Saturday, September 05, 2009

Experience of RTI with a police station

In November 2008, I saw a Police Station (R3-Ashok Nagar) where there were old rusted cars parked lying on the pavement right outside the walls of the Police Station. It completely blocked access to the pavement, and I was also wondering why those vehicles were left there to rust. So I filed an RTI with the Public Information Officer of the Police Station, asking questions like, why those cars are lying there, since when are they lying there, why they have not been removed etc. I sent the RTI through a private courier company. But the courier was returned to me saying there was "no such person". So I browsed through their website ( and then found that the PIO was the Assistant Commissioner of Police, T.Nagar Police Station for this area. So I filed an RTI application addressed to that person.

What happened was that, on seeing that this was an RTI application (I had written "Right to Information" on top of the envelope), the person at the police station refused to take it and redirected it to the office of the Police Commissioner of Chennai. When the RTI reached there, the person there too refused to take it and redirected it back to the T.Nagar Police Station. So the courier person again went back to the place he first went to. There they again refused to take the application, and so they returned it to me. After this I filed a complaint with the State Information Commission. This was taken up for hearing on 26th August 2009.

Once the summons for the hearing was sent, the Assistant Commissioner of police called me up and asked me whether the envelope was returned. I told him what happened and he asked me if I could send a copy of the envelope so that he can conduct an inquiry into why the envelope was not received. He also asked me to whom the envelope was addressed. I told him that it was addressed to the Assistant Commissioner of Police, I sent him a copy.

At the hearing, the Asst. Commissioner of Police brought a letter from the courier company saying that the person who was delivering the courier at that time had left, and that it was the courier company's mistake that the delivery was not made. Of course, the Commissioner saw through this farce and told the Policeman that he knew that the policeman had threatened that courier company into writing this letter . But the commissioner also noted that since the letter was given, there was not much he could do.

But at the hearing the Asst. Commissioner also brought a reply to my RTI application from the concerned officer of the Ashok Nagar police station. The reply just said that the information I had asked for did not fall under the definition of the "Information" under the Right to Information act, 2005 and hence information could not be given. The commissioner looked at my RTI application, and said that except for 1 question, the rest have to be answered, and issued a Show Cause Notice for penalty.

But what I learnt out of this whole experience, is to use only the Government's postal service. Since in such a case, the policeman cant extract such guilt admitting letters from the postman.


Raji said...

Ya, I agree with you, that we should always send it through the register post. Even in 5th Pillar we insist people to send the RTI letter via register post only.

But anywhere in the act does is says that we can't use a courier company for sending an RTI ?

V Madhav said...

No, there are no such rules. In fact, the Information Commission considers the courier POD as valid proof of having sent the letter. So no problems on that front. Just that in some rare cases like these, courier turns out to be disadvantageous.

Vishal said...

I was told that the courts consider register post only as proof of delivery.