Ministry of Environment and Forests rebuked for providing false information to RTI applicant

Central Information Commission (CIC): While coming down heavily upon Ministry of Environment and Forests for rendering “false and misleading” information in response to an RTI application seeking information on the harmful effects of electromagnetic radiation emitted by cellphone towers on human beings, CIC issued a show cause to the Ministry asking why maximum penalty should not be imposed for false and misleading information on such a vital issue of public importance. The said order of the Commission came upon an RTI application filed by a person who sought information in relation to World Health Organization (WHO) press release –“ Radio frequency Electro Magnetic Fields (EMF) as possible carcinogenic” to humans based on increased risks for glioma, a malignant type brain cancer and also if any action has been taken by the Ministry in this regard. The applicant also sought to know if Ministry has conducted any study to gather data of Electro Magnetic Fields to measure the harmful biological effects of EMF on human beings and if it has declared radio frequency electromagnetic fields as a source of Air pollution. The Ministry, in response to his query had submitted that it had not undertaken or sponsored any study to gather data to measure the alleged harmful biological effects of EMF on human beings from Cell phone tower. However, during the proceedings before CIC, it was found that an inter-ministerial group was constituted by Ministry of Communication and Information Technology and Department of Telecommunication in 2010, which had reported that EMF can have adverse effects on humans and had also suggested that cellphone towers not be installed near schools, residential colonies and hospitals. While reprimanding the officials of Ministry for providing false information, Commission noted, “The Commission found that the answer of the CPIO in response to this RTI request is false and misleading. They said a) there is no study, but there is study, b) there is no adverse impact on human beings, but the report confirmed adverse impact of EMF, c) were not aware of, but they knew or presumed to have known the contents of both reports by WHO and Inter-Ministerial Group, as those reports were placed on their official website”. “The commission is surprised that the respondent authority knew that the report was submitted by the inter-ministerial group, but officers neither cared to submit the copy of the report nor read it. The commission could trace the report from the websites of department of telecommunication and DDA”, noted CIC and issued a show cause notice upon the Ministry in the matter. Suresh Chander Gupta v. Ministry of Environment & Forests, 2015 SCC OnLine CIC 601, decided on February 20, 2015)

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