Tamil Nadu

TNPCB seeks citizenship proof to give info under RTI

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Petition seeking details on industrial pollution sent back

The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) declined information sought by a researcher under the Right to Information (RTI) Act stating that proof of citizenship, such as Aadhaar, voter’s identity, ration card etc had to be submitted.

The RTI Act is open to citizens of India and nowhere in the Act is it mentioned that petitioners should furnish proof of citizenship or identity while seeking information from designated Public Information Officer (PIO).

Replying to a petition filed by the researcher of Chennai-based Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG) calling for a mandatory pollution disclosure of an industry, the TNPCB’s PIO said any citizen of India had the right to seek such information from an Indian government organisation.

“Hence, I request that necessary information can be obtained from this office by enclosing a copy of proof of identity along with your application, such as copy of Aadhaar, Voter ID, Ration Card and other such...,” District Environmental Engineer of the agency said.

When contacted, a senior official in the Tamil Nadu Information Commission said that rejecting information for want of citizenship documents was “very unusual”.

The PIO could call for identity details if the name of the petitioner or his address was found to be suspicious. Replies to many petitions return to the PIO with “addressee not found” remark because of the wrong addresses.

Verifiable address

However, in this case, the petitioner has an Indian name and the address was local and verifiable, since it belonged to a reputed organisation handling public issues.

When contacted, the CAG officials said there was no question of providing proof of citizenship to the PIO and the petitioner would appeal against the TNPCB reply.

“As an organisation, we file hundreds of RTI applications to receive information that supports our research and outreach activities. We have not received such a response asking for proof of citizenship,” Sharadha Narayanan, senior researcher, CAG, said.

“The information requested was part of the annual disclosures required to be made by industries. We have obtained similar information through RTI applications several times in the past, with no such requirement of citizenship proof. We will be filing an appeal against the response received,” she added.

In a 2018 case, the Chief Information Commissioner had penalised a PIO of Housing and Urban Development Corporation for demanding Aadhaar card for providing information and ruled that he couldn’t “invent” new grounds to deny information.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2020 12:48:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/tnpcb-seeks-citizenship-proof-to-give-info-under-rti/article30509680.ece

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