In a recent Full Bench decision, the CIC has examined various issues regarding:
What is "information" ?
When can it be given or not given ?
Can a PIO be asked Questions ? Can he answer them ?
Can PIO analyze the information and draw conclusions ?
Can the PIO advice or make suggestions ?
Many members have asked several questions and raised doubts relating to the above issues in the past.
Although I am reproducing the important points of the decision here, members and guests are well advised to read the full case at:
10 The Right to Information Act, 2005 was enacted in order to promote
transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. The Act
however recognizes that revelation of information in actual practice could conflict
with other public interests, which may include preservation of confidentiality of
sensitive information. The principal object of the Act is therefore to harmonize
these conflicting interests by preserving the paramountcy of the democratic ideal.
In this perspective, enshrined in the Preamble to the RTI Act, 2005, it may be
inferred that a public authority is obliged to provide access to information to
a citizen unless furnishing of such information is covered by one of the
exemptions provided for in the Act either under Section 8 or under Section
11. Right to Information Act confers on all citizens a right to access
information and this right has been defined under Section 2(j) of the said Act. An
analysis of this Section would make it clear that the right relates to information
that is held by or under the control of any public authority. If the public authority
does not hold information or the information cannot be accessed by it under
Section 2(f) or if the information is non-est, the public authority cannot provide
the same under the Act. The Act does not make it obligatory on the part of the
public authority to create information for the purpose of its dissemination. The
definition also makes it clear that the Right to Information includes the right to
inspection of work, documents or records or taking notes, extracts or certified
copies of documents or records or taking certified samples of material or
obtaining information through some electronic device.
12. It will be pertinent to refer to the definition of the word `information’ itself
appearing in Section 2(f) of the Act and which reads as under:
(f) "information" means any material in any form, including records,
documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases,
circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples,
models, data material held in any electronic form and information
relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public
authority under any other law for the time being in force;
13. The definition of the word `information’ has to be read in conjunction with
the definition of `record’ appearing in Section 2(i) of the RTI Act which reads as
(i) "record" includes—
(a) any document, manuscript and file;
(b) any microfilm, microfiche and facsimile copy of a document;
(c) any reproduction of image or images embodied in such
microfilm (whether enlarged or not); and
(d) any other material produced by a computer or any other
14. Thus, information would mean any material in existence and apparently it
cannot mean and include something that is not in existence or has to be created. An “opinion” or an “advice” if it is a part of the record is “information” but one
cannot seek from a PIO either an “opinion” or an “advice” as seeking such
opinion or advice would be in effect seeking a decision which the CPIO may not
be competent or authorized to take.Similarly, the existing report is information
but preparing a report after an enquiry cannot be treated as available
“information”. Likewise, the data maintained in any electronic form is
“information” and the whole of such data or a part thereof can be made available
to an applicant by a public authority under the RTI Act. But making an analysis
of data or deriving certain inferences or conclusions based upon the data so
collected cannot be expected to be done by the CPIO under the RTI Act. On the
same analogy, answering a question or proffering advice or making suggestions
to an applicant is clearly beyond the purview of the Right to Information Act.
There are many issues we face in our everyday use of the RTI Act and hopefully, the above decision will clear some of our doubts.