RTI Applicants Need Not Provide Their Address, Says Centre
In a move that could give RTI activists a leg up, the Centre has told the States that the government departments should not insist on seeking address of an RTI applicant if a post box number is being provided to them for communication.
This was communicated to the States in a letter by the Ministry of Personnel, nodal department for the implementation of the RTI Act, to all Central Government Ministries or departments, who act as public authorities mandated with providing information on the RTI applications made to them, citing a judgment by Calcutta High Court in this regard.
“When the legislature thought it fit, the applicant need not disclose any personal detail, the authority should not insist on his detailed whereabouts particularly when post box number is provided for establishing contact between him and the authority. In case the authority would find any difficulty with the post box number, they may insist on personal details.
However, in such case, it would be the solemn duty of the authority to hide such information and particularly from their website so that people at large would not know of the details,” the High Court judgment said.
The order had come following a writ petition by Avishek Goenka who sought the court’s direction that the authority should not insist on detailed address of the applicant as and when any application is made under the RTI.
The interested parties could pose a threat to the activist and there have been past incidents of unnatural deaths of activists, allegedly by persons having vested interest to conceal the information that is asked for by the activist, the petitioner had said.
Disposing of the petition on November 20, last year, the court had directed Secretary, Ministry of Personnel, to circulate a copy of its order to all concerned so that the authority can take appropriate measures to hide information with regard to personal details of the activists to avoid any harassment by the persons having vested interest.
The Ministry of Personnel had last week sent a copy of the court’s order to all ministries concerned and chief secretaries of state governments for “appropriate action”.