CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
(Right to Information Act – Section 19)
Name of Applicant : Shri D.N.Sahu
Name of Public Authority : Land & Development Office, Ministry of Urban Development, Nirman Bhawan, New Delhi
Shri D.N.Sahu (hereinafter referred to as “Appellant”) submitted an application under the Right to Information Act seeking certain information from Land & Development Officer, CPIO, Nirman Bhawan. His application was rejected by the CPIO on the ground that the information has been requested not by an individual citizen but on behalf of Resident Welfare Association, Pushp Vihar. His appeal petition before the first Appellate Authority was also rejected on the same grounds.
Hence the appeal.
In his appeal petition, the appellant has contended that office bearers of any society or company are not barred under the law to seek information from the public authority and that his request for information was as a citizen of the country and that he had merely used the letter head of the Society/Association of which he is one of the office bearers and as such, denial of information in his case is contrary to the provisions of the Right to Information Act.
The appellant has, therefore, prayed that the concerned CPIO be directed to provide the information and that a penalty should also be imposed on him u/s 20(1) 2 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 as the denial of information in this case has been willful.
The following issues are framed:
1. Whether a Society or a Company is entitled to seek information under the Right to Information Act?
2. Whether the appellant filed the application in his individual capacity or on behalf of Society/Association?
3. What relief, if any, can be granted to the appellant?
1. Insofar as the first issue is concerned, an Association or a Company is not and cannot be treated as a citizen even though it may have been registered or incorporated in the country. A natural born person can only be a citizen of India under the provisions of Part-II of the Constitution. Section 3 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 gives the right to information to all citizens. Thus, it is quite clear that a person who is not a citizen cannot claim this right. The issue is decided accordingly.
2. Insofar as the second issue is concerned, from the records, it appears that the appellant has submitted the application under the Right to Information Act, 2005 in his individual capacity, signing no doubt as President of his association, but not for a separate entity.
3. From the records, it also appears that requested information has been furnished to the applicant by the CPIOs, Deputy Director, Directorate of Estates and Executive Engineer (Headquarters) CPWD vide letters dated 17th and 19th January, 2006, copies whereof have been annexed at 3 Annexures ‘F’ and ‘G’ of the Appeal. The Appellate Authority also in its order dated 17.1.2006 has stated that the applicant can still seek the information in his individual capacity as a citizen. Although the Act guarantees right to information only to a citizen, in the instant case, the appellant is seeking information on behalf of other members of the Association, or simply a group of citizens, not a body corporate. The basic objective of the Act is to give information, rather than to withhold or deny a right recognized by other CPIOs in the ambit of the same Ministry of Urban Development. The CPIO is, therefore, directed to provide the requested information. Since delay has taken place, albeit, without any fault from the side of CPIO/AA, the information may be given free of charge.
Since the delay has evidently occurred through an interpretation of the law now held invalid, the CPIO can be construed to have acted in god faith. Under the circumstances, question of imposing penalty does not arise as per Sec 21 Copy of the decision notice be given to all parties free of cost.
Chief Information Commissioner,
Authenticated true copy. Additional copies of orders shall be supplied against application and payment of the charges prescribed under the Act to the CPIO of this Commission.
Director (Law) and Additional Registrar