EVM is ‘information’ under RTI Act

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Statutory, regulatory & various quasi-judicial bodies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CIC, SIC

Mains level: Issues surrounding EVMs


News

  • An Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) is “information” under the Right to Information Act, the Central Information Commission has ruled.

Defining Information

  • The CIC noted that the definition of information under Section 2(f) of the RTI Act includes “any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form.

What CIC Ruled?

  • The Chief Information Commissioner ruled that the EVM which is available with the respondent [ECI] in a material form and also as samples is an information under the RTI Act.
  • The Commission was hearing the appeal of an RTI applicant who had asked the Election Commission for an EVM but was denied.
  • The models/samples of EVM are available with the ECI, but the same are only kept for training purpose by the ECI, and not saleable to the general public.

Why such ruling?

  • EVMs have been in the spotlight recently as several Opposition leaders have raised doubts about the credibility of the machines.
  • They have also demanded that the ECI cross-check 50% of results with voter-verifiable paper audit trails (VVPAT) in the upcoming Lok Sabha poll.

Certain Exemptions

  • The information was exempted from disclosure under Section 8(1)(d) of the RTI Act as the software installed in the machines is an intellectual property of a third party.
  • The disclosure would harm the competitive position of the third party concerned.
  • The CIC noted this fresh argument, but did not rule on it.
  • Instead, he directed the ECI to file an appropriate response to the appellant, as it had erroneously denied the information sought, using Section 6(1) of the RTI Act, which does not deal with grounds for exemption.

Back2Basics

Central Information Commission (CIC)

  1. The Central Information Commission (CIC) set up under the Right to Information Act is the authorized quasi judicial body, established in 2005.
  2. It acts upon complaints from those individuals who have not been able to submit information requests due to either the officer not having been appointed, or because the respective Officer refused to receive the application for information under the RTI Act.
  3. The Commission includes 1 Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and not more than 10 Information Commissioners (IC) who are appointed by the President of India.
  4. CIC and members are appointed by the President of India on the recommendation of a committee consisting of—Prime Minister as Chairperson, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha; a Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister.
RTI – CIC, RTI Backlog, etc.
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