Just weeks after informing me (read the covering letter over here) that it was in the process of sending me information on the royalties earned through patent licensing, the Central Public Information Officer from the CSIR HQs has done a complete U-Turn by claiming that such information could not be shared under the RTI Act since it was exempted under Section 8(1)(d) of the RTI Act, 2005. This letter dated September 5th can be accessed over here.
This is an absolutely astonishing reply from the CPIO because in his previous letter dated August 17th, 2012 where he had disclosed details on patents that were licensed by CSIR, he very clearly stated that he was in the process of sending me the information. In relevant part, he had stated “The Information on para (b) pertaining to royalty/premia is being finalized and will be furnished shortly”. What or rather who changed his mind in less than a month is beyond me?
It is not like CSIR has not taken this argument of confidentiality earlier. In its first reply to my RTI application in March (available over here), CSIR had made the very same argument and I had appealed that decision to the Joint Secretary an IAS officer by the name of Dr. K. Jayakumar, who had ruled in my favour and had ordered CSIR HQ to provide me with all the information that I had requested for in 30 days. That order was in May, 2012 and is available over here.
Almost 6 months later, the same CPIO – Daljit S. Bedi – has the audacity to completely ignore this order of his superior officer and at the same time backtrack on his own commitment. I doubt whether this has happened without the sanction of a very bloated ego at the CSIR. Why is the CSIR going out of its way to protect this information from being disclosed in the public domain?
This argument of Section 8(1)(d) protecting from disclosure the information pertaining to commercial confidence of third parties is a bogus argument and does not apply to commercial deals that the government has entered into with private parties. Going by this logic, none of the licence details which the government entered into with coal or telecom companies would ever be made public. Further, as I discussed in an earlier post, the bye-laws of CSIR very clearly require all such information to be audited and accounted before being tabled on the floor of Parliament.
Even the ‘Annexure II’ which the latest covering letter refers to, was not enclosed in the envelope sent to me. CSIR is clearly playing a very dirty game over here and it will have to pay the consequences at some point of time.