PIO: Information regarding lawful interception was exempt from disclosure u/s 8(1)(a), 8(1)(g) and 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act; Records destroyed in 6 months as per Indian Telegraph Rules, 1951 - CIC found no reason to intervene in this matter
Information sought and background of the case:
The Appellant filed an RTI application dated 21.02.2019 seeking information on following points:-
1. Provide the total number of requests received under Section 69 and Rules there under from various agencies between 01.01.2015 to 31.12.2016.
2. Provide the total number of requests received under Section 69 and Rules there under from various agencies that were rejected or not authorized between 01.01.2015 to 31.12.2016.
3. Provide the total number of approval requests received during 01.01.2015 to 31.12.2016 (as per Proviso (ii) to Rule 3), to validate interception, monitoring or decryption citing cases of emergency viz., (a) remote areas and (b) operational reasons. In addition, provide a breakup of requests under both the categories.
4. Provide the total number of requests made to Secretary of Ministry of Home Affairs for interception or monitoring or decryption of information beyond territorial jurisdiction between 01.01.2015 to 31.12.2016.
The PIO/Director (CIS-II) vide letter dated 15.03.2019 replied as under:-
Dissatisfied with the response received from the CPIO, the Appellant filed a First Appeal dated 01.04.2019. The FAA/Jt. Secretary (CIS) vide letter dated 01.05.2019 upheld the PIO’s reply. Aggrieved and dissatisfied, the Appellant approached the Commission with the instant Second Appeal.
Facts emerging in Course of Hearing:
A written submission has been received from the Appellant vide letter dated nil placing reliance on decisions of this Commission whereby statistical data has been directed to be disseminated. He cited some more decisions claiming access to the information sought by him.
In order to ensure social distancing and prevent the spread of the pandemic, COVID-19, hearing was scheduled through video conference after giving prior notice to both the parties. Respondent alone attended the hearing through video conference, while the Appellant remained absent and has submitted his contentions through his written submission. The Respondent stated that by the reply dated 15.03.2019, sent by the PIO the Appellant had been informed that the information sought was exempt from disclosure under Section 8(1)(a), (g) and (h) of the RTI Act but also stated clearly that the records pertaining to lawful interception are destroyed as per provisions contained in Sub-Rule 18 of the Rule 419A of the Indian Telegraph Rules, 1951. The Respondent added that the Appellant was further informed that statistics of requests may be available with the Department of Telecom as the Review Committee under Rule 22 The provisions of this Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in the Official Secrets Act, 1923 (19 of 1923), and any other law for the time being in force or in any instrument having effect by virtue of any law other than this Act. of the IT (Procedure and safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009 is dealt by this department. Hence the RTI application had been transferred to the actual custodian of information, viz. the Department of Telecom.
In the light of the aforementioned facts of the case, it is noted that the Respondent had provided adequate information vide the reply dated 15.03.2019, in keeping with the spirit of the RTI Act. Information sought related to year 2015-16, whereas in terms of the Sub-Rule 18 of the Rule 419A of the Indian Telegraph Rules, 1951, records pertaining to such directions for interception and of intercepted messages shall be destroyed by the relevant competent authority and the authorized security and Law Enforcement Agencies every six months. The RTI application had also been duly transferred to the relevant custodian of information, as per provisions of the RTI Act, thereby providing access of information to the Appellant.
Under the given circumstances, the Commission finds no reason to intervene in this matter, where the Appellant already has the liberty to approach the relevant custodian of information to access the data. The appeal is disposed off accordingly.
Y. K. Sinha
Chief Information Commissioner
Citation: Shri Avdhesh Kumar v. Ministry of Home Affairs in Second Appeal No. CIC/ISDIV/A/2019/640 22 The provisions of this Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in the Official Secrets Act, 1923 (19 of 1923), and any other law for the time being in force or in any instrument having effect by virtue of any law other than this Act. 6, Date of Decision: 01.11.2021