Despite the Right to Information Act (RTI) having completed 17 years in India, sometimes, one comes across complete ignorance with which an RTI application is filed. One, which is filled with absurd rhetoric but has reached the desk of the second appeal hearing, compelled the information commissioner to dismiss it last week.
Burdening the already large number of second appeals, RTI applicant Abhishek Watade filed an RTI application to the public information officer (PIO) of the Lok Sabha secretariat seeking the following information which he had written thus: “I need personal mobile number and WhatsApp number of Shri Narendra Modi member of parliament of Lok Sabha because PMO staff are irresponsible and negligence on duty and (now read the nonsensical jargon) need to discuss international peace bill for the world in the united nations example to talk like awareness program born natural die natural to stop murder, suicide, killing, death penalty, euthanasia in the world.”
Yes, it is filled with meaningless words and does not even adhere to the format under which information is sought under Section 6 of the RTI Act. There are three more paragraphs of such nonsensical sentences which are not worth wasting space on.
The central public information officer (CPIO) replied that “The information pertaining to personal mobile numbers and WhatsApp numbers of all members of parliament (MPs) Lok Sabha, including Shri Narendra Modi, is available in their respective bio-profiles based on the inputs provided by them and can be accessed on the Lok Sabha website under the heading ‘Members’ → List of Members’ → ‘Members’ Biographical Sketch (Alphabetical)'. < Search Name>.”
“Remaining part of the RTI request in the original application attracts the Rule 2(f) &(j) of RTI Act 2005, under which "right to information" means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority,” implying the meaningless RTI application.
RTI applicant Mr Watade then filed a first appeal but the first appellate authority (FAA) upheld the reply of the CPIO. Thereafter, he knocked at the door of the information commissioner through a second appeal.
Central information commissioner (CIC) Saroj Punhani ordered: “The Commission based on a perusal of the facts on record finds that the CPIO has appropriately replied to the appellant leaving no scope of intervention in the matter. Further, the grounds of appeal are bereft of merit and warrant no consideration being based on hypothesis and absurd surmises.”
Way back in 2014, Tehsin Poonawala, asked under the RTI, “Whether Achche Din have indeed arrived?” The reply he promptly got from the PMO was that the query is an opinion and information that is accessible only as per records, can be provided.
While information commissioners are flooded with multiple RTI applications by the same RTI applicant on the same issue—sometimes to the tune of 100-odd RTI applications—having to deal with weird and meaningless RTI applications like this one is indeed a colossal waste of everyone’s time and energy, from the PIO to the CIC.
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife. She is also the convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting, which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain Award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book "To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte" with Vinita Kamte and is the author of "The Mighty Fall".)