In August 2011, the Supreme Court made an observation which had some unintended consequences on the Right to Information (RTI) process. The judgement by Justice R.V. Raveendran is turning out to be a seemingly legitimate excuse for government officials to restrict information.
Aditya Bandopadhyay went to court when the Central Board of Secondary Education declined to provide his examination answer sheets under the RTI Act. While the court allowed access to answer sheets, it also observed that the cherished right to information should not affect administrative efficiency.
In his judgement, Justice R.V. Raveendran said: “The nation does not want a scenario where 75 percent of the staff of public authorities spends 75 percent of their time in collecting and furnishing information to applicants instead of discharging their regular duties. The threat of penalties under the RTI Act and the pressure of the authorities under the RTI Act should not lead to employees of public authorities prioritising information furnishing at the cost of their normal and regular duties.” Government officials are now using this excuse with increasing frequency saying that even the court agrees. Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi says 75 percent government staff spending 75 percent of their time on giving information would mean 56 percent (0.75 X 0.75) of their total time spent only on replying to RTI queries.