CIC: Design of the modules and internal framework of the software not to be disclosed - CIC: Information pertaining to disposal of RTI cases, stages of pendency, reasoned decisions on RTI requests, numbers of cases etc. should be updated on NIC website
Information sought and background of the case:
Appellant filed same RTI application dated 19.05.2019 seeking information as under:-
“Copy of User Manual of monitoring module, which was provided to the Administrative Reforms Department Govt. of NCT of Delhi”
PIO/AR Department vide letter dated 12.07.2019 stated as follows:-
“Copies of complete user manual of monitoring module for online RTI portal of Delhi Government can’t be furnished due to administrative reasons of the portal. However, if the applicant has any specific information/reports in this regard the same may be furnished”.
Being dissatisfied, the Appellant filed First Appeal dated 22.07.2019. FAA vide order dated 05.08.2019 upheld the reply of PIO and disposed of his first appeal.
In respect of File No. CIC/ARDEP/A/2019/653305, FAA vide order dated 02.07.2019 upheld the reply of PIO and cautioned CPIO to be more careful in future and adhere to the timelines mentioned in the fact. Feeling aggrieved as dissatisfied, Appellant approached the Commission with the instant Second Appeal.
Facts arising during the course of hearing:
Both parties are present for hearing and Appellant points out that he is aggrieved by denial of information and also because the First Appellate Authority also has not applied his mind and merely upheld the PIO’s order. Respondent/CPIO and Scientist-F from NIC has submitted a written synopsis dated 20.12.2019 explaining that the “Monitoring module of RTI Online Application is accessible only to the designated authorities of Administrative Reforms Department, Govt. of NCT of Delhi and is not available to the citizens. The Monitoring Module has been developed by the NIC for the Administrative Reforms Department, Govt. of NCT of Delhi for the specific purpose of Monitoring of RTI applications and not for citizens. The NIC has further challenged that there is no larger public interest involved in the query of the appellant. Furthermore, NIC has denied disclosure of the information citing Section 8(1)(d) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information; of the RTI Act contending that such disclosure may reveal the design of the modules and internal framework of the software and could be misused by third party. A copy of these submissions was claimed to have been provided by the respondent-PIO/NIC while uploading the same on CIC website. However, since appellant refuted the respondent’s claims, a copy was handed over to him during hearing.
Appellant has produced a copy of User Manual of RTI Request & Appeal Management Information System-RTI-MIS supplied by the Department of Personnel & Training, which contains screenshots providing reports about CPIO wise pending appeals, request, list of pending appeals, designer report, number of appeals rejected or treated as infructuous, Request under process etc.
After hearing averments of both parties, the Commission enquired from the Appellant about the larger public interest involved in dissemination of information in this case. The appellant was unable to make a convincing case. While information about pending RTI cases, requests addressed/adjudicated by the respondent etc are available in public domain on the website, the user manual of the monitoring module involves internal confidential information about design of the modules and internal framework of the software. The respondent has rightly pointed out that such information could be misused if it reaches the wrong hands and also no larger public good will be served with such information. Hence, the Commission is of the considered opinion that the respondent shall ensure that information pertaining to disposal of RTI cases, stages of adjudication/stage of pendency thereof, reasoned decision/s on RTI requests, numbers of cases etc. in the form of reports should be updated on the website of the public authority regularly for awareness of the public at large.
The aforementioned cases are disposed off with the above directions.
Y. K. Sinha
Citation: Shri Neeraj Sharma v. PIO/O/o. the Dy. Director General, National Informatics Centre (Ministry of Electronics & IT) in Second Appeal Nos. CIC/ARDEP/A/2019/649137 CIC/ARDEP/A/2019/653305, Date of Decision: 03.01.2020