “The land is open and transaction of change of ownership of a particular piece of land is registered with the Registrar for being recorded as admissible evidence of that ownership for public to know.”
If the argument of PIO was accepted, the registration of transactions of sale and mortgage would never be available to people in general. That will defeat the purpose of recording the transaction at all, he pointed out.
He further ruled that it is the duty of the revenue department to make all updated land records open for public scrutiny. “Transparency is the only way by which corruption can be prevented,” he asserted.