Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Layman’s Guide to RTI Act 2005 Part 4: Refusal and Severability of Information

In case the requested documents are denied to you under sections 8, 9 or 11, and the PIO and appellate authorities refuse to budge, what to do?

The answer is: Take whatever documents you can get, after severing off the documents (or parts thereof) to which the above-mentioned sections apply.

Section 10:
(1) Where a request for access to information is rejected on the ground that it is exempt from disclosure, access may be provided to that part of the record which does not contain any information which is exempt from disclosure and which can reasonably be severed from any part that contains exempt information.

(2) Where access is granted to a part of the record under sub-section (1) the PIO shall give a notice to the applicant, informing —
  1. that only part of the record requested, after severance of the record containing information which is exempt from disclosure, is being provided;
  2. the reasons for the decision, including any findings on any material question of fact, referring to the material on which those findings were based;
  3. the name and designation of the person giving the decision;
  4. the details of the fees calculated by him or her and the amount of fee which the applicant is required to deposit; and
  5. his or her rights with respect to review of the decision regarding non-disclosure of part of the information, the amount of fee charged or the form of access provided, including the particulars of the senior officer specified under sub-section (1) of section 19 or the Information Commission, time limit, process and any other form of access.
If you have asked inspection of, or copy of, a certain file, the PIO may argue that it contains confidential material. You should counter-argue that it is the PIO’s duty to remove any confidential documents from that file, but give you access to the rest of the papers in that file. However, he must mention which papers are being withheld from you, and under what sub-sections of Section 8, 9 or 11 etc. are those document being withheld.

Alternatively, if you have asked copy of a specific document, and the PIO argues that some words or lines in that document are confidential, you may ask the PIO to photocopy that document after covering those words with patches!

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