CIC | CPIO issued show-cause notice for misleading the Commission regarding identity of Customs Official regarding whom information was sought

Central Information Commission (CIC): The Division Bench of Suresh Chandra and Bimal Julka, Information Commissioners, directed for a show-cause notice to be issued to the CPIO with respect to misleading the Commission in regard to the information sought by the Complainant.

Facts of the Case

Complainant sought information regarding Mr Srinivas – Inspector of Customs, detailed list of Postings/Departments served from the date of joining duty till the date of RTI application, address and ownership details of present residential premises, etc.

With respect to the above-sought information, CPIO and Dy. Commissioner (ACC) stated that there was no person by the name of Mr Srinivas – Inspector of Customs working at their office hence the information sought could be treated as ‘Nil’.

Complainant being dissatisfied by the response of CPIO, approached the Commission. Commission had given out the following order in the said respect,

“Keeping in view the facts of the case and the submissions made by both the parties and in the light of the aforesaid judgments, no further intervention of the Commission is warranted in the matter. For redressal of grievance, the Complainant is required to approach an appropriate forum.”

Complainant aggrieved by the decision of the Commission approached the Karnataka High Court. Further, Legal Cell, CIC in compliance with the order of Karnataka High Court placed the matter before the IC- Bimal Julka, who vide its order proposed to schedule the hearing with another IC for the sake of objectivity/transparency.

Complainant’s stand

According to the complainant documents and evidences including criminal cases which revealed that there was one person Mr M.V. Srinivas who was working in the customs Department had been furnished and hence not adverting to that, the CPIO had perhaps evaded the disclosure of information.

CPIO had not taken the plea that the RTI application was indefinite or unspecific while giving nil information and that Mr Sujith Kumar P. Sompur, CPIO who was also the reporting officer of Mr M.V. Srinivas deliberately misled the Commission despite being aware of the facts and the antecedents of the individual.

Respondent’s stand

Respondent while defending the reply given by the then CPIO argued that the information sought was not about the specific person (Mr M.V. Srinivas) and subsequently the Complainant had revealed the specific person.

Thus, the CPIO in the absence of specific name could not have inferred or created information which was not in the custody of the CPIO and that there had been a plethora of judicial pronouncement and other precedents of the Central Information Commission supporting his viewpoint that as CPIO he was not to invent or create information/provide opinion/advice or draw inference.

Further, the Commission had received complainant’s written submission wherein it was stated that RTI application was filed seeking information on  Mr M.V. Srinivas who was directly reporting to the CPIO. Sujith Kumar P.  Sompur being the CIU head had only two inspectors allocated to him namely Mr Srinivas and Mr Niranjana Murthy. He thereafter alleged that Mr  Sujith Kumar P. Sompur and Mr Srinivas had jointly and severally committed several corrupt criminal acts and numerous FIRs and Charge Sheets had been filed.

When the RTI application was filed seeking information on Mr Srinivas, CPIO with a sinister view to exonerate and extricate themselves had intentionally filed a false and malicious statement that there exists “No person by the name Srinivas, Inspector of Customs, Air Cargo Complex, Bengaluru working at their office.”

Hence, CPIO indulged in such misleading mischief thereby misinterpreting the facts to exonerate and extricate themselves from the pending as well as impending cases.

Tribunal giving the interim decision, in order to ascertain clarity and reasons, issued a show-cause notice to the then CPIO and the present CPIO as to why penal action should not be initiated against them in accordance with the provisions of RTI Act, 2005 for misleading the Commission with the correct identity of the Customs Official where information as sought by the Complainant. [Kriplani M. v. CPIO, 2019 SCC OnLine CIC 1266, decided on 01-11-2019]

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