Syed Mahaboob Peer
There is no doubt that the Subsection (3) of Section 6 of the RTI Act is a “BOON” to the Citizens/Applicants under the Act, so long the PIOs and FAAs at the Departments are functioning well by clearly understanding the spirit behind & specific purpose of this section. Otherwise, it is sure to be proved as a “CURSE”.
The very purpose of this Subsection is not only for effecting proper, timely & sure supply of information, but also to arrange the possible convenience to the Citizens/Applicants under the Act.
The Subsection (3) of Section 6 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 read as “Where an application is made to a public authority requesting for an information –
(i) which is held by another public authority; or
(ii) the subject matter of which is more closely connected with the functions of another public authority,
the public authority, to which such application is made, shall transfer the application or such part of it as may be appropriate to that other public authority and inform the applicant immediately about such transfer:
Provided that the transfer of an application pursuant to this subsection shall be made as soon as practicable, but in no case later than five days from the date of receipt of the application.”
The above referred Subsection (3) of Section 6 of the RTI Act conveys about (A) four direct and (B) four indirect messages/mandates/stipulations:
(A) DIRECT MESSAGES/MANDATES/STIPULATIONS:
(1) If the information or the part of the information sought by the applicant is sure to be held by another public authority or the subject matter more closely pertains to functions of another public authority, the application or the part of application pertaining to that portion of information, may be transferred to such another public authority;
(2) Such transfer (of application or part of the application) should be done at the earliest practicable duration, but not later than five days from the date of receipt of the application; and
(3) Immediately after making such transfer, the public authority has to inform the applicant accordingly;
(4) The provision of Section 6(3) of the Act clearly states any such transfer should be taken place within five days, but in no case later than five days.
(B) INDIRECT MESSAGES/MANDATES/STIPULATIONS:
(1) Irrespective of the mode of submission of application, the PIO ought to receive the application & effect supply of the information to the extent he can do so, and for the rest of information, the application or part thereof could be transferred to other PIO;
(2) If the Applicant under the Act has either intentionally or wrongly addressed his/her application to a PIO (to deliver it by post), the PIO has to receive the same (in no case the PIO should prevent the receipt) and transfer the same to the relevant PIO and accordingly intimate the applicant about the transfer of his/her application to appropriate PIO;
(3) The particular ‘stipulation’ under the provision of Section 6(3) of the Act is that “such transfer should be in no case later than five days”.
(4) This particular ‘time limit stipulation’ under the provision of Section 6(3) of the Act is clearly, but indirectly conveys that there is no scope at all for “multiple transfers” of an application (from one PIO to other PIO and then to another PIO and so on) under the RTI Law. In the absence of the direct ‘stipulation’ or restriction about “multiple transfers” of an application (from one PIO to other PIO and then to another PIO and so on) under the RTI Law, if anybody resort to such practice of “multiple transfers” of an application it has to be presumed that the PIOs are intentionally causing delay.
If the PIO intentionally transfers the application unnecessarily to other PIO that lead then later PIO to another PIO and so on, that itself be the sufficient proof for the intentional delaying or dragging the matter to cause non-supply of information sought by the Citizens/Applicants under the Act, and be liable for Penal Action under Section 20 of the Act. When the PIOs attempt for “multiple transfers” of an application, there exists sufficient proof to tackle the issue to redress properly in two ways – (1) Directly complaining to the State Information Commission (SIC) or the Central Information Commission (CIC) as may be applicable, and (2) Appealing to the First Appellate Authority (FAA).
As per provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2005 only the Second Appellate Authority (SAA), i.e., the State Information Commission (SIC) or the Central Information Commission (CIC) as applicable, is only the Authority Empowered with the Power of Imposing Penalty on PIOs under Sections 19(8) and 20 of the Act. Therefore, Appealing to the First Appellate Authority (FAA) is a procedural practice, but that leads to further wasting of valuable time only.