The Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the Reserve Bank of India to depute a nodal officer for handling all RTI requests. The commission rejected the RBI’s arrangement in which an applicant was supposed to address his application to the specific department which might have been holding that information. Activist Subhash Agrawal had sought information about printing of Re one note, which was returned saying it was not addressed to the right Central Public Information Officer (CPIO). Under the Right to Information Act, public authorities can depute multiple officers to handle RTI requests. The Act asks these officers to provide information to the applicants. Several departments have deputed these officers to look specific departments but they cannot reject the application on the grounds that it was not addressed to the right officer. It is their duty to transfer the application to the correct officer. Agrawal approached the CIC with a prayer seeking direction to the RBI to nominate a nodal CPIO so that even if an RTI application is not addressed to the CPIO of a particular department of the respondents, it is directed by the nodal CPIO to the concerned department(s) and is not returned to the RTI applicant. “We do not agree with the current practice of the respondents that all the RTI applications should be filed to the CPIOs of their specific departments, information concerning whom is available on their website,” Information Commissioner Sharat Sabharwal said.
He said information can be sought by applicants on various issues and in many cases, the applicants may not be clear about the department of the respondents, in which the information would be available. “In any case, a public authority should not return an RTI application merely on the grounds that it is not addressed to a specific CPIO but only to ‘CPIO’,” he said. Sabharwal directed the RBI to appoint a nodal CPIO or designate one of the existing CPIOs as the nodal CPIO and give wide publicity to his name, designation and address.