The Delhi High Court while observing that RTI Act places enormous emphasis on access to information which could relate to the life and liberty of a person stated that creating an absolute bar on disclosure of information to non-citizens would defeat the provisions of RTI Act. The court further said that whether the information sought by a non-citizen deserves to be disclosed has to be left to the discretion of the authority concerned who would decide the same based on the facts, situation and surrounding circumstances.
The present petition revolves around a plea filed by a public information officer (PIO) at the Central Tibetan Schools Administration (CTSA) on whom the Central Information Commission had imposed a penalty of INR 25,000 for “malicious” denial of information to Dawa Tashi, a Tibetan born in India.
Tashi, who was a postgraduate teacher of Tibetan at the Central School for Tibetans, Darjeeling at the time, had filed an RTI application in July 2014, seeking information on his confirmation letter as an employee of CTSA and other benefits to which he was entitled. His application was denied on the ground that his nationality was Tibetan, and an appeal was also rejected thereafter.
The court noted that the RTI Act used the words “citizen” and “person” and CIC was right in holding that there is no absolute prohibition if the authority deems it fit to disclose the information. The court further added that the safeguards/exceptions provided in the RTI Act would apply with respect to any information which is sought by either citizens or non-citizens and PIO is bound by the order of the CIC and has to thus supply the information to the applicant.