Dear RTI activists,
Just as we have the Public Information Officer (PIO) in every public authority, there is a Records Officer (RO) in almost every government department who can be fined Rs 10,000 or imprisoned for five years if documents are lost or tampered.
FOR CENTRAL GOVT DOCUMENTS, read Sec 10 of “Public Records Act 1993”: http://tinyurl.com/PublicRecords1
FOR MAHARASHTRA GOVT DOCUMENTS, read Sec 9 of “Maharashtra Act No 4 of 2006”: http://tinyurl.com/PublicRecords3
Quite often, we are denied information due to our own ignorance of these laws. No government employee can blandly say, “File lost” to an information seeker. There are clear-cut laws providing for who is to be held responsible and what is to be done in case documents or files are lost, misplaced or stolen. Therefore, under RTI, “File lost” can only be given as a reason for DELAY in providing information, but not as a reason for DENIAL of information.
If a file is lost, there is a clear-cut procedure that the officer designated as “Records Officer” has to follow. This may be summarized as “SRF” i.e.
b) RECONSTRUCT the file
c) Register FIR.
UNDERSTAND THESE KEY SECTIONS OF PUBLIC RECORDS ACT 1993:
1. Every records creating agency shall nominate one of its officers as records officer to discharge the functions under this Act.
2. Every records creating agency may set up such number of record rooms in such places as it deems fit and shall place each record room under the charge of a records officer.
1. The records officer shall, in the event of any unauthorised removal, destruction, defacement or alteration of any public records under his charge, forthwith take appropriate action for the recovery or restoration of such public records.
2. The records officer shall submit a report in writing to the Director General or as the case may be, the head of the Archives without any delay on any information about any unauthorised removal, destruction, defacement or alteration of any public record under his charge and about the action initiated by him and shall take action as he may deem necessary, subject to the directions, if any, given by Director General or, as the case may be, head of the Archives.
3. The records officer may seek assistance from any government officer or any other person for the purpose of recovery or restoration of public records and such officer or person shall render all assistance to the records officer.
SECTION 10: Whoever contravenes any of the provisions of section 4 or section 8 shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years or with fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees or with both.
MAHARASHTRA ACTIVISTS: The corresponding sections of the State Act are 5, 7 and 9.
Exactly how, when and where must public records be classified, preserved, withdrawn or destroyed? Study Public Records RULES 1997: http://tinyurl.com/PublicRecords2
(These rules apply to Central Govt documents, but there must be similar rules for State Govt.)
Especially read the forms given at the bottom of the Rules, particularly Form 8, which enables citizens to enroll as “Research Scholars” and study the documents at National Archives of India. Many hidden treasures may lie in these archives, waiting to be discovered by you!