Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Losing records a serious crime : By Madabhushi Sridhar

The Hans India: New Delhi: Tuesday, April 25, 2017.
The department concerned must necessarily fix the responsibility for the loss of the record and take appropriate departmental action against the officers/officials responsible for loss of the record. Registering an FIR in the cases of missing files will be an empty formality.
Unless files are stolen or destroyed, which amounts to crimes, the police has no role to play. Missing files could be a potential strategy to undermine the rule of law and criminal justice systems, besides enabling white collar criminals to escape.
One Balendra Kumar sought details with regard to the file notings of all corresponding papers of a file; he gave the file number also.  But, the CPIO said the file was not traceable. In first appeal, a couple of papers were given. The CPIO stated that the office had made all possible efforts to find out the missing file and even went to different sections of the departments concerned but failed.
The defence of missing file cannot be accepted even under the RTI Act.  If the file is really not traceable, it reflects the inefficient and pathetic management of files by the public authority.  If the file could not be traced in spite of best efforts, it is the duty of the respondent authority to reconstruct the file or develop a mechanism to address the issue raised by the appellant.
The Central Information Commission feels that lodging of FIR is not the remedy in such cases, as one cannot expect the police to come to the office and trace the file.  According to law, police does not have any responsibility to trace the missing files, as they will come into picture only when there is theft of files. It cannot be said that police should come to office and search for the files or things misplaced due to negligence or deliberate action or by mistake etc. It is the duty of the PIO to make necessary efforts to trace the file and inform the same to the appellant in the form of an affidavit.
The public authority has a duty to designate “Public Records Officer” as per Public Records Act 1993. This Act is made to regulate the management, administration and preservation of public records. The definition of “Public Records” U/S 2(e) of Public Records Act, 1993 (PRA 1993) is almost identical with the definition of Records under the RTI Act 2005.