New Delhi, May 4: The Central Information Commission directed the ministry of rural development to give information to an Indian Ph.D student from Cambridge University under the Right to Information free of charge as it earlier denied her the information.
On April 30, information commissioner M.M. Ansari penalised the CPIO of the ministry of rural development for not giving the appellant, Dipta Chopra, the information which she asked for under the RTI Act. Later, the MoRD agreed to give her the information but did not want to give her the file notings.
The CIC also asked the ministry to give this information and all without any charge. Ms Chopra, who is doing her Ph.D in Formulation of the Social Policy of NREGA, said, "I wanted the information for my Ph.D studies. I am yet to go over the information which was provided to me but it is 600-odd pages and I trust it’s all there."
The central public information officer of the MoRD at first did not respond to the request for information made on May 23, 2007, asking for minutes of meetings, file notings, Cabinet papers on the formulation of the NREGA. After two months, the applicant received a response that the information could not be provided as Cabinet papers were exempt under Section 8(1)(i). But when she appealed, the first appellate authority held that the information requested was bulky and under Section 7(9) of the RTI Act, the applicant could inspect the records and specify the which documents she required. Even after carrying out the inspection and informing to the CPIO, MoRD, in writing the details of documents sought, the MoRD did not provide any information.
At the second appeal hearing on April 30, the MoRD was directed to provide the complete information free of charge, the CPIO who was absent from the hearing without having informed the Information Commission had a penalty imposed on him for not providing information within the 30 days time period as required by the act.
On the exemption argument put forward by the CPIO, Mr Ansari very categorically told the representatives of the MoRD that file notings and Cabinet papers were not exempt under the RTI Act and that the Central Information Commission has in its many decisions held that file notings are to be made available.