Utt HC | Delay in providing information under RTI Act does not amount to penalty, if valid reasons for the delay are proved; Court sets aside the penalty

Uttarakhand High Court

Uttaranchal High Court: Manoj Kumar Tiwari, J., partly allowed an appeal which was filed challenging an order passed by the State Information Commissioner by which a penalty of 25,000 had been imposed upon the petitioner for not providing timely information to respondent 2.

The application, under Section 6 (1) of the Right to Information Act, was made by respondent 2 to District Education Officer, who had referred the application to the petitioner for doing the needful. Petitioner had asked the Principal, Delhi Public School, Ranipur, to supply information; but, Principal, Delhi Public School had initially refused to supply the information on the ground that it is not bound to supply such information, however, subsequently, on petitioner’s persuasion, the desired information was supplied by the Principal, Delhi Public School to the petitioner which, in turn, was furnished to respondent 2.Fact of the matter was that the information was supplied to respondent 2 and the said penalty had been imposed on the ground that some delay was caused in supplying the desired information.

The court relied on the judgment of Public Prescribed Authority v. Uttarakhand State Information Commissioner, 2014 SCC OnLine Utt 2440 where it was held that,

            “A plain reading of Sub-Section 1 of Section 20 of the Act would reveal that penalty can be imposed for delayed information if delay was caused without any valid reason.

In the present case, explanation furnished by the petitioner before the Chief Information Commissioner was that concern file was not traceable in the department and same was got reconstructed later on and thereafter information was supplied to the applicant. Chief Information Commissioner has nowhere observed that explanation furnished by the petitioner is a mere eye-wash and is not reasonable.

In my considered opinion, if explanation for delayed information is reasonable and delay was caused due to valid reasons then penalty should not be imposed by invoking of Sub-Section 1 of Section 20. Therefore, impugned judgment does not sustain in the eyes of law. Consequently, writ petition is allowed. Impugned judgment dated 13.12.2011 is hereby quashed.”

The Court partly allowed the petition and held that penalty imposed upon the petitioner appeared to be unjust and uncalled for, setting aside the penalty.[Suman Agarwal v. State Information Commissioner, 2021 SCC OnLine Utt 297, decided on 08-03-2021]

Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

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