The State Information Commission (SIC) issued a notice to the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) regarding birth and death registrations. In reply to the show-cause order, a senior AMC official said, “There was a verbal instruction from the higher authorities. They asked to withhold birth and death registrations from June 2019 to June 2021. The numbers can potentially create an atmosphere of fear among people.”
The Office of the Registrar General released the CRS (Civil Registration System) report 2020 in May 2022. The report records Gujarat as one of the states that finished more than 90% of birth and death enrollments with the 21-day-limit. The Government of India mandates birth and death registrations under the Registration of Births and Deaths Act.
However, the Public Information Officer (PIO) submitted that the officers, who allegedly anticipated hiding the numbers, denied their accusations straightaway. The PIO filed the report before the Gujarat Information Commissioner (GIC) in response to the appeal.
Pankaj Bhatt, an Ahmedabad resident, filed an RTI in 2021, seeking month-wise birth and death registrations. Bhatt was looking for the last three years’ records until June 2021 within the civic body. Firstly, Bhatt pleaded with the appellate authority of AMC, Bhavin Joshi. Later, when his appeals were unheard, he moved his request to GIC, KM Adhvaryu. KM Adhvaryu noted that the AMC rejected the appeal in an order dated May 10 without detailing any reasons. Further, the Commission sought reasons to not start a probe against Joshi for ‘intentionally declining to give data.’
PIO Divyang Oza proposed a report that said, “We did not compactly collect the information because the AMC health department was involved in COVID-related activities.” Bhatt said, “The AMC PIO should have quoted the same reason instead of titling the requested information like third party data” in the trials before the Commissioner.
In conclusion, the Commission agreed that Bhatt is not a third party because he sought the information in the public interest. However, based on Oza’s report, the GIC withdrew the notice allocated under RTI Act Section 20, which authorizes the SIC to charge a fine on PIO for denying details.