CHANDIGARH: State information commission of Punjab has put an end to indiscriminate use of a secrecy clause of Right to Information Act by rejecting a plea of the forest department not to part with information on the ground it was more than 20 years old.
The commission has held that information which is more than 20 years old cannot be simply withheld by any office or authority on the pretext of provisions under sub section 3 of section 8 of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
The petitioner Rajiv Bajaj, estate officer, WWICS Ltd, Mohali sought the information from forest department about notification of a provision of an Act of 1914.
State information commissioner PK Verma rejected the department's denial of information and directed it to provide the information within 15 days. The next date has been fixed for February 1 for reporting compliance.
Pushed to a corner, the department pleaded that the relevant record has been destroyed but it could not produce a record destruction certificate. The commission also directed the department itself to provide the information instead of asking the petitioner to approach Ropar office of the department.
The petitioner had sought information about the notes in administrative department's file containing proposal sent by the principal chief conservator of forests for issuance of notification No. 458 way back in 1914 under section 3 of the Punjab Land Preservation Act, 1900.
The petitioner had also sought other relevant information in respect to notifications of lands in village Karoran and Nada, district Mohali issued under PLPA, 1900 but the same was withheld by the department citing section 8 (3) as the main reason.
The information commissioner upheld the argument of the petitioner that the said information could not be withheld as it did not fall under the purview of sub sections (a) (c) and (i) of section 8 of RTI.
Under RTI, information more than 20 years old can only be withheld in circumstances when a grave threat or injury to the sovereignty and integrity to the nation is posed under section (8) (a) of RTI.
Similarly, information can also be withheld under section (8) (c) in case the privilege of Parliament or state legislatures is being breached by disclosure of information. Information over 20 years old can also withheld under 8 (i) if cabinet documents are under consideration.