CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION (Room No.315, BWing, August Kranti Bhawan, Bhikaji Cama Place, New Delhi 110 066) (1) File No.CIC/LS/C/2012/000858SA (2) File No.CIC/LS/C/2012/000859SA (3) File No.CIC/LS/C/2012/000860SA (4) File No.CIC/LS/C/2012/000861SA (5) File No.CIC/LS/C/2012/000862SA (6) File No.CIC/LS/C/2012/000863SA (7) File No.CIC/LS/C/2012/000865SA (8) File No.CIC/LS/C/2012/000866SA (9) File No.CIC/LS/C/2012/000867SA (10) File No.CIC/LS/C/2012/000868SA (11)File No.CIC/LS/C/2012/000869SA (12) File No.CIC/LS/C/2012/000870SA (13) File No.CIC/LS/C/2012/000872SA Appellant : Shri Nitesh Kumar Tripathi Respondents/GNCTD, Delhi : (1) Dte of Health Services (2) Health & Family Welfare (3) Hed Arogya Sansthan (4) GTB Hospital (5) DDU Hospital (6) Baba Sah. Ambedkar Hosp (7) GB Pant Hospital (8) DDMAS Chikitsalaya (9) CN Bala Chikitsalaya (10) 1 Acharya Bhikshu Hosp. (11) Aruna Asaf Ali Hospital (12) Guru Govind Singh Hos. (13) Babu Jagjivan Ram Memorial Hospital Date of hearing : 03072014 Date of decision : 04072014 Information Commissioner : Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu (Madabhushi Sridhar) Referred Sections : Sections 3, 19(3) of the RTI Act Result : Appeal allowed / disposed of Observation : A case of misuse of RTI The appellant is not present. The Public Authority is represented by (1) Dr. Lily Gangmei, PIO, Directorate of Health Services, GNCTD, Delhi (2) Mr. H.R.Sharma, Jt. Secretary/PIO, Dept of Health & Family Welfare, GNCTD, Delhi. (3) Dr.S.P.Kalra, PIO/Mr.Jaswinder Singh, APIO, Dr.Hedgyan Arogya Sansthan, Delhi (4) Dr.Rajendra Kumar Chopra, Medical Officer/PIO, Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, Delhi (5) Not represented, Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital, Delhi. (6) Dr. J.S.Martolia, DMS(A)/PIO, Mr. Dalbir Singh, Supdt/APIO, Mr. R.R.Banswal, Sr. AO, Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital, Delhi (7) Not represented, G.B.Pant Hospital, Delhi (8) Ms. Pratima Bhatia, PIO, Mr. Sandeep Kumar, Office Supdt., Dada Dev Matri Avum Shishu Chikitsalaya, Delhi 2 (9) Dr. Dheeraj Gupta, PIO, Dr. Manoj Kumar Gupta, Link Officer & PIO, Chcha Nehru Bal Chikitsalaya, Delhi (10) Dr. Bhaskar Varma, Sr. Specialist(Artho), DMS(A)/PIO, Mr. S.K.Ghai, Office Supdt/APIO, Acharya Bhikshu Hospital, Delhi (11)Mr. Pravesh Aggrawal, UDC, Mr. Naveen Kumar, LDC, Aruna Asaf Ali Government Hospital, Delhi (12) Dr. Sangeeta Raji, CMD(NFSG)/PIO, Guru Govind Singh Government Hospital, Delhi (13) Dr. Anirudha Pande, Consultant(ENT), Mr. Virender Kalona, Babu Jagjivan Ram Memorial Hospital, Delhi 2. The appellant Mr. Nitesh Kumar Tripathi has filed the above 13 RTI applications against different Hospitals controlled by the same Public Authority, i.e. Department of Health & Family Welfare, Govt. of NCT of Delhi, on almost similar issues and hence they are heard together today. FACTS
3. Through the following RTI applications/First appeals, addressed to the respective PIOs/First Appellate Authorities, the appellant/complainant was seeking almost similar information and has not enclosed the replies given by the respective PIOs/orders passed by the respective First Appellate Authority: S.No. RTI Appln PIO reply Dt. FAA order Dt Remarks dated & addressed to 3
1. 1232012 to Not enclosed Not enclosed Complaint,converted Dte of Health 2nd appeal, as the Services appellant is seeking information.
2. Same date to Not enclosed Not enclosed As above Dept of Health 3. Same date to Not enclosed Not enclosed As above Hedgyan Hos pital 4. Same date to Not enclosed Not enclosed As above GTB Hospital 5. Same date to Not enclosed Not enclosed As above DDU Hospital 6. Same date to Not enclosed Not enclosed As above BSA Hospital 7. Same date to Not enclosed Not enclosed As above Pant Hospital 8. Same date to Not enclosed Not enclosed As above DDMAS Hosp 9. Same date to Not enclosed Not enclosed As above CNB Hospital 10. Same date to Not enclosed Not enclosed As above Bhikshu Hosp. 11. Same date to Not enclosed Not enclosed As above Asaf Ali Hosp 12. Same date to Not enclosed Not enclosed As above Guru GS Hosp 4 13. Same date to Not enclosed Not enclosed As above Jagajivan Ram Hospital
In all the above applications, the appellant is seeking information about the number of patients in different hospitals, reservation roster for each and every reserved category, number of advertisements published for JS/SR in the respective hospitals along with number of seats and the number of candidates applied/selected, money spent on electricity, patient food, salary of staff, etc. Alleging that the Public Authority has not furnished any information, the appellant/complainant has filed the 2nd appeal/complaint in all the above 13 cases on the same date, i.e. 2452012 before the Commission.
4. Heard the submissions made by all the respondent authorities/Hospitals, except the respondent authorities of two Hospitals, namely, Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital and G.B. Pant Hospital, who have not been represented in the hearing. The appellant/complainant is not present before the Commission for hearing him in these appeals. He was also never present before the First Appellate Authorities during the hearing of the first appeal in all these cases, as reported by all the respondent authorities. As per the respondent authorities, the appellant Mr. Nitesh Kumar Tripathi, is interested only in filing the RTI applications, but not for getting the information, as he never receives the information dispatched by the PIOs because he changes his addresses deliberately, and the said replies/information, are received back by the PIOs, with the remarks of the Postal Department stating as 'Not residing/absconding', etc. They have also submitted that they have sent the desired information to the appellant, in good faith, but he is not receiving them and they have also offered him inspection of the record, for which he never turns up. The PIOs of all the 5 Hospitals, also submitted that they are compelled to divert the services of the professional doctors and specialists to answer the RTI questions on priority, which is causing a serious disruption of the medical services to the public. All the doctors and officers are fearing the onslaught of the RTI Act, especially from this appellant Mr. Nitesh Kumar Tripathi. In this connection, the Commission advised the Public Authority to give a comprehensive report of the RTI applications filed by this appellant and how it paralyzed their medical services. The PIO of Acharya Bhikshu Hospital, presented a brief of the information given to the appellant, in which there are 16 cases decided by this Commission on the same subject. The PIO of the Dada Dev Matri Avum Shishu Chikitsalaya submitted that they did not receive the RTI application of the appellant at all. In this connection, they have also presented the relevant extracts of their diary register to the Commission. They have only received the hearing notice of the Commission. The PIO of the Aruna Asaf Ali Govt. Hospital presented a bundle of sheets of information furnished to the appellant in response to this RTI application. All the PIOs of the Public Authority have submitted that the following number of RTI applications are repeatedly received by them: Name of the PIO No. of RTI applications being received Directorate of Health Services 12 (Dozen) every year Dept of Health & Faimily Welfare 17 in less than a year Dr.Hedgyan Arogya Sansthan 62 in less than 2 years Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital 200 [@ 30/31 per day] Dada Dev Matri Avum Shishu Chikitsalaya 50 Chacha Nehru Bala Chikitsalaya 33 Acharya Bhikshu Hospital 100 [16 cases CIC decided on the same matter] Aruna Asaf Ali Govt. Hospital 60 6 Guru Govind Singh Govt. Hospital 80 Babu Jagajivan Ram Memorial Hospital 80
5. From the submissions made by the Public Authority, the Commission observes that the RTI questions asked by the appellant are wideranging; require lot of effort on the part of the Public Authority to collect documents for the years from 2000 to 2012. The appellant went on asking for informations which are highly voluminous and difficult to be answered in one go. The range of questions asked by the appellant start from reservation categories, roaster for 12 years, number of advertisements given, money spent on electricity bills, maintenance of vehicles, money spent on purchases, patients' food, number of inpatients/outpatients, salary paid to the doctors/staff and diagnostic facilities available in the hospitals for the past 12 years. His appeals do not contain what he exactly wanted, what information is given to him and what is not given, etc. He does not even file the FAA orders. Almost all of his RTI applications are the Photostat copies containing the same questions. It is a reckless way of seeking information which nobody knows whether the same is supported by any public interest. The appellant has cultivated a habit of sending Photostat copies in a format which were given as RTI Applications, sometimes, even without filling the blanks. He does not attend, appear for inspection, appear before the First Appellate Authority or the Commission. In response to this second appeal, 13 doctors attended the hearing. They represented that their precious time needed to be used for patients, an emergency medical case is being spent on such needless, nonserious questions, without any purpose. They appealed to the Commission to prevent such misuse of RTI Act by people like the appellant in this case. The information furnished by the respondent authorities is relevant, since his appeals do not disclose why he was not satisfied. Hence all the above 13 appeals/complaints are dismissed.
6. The Commission considers this case as the case of repetitive use of RTI assuming the proportion of harassment to the Public Authority and reckless abuse of RTI. UK, South Africa, Mexico refuses vexatious requests
7. Various access law enactments have provisions to prevent abuse of right to information. a. The United Kingdom's Freedom of Information Act, 2000 which became fully effective in January 2005 provided an exception to Right to Information on the grounds of vexatious or repeated requests under Section 14. Requests for information intended to be published are also excluded. Information which is already reasonably accessible to the applicant even though this involves payment operates as absolute exception under Section 21 of Freedom of Information Act, 2000 of UK.
b. In Mexico, the access to information law provides grounds of offensive requests or requests which have already been dealt with for refusing the information. c. South Africa also provided for refusing information requests which are frivolous or vexatious.
Renowned Author Sudhir Naib, in his book 'The Right to Information in India, published by Oxford University Press 2013 supported these restrictions saying: "This appears to be in order as vexatious, offensive or repeated requests can impose a costly burden on public authorities and yet not advance the right to information" (at page 28). Res judicata = already decided
8. The Commission noticed that some of the applicants are filing photocopies of RTI requests with the same or other public authorities time and again seeking information, irrespective of the fact that previous application reached second appeal level or information was furnished or refused as decided by the concerned authorities. When not taken to High 8 Court for judicial review in stipulated period, the matter decided in second appeal assumes finality and cannot be sought for again from the public authority.
9. Though Right to Information Act, 2005 did not have any specific provision to bar the re petition for information like Section 11 of Code of Civil Procedure, the universal principle of civil justice 'res judicata' will certainly apply and the repeated request can be denied. Two Latin maxims form the basis of this rule, they are:
a. 'interest republicae ut sit finis litium' (= it is in the interest of the State that there should be an end to litigation) and b. 'nemo devet vis vexari pro una et eadem cause" (=no man should be taxed twice over for the same cause).
If presumed that the PIOs, First Appellate Authorities and the Commissions are statutorily compelled to entertain the repeated RTI applications, information litigation and woos of public authorities would never end. An Appeal, as provided by law is legal, because it is a legal opportunity to challenge the order on reasonable and legal grounds. Engaging with the application which is same or slightly modified request for information which was responded earlier will be certainly against the principles of natural justice both procedural and substantive, as far as right to information is concerned.
10. The universal principles of civil justice also recognized 'constructive res judicata', which in the RTI context means when an applicant uses an opportunity of obtaining information on a particular subject as per law, he is expected to seek all the related information in that first ever opportunity itself. He cannot file another application for a bit or piece which he forgot to ask, or not advised by his lawyer, or for any other reason. He should ask all possible aspects of information about that subject matter, in the first ever available opportunity. Even if he does not, it is presumed by law that he asked for that and was refused 9 after due trial. This is incorporated in principles of civil procedural justice and practiced universally. It is in the public interest and also to further the objectives of Right to Information Act, that such repeated or unending stream of questions being sought from same or different public authorities to be stopped.
11. The Commission noticed that several applicants seek some information from one wing of the public authority, and based on the responses file a bunch of RTI questions from the same or other wings of same public authority, or from other authority. This will have a continuous harassing effect on the public authority. As the PIOs go on answering, more and more questions are generated out of the same and in the same proportion the number of repeated first appeals and second appeals also will be growing.
Earlier Observations of CIC: Sri MM Ansari
12. In several occasions earlier the Central Information Commission referred to the issue of repeated RTI requests and harassing tendency. In Prem Prakash Kumar v NFL, Panipat, (Decision no. 246/IC/(A)/2006, F.No. CIC/MA/A/2006/00374 & 375 dated 28 August 2006) the appellant sought documents and specific comments of CPIO on 89 queries. The Learned Commissioner Shri M M Ansari observed that in fact, the nature of queries and the information sought are such that the information seeker would never be satisfied because the promotion of self interest, rather than public interest, was dominant, as the appellant had sought redressal of grievances.
Sri A N Tiwari's observations 10
13. In Shri Gopal Soni v The New India Assurance Company Ltd (F No CIC/AT/A2008/00097, 000116, 000124, dated 12.6.2008) Learned Commissioner Shri A. N. Tiwari dealt with similar problem. The respondents in this case submitted that the appellant, their employee, was suspended for insubordination and misconduct, and ever since he directed a spate of applications containing queries for detailed, voluminous but inane information which would have to be collected and collated from over 30 branches. The Commission held in this case: "answering the elaborate and detailed queries, which have to be both accurate and authentic, imposes heavy cost on the public authority and tends to divert its resources, which brings it within the scope of section 7(9) of RTI Act."
14. In Shri K. Lall v Sh M K Bagri, Assistant Registrar of Companies & CPIO, (F No. CIC/AT/A/2007/00112) the Learned Central Information Commissioner Sri A N Tiwari observed: "...it would mean that once certain information is placed in public domain accessible to the citizens either freely or on payment of a predetermined price, that information cannot be said to be 'held' or 'under the control' of the public authority and thus would cease to be an 'information' accessible under the RTI Act."
15. From the above observations, one could infer that once the information is accessible or available, no requests for the same need to be entertained. It can also be stated, agreeing with the observation of Sri A N Tiwari referred above, that once applicant procured the information sought, that information will not be considered as 'held' by public authority or 'under its control' as far as that applicant is concerned, and thus the public authority need not answer.
11 Sri Shailesh Gandhi's observations
16. It is relevant here to quote a paragraph from the order of Learned Information Commissioner Sri Shailesh Gandhi in case numbers No. CIC/SG/C/2011/000760,CIC/SM/A/2011/000926/SG,CIC/SM/A/2011/001111/SG,CIC/SG/A/201 1/002909 Dated 17th January, 2012 in a second appeal: "The Commission, at several appellate hearings, has explained to the complainant that under RTI Act, only the information as per records can be made available; multiple RTI applications and appeals would not provide him any information beyond the records that exists. The Commission recognizes the fact that valuable time of the complainant, respondentpublic authority as well as the Commission is being spent in merely going through the motions prescribed under the RTI Act again and again to obtain similar information. .... At this juncture the Commission would like to mention that though the right to information is a fundamental right of the citizens, it cannot be used indiscriminately to fulfill the demands of one individual. In the present matter, it must be noted that the Complainant is pursuing multiple litigation and various public authorities are being asked to divert an extraordinarily disproportionate amount of resources just to respond to hundreds of RTI applications filed by him. ...The Commission is also conscious of the fact that it is financed by the poorest man in this country who may be starving to death. The complainant by repeatedly filing similar RTI applications and appeals with the respondent public authority and the Commission, is wasting public resources."
17. In the above case Sri Shailesh Gandhi observed that appellant was using RTI Act as a litigation tool, his use of RTI was vexatious in nature, and held that entertaining such appeal could no longer serve the objectives of the RTI Act and at one go the Commissioner had disposed off all the pending appeals.
12 Principles of Freedom of Information Legislation
18. International standard series have developed the Principles of Freedom of Information Legislation under the title 'Public's Right to Know", by the 'Article 19 Organization'. These Principles were endorsed by Mr. Abid Hussain, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, in his report to the 2000 session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and referred to by the Commission in its 2000 resolution on freedom of expression. They were also endorsed by Mr. Santiago Canton, the Organization of American States (OAS) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression in his 1999 Report, Volume III of the Report of the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights to the OAS. Under Principle 4 "Limited scope for exceptions' this document explained that exceptions should be clearly and narrowly drawn and subject to strict "harm" and "public interest" tests. Explaining the 'harm' test, it stated that the public body must also show that the disclosure of the information would cause substantial harm to that legitimate aim.
19. Cases of disclosure of information to the repetitive applicants for their private purpose which promotes their private interest but not the public interest would cause substantial harm to the legitimate aim of the Right to Information Act.
20. Thus, once information is given, applicant shall not seek the same once again in the guise of different form or language. If the applicant seeks information again and again, the PIO, the First Appellate Authority and the Commission would be forced to spend their time on this repeated application, and in the process the authorities would lose that much time to address the other RTI applications or performing their general duties in their public office. Repeated RTI applications will amount to clogging the office of public authority and CPIO 13 would be justified in refusing the same with intimation of reasons. Because the repeated RTI application has an effect of clogging the public offices, it would amount to obstructing the free flow of information to deserving and genuine RTI applicants, besides preventing the officers from performing their general duties attached to their office. Conclusions
21. All the above discussion can be consolidated into:
(i) Even a single repetition of RTI application would demand the valuable time of the public authority, first appellate authority and if it also reaches second appeal, that of the Commission, which time could have been spent to hear another appeal or answer another application or perform other public duty.
(ii) Every repetition of RTI application which was earlier responded will be an obstruction to flow of information and defeats the purpose of the RTI Act. No scope for repeating under RTI Act
22. The Commission infers from the above that though RTI Act, did not specifically provide as a ground of refusing the information, it is implied from the objective and various provisions of RTI Act, that right of citizen to information is limited to one time and does not extend to repetition of request for that directly or indirectly.
Citizen has no Right to Repeat 14
23. For the above reasons and based on objective of the RTI Act, its provisions, their interpretation by the Information Commissioners referred above, reading them together, this Commission observes:
a) The citizen has no right to repeat the same or similar or slightly altered information request under RTI Act, 2005, for which he already got a response.
b) Once an RTI application is answered, the appellants shall refrain themselves from filing another RTI application against the public authority as once information is received and held by them or posted in public domain, because such information is deemed to have ceased to be 'held' by the public authority.
Repetition shall be ground of refusal
c) Such repetition of information request may be considered as reasonable ground for refusal under the RTI Act.
d) An applicant or appellant repeating the RTI application or appeal either once or multiple times, suppressing the fact of earlier application and receipt of the answer, the CPIO of public authority may reject it forthwith after intimating it along with reasons. Appeals can be rejected
e) The First Appellate Authority and Commission may be right and reasonable to consider this as a ground for rejecting the first or second appeal, respectively among other reasons if any.
24. To address the problem of 'harassing & repeated questions', the Commission recommends the respondent authority to analyze all the RTI applications filed by such appellants, compile all the questions contained therein and indicate the information provided against them. That consolidated information along with a background note based on facts, avoiding unfounded allegations may also be placed on website besides sending a copy to the applicant and the concerned Information Commission. The Commission also recommends exhibiting such information in their notice board at the entrance or at any conspicuous place in their office besides posting a photograph of such a notification on the website.
25. The entire information about the repeated RTI questions by appellants, and the documents given by the Public authority, the private interest of the appellants, if any, lack of public interest in the said RTI applications, etc. also shall be kept in the public domain. The information in website may also serve as response to repeated RTI question. The same may be referred in the responses to first and second appeals.
26. In view of the above, the Commission also directs the Public Authority to post the Annual Reports of their Department/Hospitals in their official website as part of the voluntary disclosure of information, as mandated u/s 4(1)(b) of the RTI Act including the past Annual Reports from whichever date they are available. These annual reports would answer the general questions about the voluminous records like this present RTI application and the Public Authority will be relieved of answering such repeated voluminous RTI questions.
27. The respondent authority is further directed to seek a probe by an appropriate authority into the motive behind the appellant's repeated RTI questions in such a reckless manner, so 16 that the Public Authority can know whether these questions are guided by public interest or private interest and act accordingly.
(M. Sridhar Acharyulu) Information Commissioner Authenticated true copy (Ashwani K. Sharma) Designated Officer Address of the parties:
1. Shri Nitesh Kumar Tripathi, C-184, Begum Pur Extension, Begum Pur, DELHI-110086
2. The CPIO/PIO under RTI Act, Government of NCT of Delhi Directorate of Health Services , F-17 Karkardooma, DELHI
3. The CPIO/Public Information Officer under RTI 17 Department of Health & Family Welfare, GNCTD Metcalf House, Vikas Bhavan-II, DELHI
4. The CPIO/Public Information officer under RTI, GNCTD Dr.Hedgyan Arogya Sansthan, East Arjun Nagar DELHI
5. The CPIO/Public Information Officer under RTI, GNCTD Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, Dilshad Garden DELHI-110095
6. The Public Information Officer under RTI, GNCTD Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital, Hari Nagar NEW DELHI-110064
7. The CPIO/PIO under RTI, Govt. of NCT of Delhi Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital, Sector-06, Rohini, DELHI
8. The CPIO/PIO under RTI, Govt. of NCT of Delhi 18 G.B. Pant Hospital, Jawahar Lal Nehru Marg, NEW DELHI
9. The CPIO/PIO under RTI, Govt. of NCT of Delhi Dada Dev Matri Avum Shishu Chikitsalaya Shaheed Balwan Singh Solanki Marg, Dabri, NEW DELHI
10. The CPIO/PIO under RTI, Govt. of NCT of Delhi Chacha Nehru Bal Chikitsalaya, Geeta Colony, DELHI
11. The CPIO/PIO under RTI, Govt. of NCT of Delhi Acharya Bhikshu Hospital, Moti Nagar, NEW DELHI
12. The CPIO/PIO under RTI, Govt. of NCT of Delhi Aruna Asaf Ali Government Hospital, 5-Rajpura Road, DELHI-110054 19
13. The CPIO/PIO under RTI, Govt. of NCT of Delhi Guru Govind Singh Government Hospital, lRaghuvir Nagar, NEW DELHI
14. The CPIO/PIO under RTI, Govt. of NCT of Delhi Babu Jagjivan Ram Memorial Hospital Jahangir Puri, DELHI Copy also forwarded with reference to Para 27 of the order to:-
15. The Principal Secretary to Government of NCT of Delhi, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND FAMILY WELFARE 9th Level, A-Wing, I.P. Extension Delhi Secretariat, New Delhi-110002.