Focus on what and not how!
The recent judgment of the Delhi High Court in ‘The Registrar Supreme Court of India v. Commodore Lokesh K. Batra & Ors.’ allows the Public Information Officers (PIO) of public authorities to breathe a sigh of relief, who are no longer required to collate information in the manner sought by the RTI applicants. Lets take a look at the chain of events that lead to High Court arriving at this conclusion.
In the year 2009, Commodore Lokesh K. Batra filed two RTI applications before the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the Supreme Court of India, seeking details of the judgments reserved and pending before the Supreme Court during the period 2007-2009, which he asked to be disclosed in the following format:
“(a) Case Number.
(b) Case Type.
(c) Date the Case was first admitted.
(d) Date when Judgment was received.”
The CPIO rejected the said applications stating that the registry does not maintain the data in the manner as sought for by him. However, in a second appeal preferred before the Central Information Commission (CIC), the CPIO was directed to provide the desired information to Lokesh K. Batra centrally (if available) within 15 days, and if not, to bring it to the notice of the competent authority in the Supreme Court to ensure necessary compliance in the future.
Against the said order the Registrar, Supreme Court preferred an appeal before the single bench of the Delhi High Court, which was of the view that the records may be maintained in a manner in which, the information regarding the pending reserve judgments, is available with the Registrar in future.
The Chief’s bench though did not disagree with the observations of the Single bench in toto, but took a contrary view to the extent that there is no provision in the Act under which a direction can be issued by CIC to the public authority to organize information in the manner sought by the concerned applicant. As per the Chief’s Court, the public authority is required to maintain records in terms of the Right to Information Act (the Act) in a manner which facilitates access to information under the Act.
This judgment attempts to bring back the expanded scope of right to information within the confines of the Act. Undoubtedly, it is important that the information sought is provided to the applicant irrespective of the format in which it is desired. Having said that, one may wonder why the CPIO of the Supreme Court refrained from providing the desired information to the applicant. This judgment was also silent on this issue. Nonetheless, it can be assumed that the Chief’s court impliedly agreed with the observations of the Single Judge that desired information should not be denied merely because it is not in the desired format. We believe asking for information in a particular format is too much to ask for from the concerned PIO, whose role is confined to providing information and not sort it on the basis of the applicant’s discretion.
 LPA 24/2015, delivered on: 07.01.2016, < http://lobis.nic.in/ddir/dhc/GRO/judgement/07-01-2016/GRO07012016LPA242015.pdf> accessed 21 January 2016
 Ibid, para 15
 ‘The Registrar, Supreme Court of India v. Commodore Lokesh K.Batra & Ors.’ W.P.(C) No. 6634/2011 delivered on 04.12.2014, para 3 < http://lobis.nic.in/ddir/dhc/VIB/judgement/03-12-2014/VIB04122014CW66342011.pdf> accessed 21 January 2016
 Id 1, para 2
 Id 3, para 22
 Id 1, para 15