Information regarding Aarogya Setu Data Access & Knowledge Sharing Protocol was sought - CIC: First appeal was not enclosed with complaint memo & might have been filed after the complaint was filed; This complaint cannot be converted into a second appeal
The complainant has sought the following information in relation to the Aarogya Setu Data Access and Knowledge Sharing Protocol, 2020 as notified by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on 11th May 2020.
1. Provide the certified true copy of document/information which has the names and information of such people/agencies/private companies/organisations who are being provided access to data or have been provided access to data in the past as per para 6(c) of the Protocol Principle. Also provide the following details:
(a) Whether the response data shared includes personal data also or is de-identified data. Mention this for each person/agency/organisation with whom the data has been shared with.
(b) Provide the time at which such data sharing was initiated
(c) Provide the name of persons or agencies who are being provided access to such data
(d) Provide the categories of data that are being shared.
(e) Provide the purpose for which such data is being shared.
2. Furnish the security practices and procedures implemented by such agencies/persons that have been given access to the data.
3. And other related information
Grounds for Complaint
The CPIO did not provide the detailed and relevant information
Submissions made by Complainant and Respondent during Hearing:
The complainant was asked about the date of first appeal or the FAA’s order but he could not specify the same
The CPIO submitted that a personal hearing was conducted by the FAA, NIC on 29th Sept 2020 and the appellant was assured of a revised reply and disposal of appeal by 15th October 2020. The hearing was attended by the appellant Sh Saurav Das, CPIO, NIC Sh. Swarup Dutta, Deemed PIO and custodian of information i.e. Ms. Seema Khanna (DDG and HOD-Arogya Setu Project) and the FAA, NIC Shri Nagesh Shastri.
The response was received from the Deemed PIO and custodian of information i.e. Ms. Seema Khanna (DDG and HOD-Arogya Setu Project) on 15th October 2020. The appeal was disposed online on 15th Oct 2020 by the RTI Division, NIC. As per the directions of the FAA, NIC, the CPIO was directed to transfer the query at Sno. 2 to Health secretaries and District Magistrates of all states. The appellant was informed that since comprehensive and updated list of all District Magistrates were not available, the queries were being forwarded to State Health Secretaries only. The list of State Health Secretaries was obtained from the National Health Mission Website with link http://188.8.131.52/contact/list-of-state-health-secretaries.html.
He further submitted that he was under compulsory home quarantine since 16th Oct 2020 as his colleague had tested Covid positive and was unable to sign the transfer letters which were to be sent by post. The appellant was informed of the inability of CPIO, NIC to transfer the letters by email on 20th October 2020.
He joined back office on 21st October 2020 and all the transfer letters were signed. He further summed up stating that the CPIO, NIC depends upon the information received from the Deemed PIOs and custodian of information for disposal of RTI queries and transfer of queries under the provisions of the RTI Act. The Deemed PIOs and custodian of information in this case did not indicate any public authority to whom the queries were to be transferred despite requests during the processing of the RTI query. The organization to whom the queries are to be transferred was indicated during the disposal of appeal. Accordingly, he is transferring the RTI applications to Health Secretaries of States (as addresses are readily available and not the DMs), NITI Ayog and MeiTY.
The complainant contended that sending 80 letters to different Public authorities is harassment to him. He further pressed for suo moto disclosure of the information sought. He was asked regarding the points in respect of which he is asking for suo moto disclosure but he could not specify the points but referred to the Arogya Setu Protocol 2020 and indicated that Arogya Setu Manager seems to be responsible for providing information. He further submitted that the reply received on 15.10.2020 was also not correct as for points no. 1(a) and 1(d) information was not given correctly. Point 3 (c) reply has not been provided. Point 5 first para was not answered and it has no connection with respect to point 4, point 6 was not answered correctly and the same also has no connection to point 1 as claimed in the said reply.
Based on a perusal of the record, it was noted that the complainant had asked for information in respect of 6 points and further sub-points vide his RTI application dated 01.08.2020. The CPIO had replied on 13.08.2020 and in respect of points no. 2 to 6 it was mentioned that information is not available. In respect of point no. 1 of the RTI application, the reply given was that the relevant information about the health status of the individuals, who are at a possible risk of covid-19, as identified through contact tracing, self-assessment, is shared with the state governments, for formulating necessary medical and administrate interventions to contain/ mitigate and manage the covid-19 situation in their respective states. A separate state level dashboard has been designed for this purpose and access to the dashboard is provided to the state governments, since the early days of the app roll-out. Further it was noted that a modified reply was claimed to have been given on 04.09.2020 by the deemed PIO but the same was basically a repetition of the earlier reply.
The CPIO again provided a revised reply to the applicant after a personal hearing by the FAA on 29.09.2020, and the recent reply reflects that in respect of point no. 2, it was mentioned that the RTI may be transferred to Health Secretaries and District Magistrates of all States for response (comprehensive and updated list of DMs is not available. The query is being transferred to all state health secretaries). It is relevant to mention here that the first appeal was not enclosed with this complaint memo and might have been filed after the complaint was filed. Therefore, the Commission is not able to convert this complaint into a second appeal in the absence of a first appeal. Moreover, in the case of the first appeal also, after a lapse of 45 days or after passing of the FAA’s order only then can a second appeal be registered and hence there is no scope for conversion of this complaint. The reply dated 15.10.2020 is in response to the FAA’s order passed after this complaint was registered and can be adjudicated on merits only if a second appeal is filed.
The Commission has already discussed in detail the issue of converting the complaint to an appeal in case no. 685079 of the same complainant decided on 22.10.2020 and to avoid repetition, the complainant is advised to refer to the same. The present complaint was perused purely on the basis of the mandate u/s 18 of the RTI Act.
The Commission has exclusive jurisdiction to decide the matter u/s 18 of the RTI Act. The provision is extracted below for better understanding:
18. Powers and functions of Information Commission.—
(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, it shall be the duty of the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission as the case may be to receive and inquire into a complaint from any person,—
(a) who has been unable to submit a request to a Central Public Information Officer, or State Public Information Officer as the case may be, either by reason that no such officer has been appointed under this Act, or because the Central Assistant Public Information Officer or State Assistant Public Information Officer, as the case may be, has refused to accept his or her application for information or appeal under this Act for forwarding the same to the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer or Senior Officer specified in sub-section (1) of section 19 or the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be;
(b) who has been refused access to any information requested under this Act;
(c) who has not been given a response to a request for information or access to information within the time limits specified under this Act;
(d) who has been required to pay an amount of fee which he or she considers unreasonable;
(e) who believes that he or she has been given incomplete, misleading or false information under this Act; and
(f) in respect of any other matter relating to requesting or obtaining access to records under this Act.
(2) Where the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to inquire into the matter, it may initiate an inquiry in respect thereof.
(3) The Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be shall, while inquiring into any matter under this section, have the same powers as are vested in a civil court while trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, in respect of the following matters, namely:—
(a) summoning and enforcing the attendance of persons and compel them to give oral or written evidence on oath and to produce the documents or things;
(b) requiring the discovery and inspection of documents;
(c) receiving evidence on affidavit;
(d) requisitioning any public record or copies thereof from any court or office;
(e) issuing summons for examination of witnesses or documents; and
(f) any other matter which may be prescribed.
(4) Notwithstanding anything inconsistent contained in any other Act of Parliament, or the State Legislature, as the case may be, the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be, may, during the inquiry of any complaint under this Act, examine any record to which this Act applies which is under the control of the public authority, and no such record may be withheld from it on any grounds.
In the light of the provisions of Sec 18 of the RTI Act, the Commission has examined the RTI application and prima facie finds that the CPIO NIC had provided a point-wise reply and there was no deliberate intention in denying any of the information. The complainant also needs to understand the fact that his queries are not some material information readily available with the CPIO which he is denying, but the information sought requires collation of data.
As far as the provisions of Sec 18 is concerned, the Commission did not find any prima facie scope for action against the CPIO. Moreover, his plea for conversion of the complaint into a second appeal is not maintainable in the absence of a first appeal as discussed above.
In view of the above observations, the Commission has not found any scope for admission of this complaint u/s 18 of the RTI Act. The applicant is at liberty to file a second appeal in response to the FAA’s order dated 29.09.2020 and the reply dated 15.10.2020. The same cannot be dealt with in this complaint due to pre-registration of the complaint without waiting for the FAA’s order.
The complaint is disposed of accordingly.
Vanaja N. Sarna
Citation: Saurav Das v. National Informatics Centre (NIC), Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology in File no.: CIC/NICHQ/C/2020/685081, Date of Decision: 22/10/2020