While the Madurai district police provided the information sought , the city police refused to comply, claiming that such information was exempted from public disclosure

Here is a classical case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. The Madurai District Police contradicted the Madurai City Police while responding to an identical query made by an applicant under the Right to Information Act, 2005.

T. Wins, a lawyer practising in the Madras High Court Bench here, had filed the two RTI applications to the Public Information Officers (PIO) at the office of the Madurai Superintendent of Police as well as the office of the Commissioner of Police, Madurai city.

The applicant wanted to know the number of accused identified so far in criminal cases registered since 2009, the number of those who had been arrested, whether any of them had been detained under the Goondas Act, and the number of charge sheets filed in the last four years.

While the Madurai district police provided the information sought , the city police refused to comply, claiming that such information was exempted from public disclosure under Section 8 of the RTI Act.

R. Gandhi, an advocate, remarked that PIOs often give ingenious reasons for denying information. Therefore, it becomes necessary for the applicants tooutsmart the information providers.

He pointed out that Section 8 of the Act lists out various grounds under which information could be denied. As per Section 8(1)(a), information could be denied if it prejudicially affected the sovereignty or integrity or security of the nation..

Similarly, Section 8(1)(b) prevents the disclosure of information prohibited by a court of law. But the PIO of the Madurai City police had conveniently failed to mention under which sub-clause of the section the information sought by Mr. Wins fits in. "The only inference that we could make is that the figures could have been denied under Section 8(1)(h) which prohibits disclosure of information that would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders.

"Even if we assume that the information was denied under Section 8(1)(h), I do not understand how the disclosure of the number of accused arrested so far and the number of them detained under Goondas Act would hamper the investigation in their cases," the advocate pointed out.

S. Sampath, an RTI activist, felt that it was necessary to ensure that PIOs disclosed information at the first instance without making the applicants undergo the hardship of filing appeals before the higher authorities and then to the information commissions.