Guide For The Central Public Information Officers
Information Exempted From Disclosure
Sub-section (1) of section 8 and section 9 of the Act enumerate the types of information which is exempt from disclosure. Sub-section (2) of section 8. however, provides that information exempted under sub-section (1) or exempted under the Official Secrets Act, 1923 can be disclosure overweighs the harm to the protected interest. Further, sub-section (3) of section 8 provides that information exempt from disclosure under sub-section (1), except as provided in clauses (a), (c) and (i) thereof, would cease to be exempted after 20 years from the date of occurrence of the related event etc.
It may be noted that section 8(3) of the Act does not require the public authorities to retain records for indefinite period. The records retention schedule applicable to the concerned public authority. Information generated in a file may survive in the from of an OM or a letter or in any other from even after destruction of the file/record. The Act requires furnishing of information so available after the lapse of 20 years even if such information was exempt from disclosure under sub-section (1) of Section 8.It means that the information which, in normal course, is exempt from disclosure under sub-section (1) of Section 8 of the Act, would cease to be exempted if 20 years have lapsed after occurrence of the incident to which the information relates. However, the following types of information would continue to be exempt and there would be no obligation, even after lapse of 20 years. To give any citizen:
- information disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interest of the State, relation with foreign state or lead to incitement of an offence;
- information the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or State Legislature; or
- cabinet papers including records of deliberation of the Council pf Ministers, Secretaries and other Officers subject to the conditions give in proviso to clause (i) of sub-section (1) of Section 8 of the Act.
Right Information Vis-a-vis other Acts
The RTI Act has over-riding effect vis-a-vis other laws inasmuch as the provisions of the RTI would have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in the Official Secrets Act, 1923, and any other law for the time being in force or in any instrument having effect by virtue of any law other than the RTI Act.
Rendering Assistance Applicants
The Central Public Information Officer has a duty to render reasonable assistance to the persons seeking information. As per provisions of the Act, a persons, who desires to obtain any information is required to make a request in writing or through electronic means in English or Hindi or in the official language of the area in which the application is made. If a person seeking information is not able to make such request in writing, the Central Public Information Officer Should render reasonable assistance to him to reduce the same in writing.
Where access to a record is required to be provided to a sensorial disabled person, the Central Public Information Officer should provide assistance to such person to enable him to access the information. He should also provide such assistance to the person as may be appropriate for the inspection of records where such inspection is involved.
Assistance Available to CPIO
The Central Public Information Officer may seek the assistance of any other officer as he or she considers necessary for the proper discharge of his or her duties. The officer, whose assistance is so sought by the CPIO, would render all assistance to him. Such an officer shall be deemed to be a Central Public Information Officer and would be liable for contravention of any provisions of the Act the same way as any other Central Public Information Officer. It would be advisable for the CPIO to inform the officer whose assistance is sought, about the above provision, at the time of the seeking his assistance.