The Central Information Commission has pulled up the Lok Sabha Secretariat for not having any system of recording movement of files among its various departments, saying such a scenario would make culling out any information difficult.
The transparency panel directed the Secretary General to take "appropriate steps" to ensure that file movement in the Secretariat is duely catalogued in compliance with provisions of the RTI Act.
"We were rather surprised to know that the Lok Sabha Secretariat did not have any system of maintaining records about the receipt and dispatch of communications including files among its various divisions," Information Commissioner Sushma Singh noted.
The case relates to a Gurgaon-based RTI applicant Mange Ram seeking to know status of certain complaints and communications submitted by him. The Secretariat said no records are available about the complaints submitted to it hence no information could be given.
Mange Ram, however, produced records of complaints being received by the Secretariat on different occassions.
"On a thorough scrutiny of the queries of the appellant and the reply given by the CPIO in each case, we noted that due diligence had not been made in tracing the relevant papers or records before giving a summary response that no record was available," Singh noted.
She directed the Secretariat to again search for records and in case some are still found missing then issue a "sworn affidavit" that they are still missing.
Information Commissioner Singh said section four of the RTI clearly mandates that the public authority should maintain all its records duely catalogued and indexed in a manner and form which would facilitate the transparency law.
"In this age of computerisation, maintaining such catalogues to keep a tab on the movement of records from one division to another or from one office to another should be very easy," she said.
Singh said,"unless such catalogues are maintained to keep a record of the trail of movement of papers in the office, retrieval of the relevant record when sought under the Right to Information Act would become extremly difficult."
She directed the officials to send a copy of the order to Secretary Genral of Lok Sabha to take appropriate steps for the compliance of these directions.