As reported on by PTI on 5 February 2008: | wired

Don't misuse RTI to settle personal scores; CIC to scientists

With more and more scientists invoking their right to information to settle disputes mostly emerging out of their professional dissatisfaction, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has asked the intellectual class to refrain from misusing the transparency law.

"We have been receiving a number of appeals from scientists engaged in research work in scientific and research institutions. The queries mostly emanate from their dissatisfaction with the recognition they believe was their rightful due.

"When scientists of research institutes attempt to use the RTI Act to settle personal scores, it only engenders a sense of pain and dismay. The scientists are there to serve a much higher purpose than using up their valuable time in personal disputes and settle scores," Information Commissioner A N Tiwari has said in a recent order.

The CIC's concern came while disposing of an RTI plea of a scientist with Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI) Mukul Yadav, who had sought information on a research project submitted by one of his fellow scientist.

The matter, which was subsequently taken up with the Commission, saw CDRI submit that Yadav, who had stopped working on the said research project 11 months after its commencement "erroneously believed" that he should be given full credit for the research, as it was now completed.

Questioning the veracity of copies of project completion report, Yadav in his plea had termed certain related documents as "unauthentic."

However, the CIC disposed of the matter by directing CDRI to allow Yadav an inspection of relevant records pertaining to the project.

"In order to put an end to this somewhat ungainly imbroglio between the scientist (Yadav) and the organisation which he serves, it is directed that CDRI may allow inspection of necessary records to satisfy himself both about their presence as well as authenticity," Tiwari said in his order.

In a similar decision, the CIC expressed the necessity to strongly disapprove of the "proclivities of employees" of public offices using the RTI Act as a medium to settle their personal grievances.

The case related to the plea of a principal scientist of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) Sadachari Singh Tomar, seeking details of allowances paid to certain officers of his office. He claimed that the details were all charges on public fund and hence be revealed.

However, ICAR claimed that Tomar's RTI plea was motivated as the details he asked for were of an official who had inquired a case against him.

Concurring with ICAR's submissions, the Commission said that Tomar's RTI plea was nothing more than his "personal interest camouflaged as public good."

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