Central Information Commission raps Environment Ministry for saying crucial files are ‘not traceable’

New Delhi: The Central Information Commission has chided the Environment Ministry for its repeated response of “files not traceable” on key projects as it ordered disclosure of complete records related to wildlife clearance granted to Indira Sagar Polavaram Project in Andhra Pradesh.

The Commission also awarded a compensation of Rs 15,000 for the RTI applicant who was not given information about the crucial project in a timely manner on the excuse of “files not being traceable” in the ministry.

“The repeated answer of ‘files not traceable’ is reflecting disorganisation, and it is not acceptable in an RTI regime. There is no point in reiterating the same without implementing the direction of the First Appellate Authority,” Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said.

He said if the office of public authority has shifted to a comfortable premises, that should have provided enough scope and reason for organising files but not to lose the files.

“The public authority has to own the responsibility for this kind of disorganisation of files. The complainant was kept waiting in bewildered belief that wildlife files would be traced as promised. But it was an endless wait for him even after he approached the CIC in second appeal,” he said.

Acharyulu said the core function of the department is to conserve forest, secure wildlife and also preserve the files regarding those functions.

“Losing them and not expediting the process of tracing and providing that information is not proper on the part of public authority. It has infringed the right to information of the community and the planned legal action for preservation of wildlife and tribal rights kept pending with endless wait,” the Commissioner said.

Terming it is a “peculiar situation” when department had ordered disclosure of information which was still not provided to applicant D Suresh Kumar, the Commissioner said the appellant is compelled to come in second appeal because of its non-implementation besides not informing about the possibility of its implementation.

“The Commission finds it a deserving situation to compensate the appellant who is filing RTI application in public interest, and award compensation of Rs 15,000 for causing loss and harassment by unreasonable and illegal claim of non-traceability of records, which is being used as shield to stall Right to Information of the appellants,” he said.