The Central Information Commission has dismissed in one go 141 petitions filed by an RTI applicant against the Delhi Lt Governor's office, calling it a misuse of the transparency law to inundate the office with pleas seeking information unrelated to it. Warning the applicant, Information Commissioner Y K Sinha said in case such an avalanche of "frivolous, vexatious and wasteful" litigation is received by the Commission, it will be compelled to dismiss such applications without hearing on the grounds of being repetitive and as such adjudication will serve no larger public interest.
The applicant, Dinesh, had filed a number of pleas under the Right to Information (RTI) with the Lt Governor's office seeking details of properties, illegal constructions, allotment of houses among other things through separate petitions. Claiming that he had not received any information in response, he approached the CIC seeking directions to the LG office for issuance of the information sought by him.
The LG's office represented by noted RTI activist Subhash Agrawal said the applications have been replied to or transferred to the concerned authorities after intimating the applicant. Sinha said, "...it is noted that the appellant has consistently stated that he has not received any information from the PIO or the FAA and yet he incessantly kept filing all the RTI applications in the LG's office. Response/s received from the Respondent, however reveals a different story".
Dismissing all 141 petitions in five separate orders, Sinha noted that though the queries raised by the appellant are claimed to be in the larger public interest, his modus operandi is to file a large number of pleas which are "irrelevant" and "unrelated". "In the current environment with the outbreak of the pandemic, COVID-19, and with the consequent lockdown the normal functioning of all organisations has been severely impacted. For the Commission, this only adds to the already huge backlog of cases," Sinha said.
He said in such circumstances, there is a pressing need to identify cases such as the ones under reference for cumulative disposal in order to facilitate expeditious adjudication of cases of genuine information seekers. Taking note of a previous CIC order related to the Delhi chief minister's office where 19 applications filed by the same person, Dinesh, were dismissed on similar grounds, Sinha noted that the appellant has time and again followed the same modus operandi of multiplying his queries and seeking voluminous information in the form of manifold litigation.
"The appellant has thus demonstrated that he is not only a perpetual litigant but relentless in his practice of submerging the normal functioning of the Respondent authority under a deluge of repetitive and irrelevant paperwork, in total defiance of the Commission's directions and observations. This is a gross abuse of the RTI Act and considering the law of the land, as discussed above, such a practice cannot be allowed by the Commission," he said. The Information Commissioner said it is noteworthy that the Public Information Officer (PIO), LG's office, has forwarded the RTI applications to the relevant official/s, though they were under no obligation to do so as per a DoPT circular, particularly in view of the sheer volume of his RTI applications which do not relate to information pertaining to the LG's office.
"It is improper and counter productive to file an RTI application before an apex body when the information sought is clearly not held or dealt with in the said office but related to a subordinate office/authority," Sinha said. He said there is no justification for compelling the Lieutenant Governor's office to transfer such applications and spend time, energy and resources to attend to first and second appeal hearings having little relevance to its work and which are a sheer waste of public money and the time of the LG's office as also of the Commission.