Can a Government servant directly submit RTI application, pertaining to his own service records, to the concerned public information officer without routing it through the head of office?
Section 3 of the Right to Information Act, 2005, specifically states that: “Subject to the provisions of this Act, all citizens shall have the right to information”.
A government employee is no doubt a citizen, and therefore, he has equal right to seek information from the concerned authority. The RTI Act was enacted only to lay down the procedure for obtaining information since the substantive right to information was already recognized by the Supreme Court as a fundamental right of the citizens. Therefore, in my considered opinion, a government employee is equally entitled to get information under the RTI Act from his employers, since it is his fundamental right under the Constitution.
Moreover, Section 6 of the RTI Act lays down as under:
“6. Request for obtaining information.—(1) A person, who desires to obtain any information under this Act, shall make a request in writing or through electronic means in English or Hindi or in the official language of the area in which the application is being made, accompanying such fee as may be prescribed, to—
(a) the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, of the concerned public authority;
(b) the Central Assistant Public Information Officer or State Assistant Public Information Officer, as the case may be,
specifying the particulars of the information sought by him or her:
Provided that where such request cannot be made in writing, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall render all reasonable assistance to the person making the request orally to reduce the same in writing.
(2) An applicant making request for information shall not be required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him.
It is thus clear from the provisions of Section 6 of the RTI Act that the application for seeking information under the RTI Act is required to be made to the concerned Public Information Officer or the Assistant Public Information Officer of the concerned authority. Thus, whosoever is declared or designated as such Officer in the department for providing the type of information required by the Government employee, is required to be contacted by him for seeking RTI information. There is no provision in this section that such Government employee is required to route his RTI application through his head of office. This provision allows making of a direct RTI application to the concerned public information officer. Therefore, in my considered opinion, there is no need to route the RTI application through the head of the office and a Government servant may directly send the RTI application to the designated Public Information Officer as required under the above section.
It is also pertinent to point out that as per above quoted sub-section (2) of Section 6, there is no need to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting the person seeking the information. Thus, under the law, a Government servant is required only to provide his contact information and he may not even be required to inform that he is a government employee. Of course, if a Government servant so wishes, he can inform the officer concerned about his status as a government employee. However, if a Government servant is seeking information about his own service records, and if it is felt that such information is held in fiduciary capacity, then it may be advisable to reveal his status since in that case the clause relating to withholding of information under Section 8(1)(e) of the RTI Act (i.e., for information held in fiduciary capacity) may not be applicable if he is seeking his own information.
Notwithstanding what is mentioned above, if a Government servant so wishes, he can first make a simple request (instead of an RTI application) to his seniors to provide the information required by him, though it is not required under law.
Secondly, if the Government servant has decided to directly file the RTI application, if he so wishes, he can send a copy of his RTI application to his head of office just for his information, though this is also not required under law. However, as mentioned by me above, this is just as a choice as a sort of courtesy to one’s seniors; but, a Government servant has every right under the laws to directly make an RTI application to the concerned public information officer for seeking the requisite information.