Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of D.N.Patel, CJ and Prateek Jalan, J. dismissed the petition seeking information on PM CARES Fund while reserving liberty to the petitioner to prefer fresh proceedings before appropriate forum.

Present petition was filed seeking direction to the respondent to disclose any information sought by the petitioner or any other citizen of the country with respect to the source of funds and the details of expenses made from he funds of PM Cares Fund.

Petitioners’ counsel Senior Advocate Narender Hooda with Advocate, Aditya Hooda submitted that data regarding receipt and disbursement of funds in PM Cares Fund be uploaded on the PM Cares Fund website. 

Another submission made was that the prayers made in the petition had no application for seeking information under RTI Act, 2005 from the respondents.

In view of the above, Court found no reason to entertain the petition.

Accordingly, the petition was dismissed. [Dr Surendra Singh Hooda v. Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situation Fund, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 641, decided on 10-06-2020]

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

Direction sought for PM-CARES Fund to reveal money received and other details on its website.

As reported by ANI, A Public Interest Litigation was filed wherein transparency in the context of PM Cares Fund was sought.

In the said fund, petitioner had also sought direction to reveal information under the Right to Information Act, 2005.

It was added in the petition that, anybody that is “owned”, “controlled” or “substantially financed” by the government qualifies as a public authority under the RTI Act.

PM-Cares Fund was government controlled as well as substantially financed.

“The corpus of Rs 10,000 crore has been created by donations largely from the Public Sector Undertakings, Central Ministries and Departments and even the salaries of armed forces personnel, civil servants and members of the judicial entities have been compulsorily donated into the fund. If PM-Cares fund is held to be a public authority it needs to be examined as to whether the public authorities at the highest level could prompt the government agencies, public servants, to contribute to this funds whose details are now sought to be kept opaque.

Further the petitioner also stated that, reluctance in divulging information raises a “profoundly serious apprehension” since the fund had been established for a public cause for combating deadly pandemic.

[Source: ANI]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): Chief Information Commissioner Sudhir Bhargava allowed a second appeal for information regarding mercy petition on the grounds that file notings and correspondence sent and received by Ministry of Home Affairs does not form a part of ministerial advice.

In the instant case, an application was filed by the appellant under Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) before Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) to seek information on several points pertaining to mercy petition of her son, who was a death row convict lodged at Yerwada Central Jail. The appellant filed a second appeal as CPIO denied information under Article 74(2) of the Constitution of India and there was no response to her first appeal.

Learned counsel, Ragni Ahuja, on behalf of the appellant contended that information pertaining to ministerial advice is protected under Article 74(2) of Constitution of India. But since the information sought by the appellant did not pertain to Article 74, she had been wrongly denied the said information. The counsel relied on the judgment of the Supreme Court in S.R. Bommai v. Union of India, (1994) 3 SCC 1, where the Court allowed the disclosure of not only correspondence but also notings by high constitutional functionaries, so the appellants requested the commission to direct the respondent to provide complete information. 

Learned counsel, Hari Mohan Jha, on behalf of the respondent contended that recommendations along with all documents lead to the formation of ministerial advice to the President of India is privileged under Article 74(2) of the Constitution and the same cannot be disclosed under RTI Act. The counsel relied on the case Union of India v. Central Information Commission, 2009 SCC OnLine Del 879, in which the commission gave directions for disclosure of information relating to correspondence between the former President of India and the then Prime Minister relating to Gujarat riots was set aside.

The Commission opined that file notings and correspondence received or sent by Ministry of Home Affairs pertaining to appellant’s mercy petition does not form a part of the ministerial advice to the President, and the file notings of the mercy petition filed could be provided to the appellant. The Commission observed that the file noting and the correspondence contained the names of the officials recording the same, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of those officials and hence its disclosure was exempted under Section 8(1)(g) of the RTI Act. Relying on S.R. Bommai v. Union of India, (1994) 3 SCC 1, it directed the respondent to provide the information sought after severing all the names and other references which could reveal the identities of the public officials concerned.[Ujwala Kokde v. CPIO, Second Appeal No. CIC/MHOME/A/2017/609431, decided on 12-06-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: Alok Singh, J. dismissed a writ petition filed by Sahak Nagar Adhikari, who was Public Information Officer under Right to Information Act, 2005.

The petitioner contended that, a show cause notice was issued upon him which sought an explanation as to why a penalty should not be imposed upon him for providing delayed information. He gave a brief reply of the said notice and administered information to the said officer. Thereafter, State Information Commissioner adjudged the matter and imposed a penalty of Rs 25,000 for delayed reply to the notice. He was aggrieved by the said order of the officer and therefore sought justice from the Court.

Mr Parikshit Saini, learned counsel for the petitioner, submitted that impugned order of the Information Officer was arbitrary and patently illegal, hence, was not maintainable. He argued that impugned order was ‘unreasonable’ and ‘non-speaking’, the officer failed to justify the penalty as he gave a brief reply as to why the delay was caused by him for discharging his duties. He relied on the judgment of Supreme Court, in Narendra Kumar v. CIC, 2014 (2) UD 72 where it was observed, “State Public Information Officer has decided any complaint or appeal without any reasonable cause, refused to receive an application for information or has not furnished information within the time etc., in that event penalty can be imposed. In the further opinion of this Court, if there was reasonable cause for furnishing the delayed information then Chief Information Commissioner should not impose penalty merely because there was some delay in supplying the information.”

The Court observed that judgment in case Narendra Kumar was not applicable in the aforementioned case, as in the referred case information was not supplied in time because of natural disaster but in the case of petitioner there was delay of one year in supply of the information whereas Act, 2005 mandates to provide information within thirty days. Cause shown by the petitioner for delay in supplying the information was the excessive workload. The Court stated that, petitioner has not explained his excessive work; this was no ground for the delay in providing the information. One year delay in providing information under the Right to Information Act was too high.

It further held that Commissioner has assigned the reason for the penalty. “Providing information after one year that too on filing of appeal in the State Information Commission amounts to denial of information.” Court found no illegality or perversity in the impugned order and directed the petitioner to pay the aforementioned penalty.[Chandrakant Bhatt v. Uttarakhand Information Commission, 2019 SCC OnLine Utt 356, decided on 10-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

“Transparency of information is vital in curbing corruption. The approach of the court must be to attenuate the area of secrecy as much as possible consistently with the requirement of public interest.”

 Kerala High Court: The Division Bench of V. Chitambaresh and R. Narayana Pisharadi, JJ. dismissed an appeal filed by a co-operative society against an order directing furnishing of information sought under the Right to Information Act, 2005.

Appellant – an agricultural development bank – was incorporated under the provisions of the Kerala Co-operative Societies Act, 1969. Respondent’s 4 and 5 sought certain information from the respondent 1 under the RTI Act relating to grant of loans and expenses incurred by the appellant in connection with the cases instituted with regard to certain loan transactions. Appellant was directed by first respondent to furnish the required information to the respondent’s 4 and 5. The said order was challenged in a writ petition wherein the learned Single Judge directed 1st respondent to hear the appellant and 4th respondent and any other interested party before furnishing information to the applicants.

Appellant’s contentions were: (i) that it is not a public authority under RTI Act and thus not liable to furnish the information, and (ii) that the first respondent had no authority to collect information from the appellant, and to furnish such information to respondent’s 4 and 5.

The Court noted that being a cooperative society, appellant was not a ‘public authority’ under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act. Hence, it was not legally obliged to furnish any information sought for by a citizen under RTI Act. However, placing reliance on Thalappalam Service Co-operative Bank Limited v. State of Kerala, (2013) 16 SCC 82 it was opined that Registrar of Cooperative Societies can collect such information from the appellant which he is otherwise empowered to collect under the Kerala Cooperative Societies Act, and furnish that information to the applicant, subject to the restrictions under Section 8 of the RTI Act.

It was observed that the appellant’s case was not that it has no obligation under the Kerala Co-operative Societies Act to provide the information sought for. The right to privacy of a third party was protected by the direction issued by the learned Single Judge to hear the appellant and other interested persons before furnishing the information to the applicants. In view thereof, the writ appeal was dismissed.[Kunnathunad Taluk Primary Co-Operative Agricultural and Rural Development Bank Ltd. v. Registrar of Co-Operative Societies, 2019 SCC OnLine Ker 726, Order dated 26-02-2019]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): Sudhir Bhargava, Chief Information Commissioner, directed the Registry of the Bench to issue a Show Cause Notice to the respondent to explain as to why action under Section 20(1) of the RTI Act should not be initiated against him.

The facts of the case are that the Commission directed DPS NALCO to provide a copy of the Record Retention Schedule as well as the order of the Competent Authority for the destruction of the attendance register for the year 1989-90, to the appellant within a period of four weeks from the date of the order, and grant one more opportunity to the appellant to inspect all the relevant records pertaining to the information sought in her RTI application on a mutually decided date and time as per the provisions of the RTI Act. The appellant again submitted an application alleging non-compliance of the directions of the Commission by the respondent. The respondents denied the same.

The Commission held that in the view of such evident contradiction in the submissions of the respondent, leading to non compliance of specific directions of the Commission and deliberate obstruction to the flow of information, a show cause notice is to be issued to the respondent for explaining as to why action under Section 20(1) of the RTI Act should not be initiated against him. [Puspalata Rout v. CPIO, 2019 SCC OnLine CIC 1, Order dated 07-02-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Rajiv Sharma and Harinder Singh Sidhu, JJ., allowed a petition made against the order by the Central Administrative Tribunal which allowed the demotion of the petitioner after the completion of his probation period.

The facts of the case are that the petitioner was promoted to the post of the Assistant Food & Supplies Officer. As stated in the Court, the probation period was of one year. Though one year probation period was over, the same was extended by another six months. Thereafter the petitioner was issued show cause notice on the basis that petitioner had maintained an association with a party that had staged various protests against the department. It was also stated in the show cause notice that he was seeking information from the Department under the Right to Information Act. This was viewed as a question mark on his integrity. Thus he was reverted to the post of Inspector, Food & Supplies Grade-I. CAT also dismissed his appeal.

The Court held that if the petitioner was found indulging in any misconduct, the regular inquiry could have been instituted against him. The petitioner had the absolute right to get the information under the Right to Information Act. Seeking information under the Right to Information Act cannot put a question mark on his integrity. The Tribunal overlooked the basic principles of service jurisprudence while dealing with the probation period. The petition was thus allowed. [Pardeep Kumar v. State (UT of Chandigarh), 2018 SCC OnLine P&H 2389, dated 17-12-2018].

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): The present matter was taken up by Sudhir Bhargava (Information Commissioner), under the Right to Information Act, 2005.

Appellant had sought information primarily on two points under the Right to Information Act, 2005, which was:

  • Total number of currency notes of Rs 2000 printed daily from 09-11-2016 to 30-11-2016; and
  • Total Number of currency notes of Rs 500 printed daily from 09-11-2016 to 30-11-2016.

Further, a second appeal was filed on the grounds that the CPIO concerned denied information under Section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act.

According to the respondent and the submissions made on his behalf, he had submitted response to the RTI application and explained that the nature of currency printing and allied activities call for utmost exclusivity and confidentiality. He further stated that the information cannot be shared with the public at large, lest this result in proliferation of counterfeit currency and economic chaos. Disclosure of the details as regards quantity manufactured during specific period of printing need not be made known to the general public so as to safeguard the integrity of currency and to guard against counterfeiters, such information is exempted from disclosure under Section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act.

However, the Commission on perusal of the records and submissions made, noted that the information i.e. the total number of currency notes printed daily is not so sensitive so as to attract the exemption provisions under Section 8(1)(a), RTI Act as it relates to a past event and it cannot be presumed that its disclosure would lead to divulging the other non-disclosable information pertaining to the printing of currency notes.

Thus the CPIO was directed to furnish information as asked in point number 1 & 2 within 4 weeks from the receipt of order. [Harinder Dhingra v. CPIO, Bhartiya Reserve Bank Note Mudran (P) Ltd.,2018 SCC OnLine CIC 1607, Order dated 05-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Rajendra Menon, CJ, and V. Kameswar Rao, J. dismissed an appeal preferred by the writ petitioner against the order of the Writ Court allowing the petition filed by the respondents against the order of Chief Information Commission.

The appellant had filed an application under the Right to Information Act, 2005. The CPIO concerned refused to furnish the same while giving the appellant an opportunity to carry out inspection of the record and copies thereof. The appellant filed an appeal before the Appellate Authority prescribed under the Act. The Appellate Authority dismissed the appeal. Thereafter, the matter reached to the CIC who decided the matter in favour of the appellant and directed furnishing of certified copies while also recommending disciplinary action against the Appellate Authority. Challenging the order of CIC, a writ petition was filed by the Union of India which was allowed by the Writ Court. Aggrieved by the same, the appellant filed the instant appeal.

The High Court perused Section 20 of the Act and observed that it was clear that sub-section (2) thereof makes only a CPIO liable for disciplinary action. Further, it was also observed that an Appellate Authority under Section 19(1) is classified as an officer senior in rank to the CPIO. meaning thereby that the CPIO is a different authority from the Appellate Authority. The legislative intent was only to take a disciplinary action against CPIO and not against the Appellate Authority as was evident from Section 20(2). Thus, it was held that no penal action could be taken against the Appellate Authority under RTI Act. As such the appeal was dismissed. [R.K. Jain v. Union of India,2018 SCC OnLine Del 10957, dated 29-08-2018]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission: The CIC recently reiterated that it does not have the power to review its own orders as the same has not been envisaged in the RTI Act, 2005 or Rules framed under it.

Respondent replied CIC against the show-cause notice issued to him, wherein it was stated that the original RTI application dated 30.12.2015 of the appellant was duly responded by the PIO vide letter dated 30.03.2016. Thereafter, the appellant had filed another application dated 20.04.2016 with additional 09 points, which respondent considered an “After Thought Information”. The letter was not considered a RTI application as the prescribed fee for seeking information under the RTI Act, 2005 had not been paid/enclosed with the letter.

Thereafter, the letter dated 20.05.2016 was marked as First Appeal, which was addressed to the Managing Director & Appellate Authority. Subsequently, respondent claimed to have given a point wise response to the applicant on points which were raised in his letter dated 20.04.2016. Furthermore, it was submitted that the applicant had filed a complaint as CIC/KY/C/2016/900144, Diary No. 133893 dated 10.05.2016 and the same was dismissed by the Commission while citing that no fruitful purpose would be served by proceeding in such cases.

As regards the dissatisfaction of the complainant-appellant with the aforementioned decision, the Commission observed that re-visiting the said orders would amount to reviewing the earlier decision of the Commission which was not envisaged within the provisions of RTI Act, 2005. In this context, the decision of the Delhi High Court in the matter of DDA v. CIC, 2010 SCC OnLine Del 2058 was found pertinent where it was held that once the statute does not provide for the power of review, the CIC cannot, without any authority of law, assume the power of review or even of a special leave to appeal. Hence, in that case, Regulation 23 was held to be ultra vires the provisions of the Act. The Court also referred to the Supreme Court’s judgment in Patel Narshi Thakershi v. Shri Pradyumansinghji Arjunsinghji, (1971) 3 SCC 844. Later, Regulation 23 of the Central Information Commission (Management) Regulations, 2007, was amended vide notification No. CIC/Legal/2007/006 dated 20.10.2008 to correct this defect. Accordingly, CIC denied intervention in this matter. [Revanna P v. Jerome Kujur, Jt.GM (HR) and CPIO, HMT (International) Ltd., Complaint No. CIC/DOHIN/C/2017/154878-BJ- Final, order dated 19.06.2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: The Division Bench comprising of S. Ravindra Bhat and Sunil Gaur, JJ., gave different opinions as to whether Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) is a ‘public authority’ under Section 2(h)(d) of the Right to Information Act, 2005.

Initially, information was sought by the respondent regarding information related to amount, name and particular of each recipient, beneficiary and donor during the information period. The CPIO, Prime Minister’s Office, gave partial information and withheld the rest on the grounds that PMNRF was not a ‘public authority’ within the meaning of Section 2(h) (d) of the Act. The Chief Information Commissioner, in appeal by the respondent, decided that PMNRF was a ‘public authority’ within the Act, and hence the Fund was directed to provide information as sought by the respondent.

The appellant Fund filed the appeal before the learned Single Judge which was dismissed. Hence, the letters patent application. The High Court had to decide on the issue as framed. The Bench gave a split decision on the question of the Fund being a ‘public authority’ or not.

S. Ravindra Bhat, J. was of the view that the Fund was a ‘public authority’ within the Act. According to Bhat, J. the directions given by the Prime Minister and other State functionaries as ‘Managers’ of the fund cannot be deemed to be actions in personal capacity. Those are deemed to be actions of the Government which the PM represents. Thus, PMNRF must be deemed to be a ‘public authority’ under the Act. Further, Section 8(1)(e) of the Act that provides exemption from furnishing of information aims at striking a balance between right to information and right to privacy. In the present case, the Fund does not offer any service to the donors or the beneficiaries, therefore the relationship between the donors/beneficiaries and the Fund does not take colour of a ‘fiduciary relationship’. Holding PMNRF to be ‘public authority’ under the Act, Bhat, J. upheld the impugned judgment.

On the other hand, Sunil Gaur, J. took a different view. According to him, the Fund does not owe its existence to the Government. It was a creation of the then PM in his ex-officio capacity. He relied on Thalappalam Service Co-operative Bank Ltd. v. State of Kerala,  (2013) 16 SCC 82, to hold that mere supervision or regulation of a Trust would not make it a ‘public authority’ within the meaning of Section 2(h)(d) of the RTI Act. According to the learned Judge, PMNRF was neither constituted by Parliament nor is it managed by the government functionaries in their official capacity. Gaur, J. held that PMNRF is not a ‘public authority’ under the RTI Act, and therefore the issue regarding the information sought being in the public domain did not survive for consideration. He accordingly ordered for the impugned order to be set aside.

By reason of divergence in opinion, the Bench directed the matter to be placed before the Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal to refer the following question to a third Judge:

“Whether the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund is a “public authority” within the meaning of Section 2(h)(d) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 and accordingly, whether information pertaining to various transactions made by the Fund can be obtained by preferring an application under the said Act?”

[Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund v. Aseem Takyar,  2018 SCC OnLine Del 9191, dated 23-05-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: While allowing an appeal, the Division Bench of S.K. Seth J., and Nandita Dubey J., decided a writ in which the appellant- wife sought information in regard to the salary of respondent 1- husband in reference to obtaining maintenance amount.

The brief facts of the case state that Respondent 1-husband held a very high officer position in the Telecommunication Department and was also earning an amount of Rs. 2,25,000 per month, whereas the appellant, an advocate though not in practice, was attaining an amount of Rs. 7000 as maintenance from her husband.

For the stated amount of maintenance, the appellant had filed an application under Section 91 of CrPC to obtain a direction in which the respondent was asked to submit his payslip so that correct maintenance amount could be calculated accordingly, but the trial court had rejected her application. Further an application under the Right to Information Act, 2005 was submitted in quest of the same details as mentioned above, which eventually was taken to Central Information Commission. CIC had then asked the CPIO, BSNL to provide the said details.

Challenging the order of CIC, the only claim that was raised upon from the side of the respondent was that he was not given an “opportunity of hearing” which is the violation of principles of natural justice, for which the learned Single Judge had given an opportunity to hear and directions were issued to CIC for fresh appeal. In the second round of writ petition, the order of CIC to provide the information asked was challenged both by Respondent 1 and BSNL.

However, in accordance to Section 8(1) (j) of the said Act, “the information which has no relation to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy”, is exempted from being disclosed, the Court allowed the appeal by stating the fact that appellant is the wife of Respondent 1 which gave her the right and entitlement to know the remuneration of her husband. [Sunita Jain v. Pawan Kumar Jain, 2018 SCC OnLine MP 373, dated 15-05-2018]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): CIC has rejected an appeal where the appellant requested the CPIO of Sarva Haryana Gramin Bank, Rohtak, to disclose to him the steps taken and details of proceedings in a complaint he had filed against the bank’s manager.

The appellant requested for the following details under the RTI Act:

i. Whether enquiry has been initiated on the said complaint,

ii. Copy of order appointing an enquiry officer,

iii. Details of the report submitted by the enquiry officer.

The appellant submitted that the response provided to him by the CPIO was not satisfactory as he had asked not just for the report of the enquiry officer, which was provided to him, but also documents pertaining to the course of the enquiry, including depositions made by customers about the conduct of the manager to the enquiry officer.

The CPIO contended that the statements by the customers and villagers consisted of personal information relating to a third party and had hence been accordingly denied under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, which reads:

“Notwithstanding anything contained in this act , there shall be no obligation to give any citizen information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest , or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information.”

The Commission relied on the Supreme Court’s judgment in Girish Ramchandra Deshpande v. CIC, (2013) 1 SCC 212 where the Court held that details recording proceedings of disciplinary enquiries were personal information, outside the ambit of the RTI Act as follows:

“The performance of an employee/officer in an organisation is primarily a matter between the employee and the employer and normally those aspects are governed by the service rules which fall under the expression “personal information”, the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or public interest. On the other hand, the disclosure of which would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of that individual.”

Hence the Commission was of the view that the information solicited by the appellant was of a private nature, protected under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act and disclosing the same would not cause any public good, hence the appeal was dismissed. [R.N. Kapur v. CPIO, Sarva Haryana Gramin Bank, Head Office, Rohtak, 2018 SCC OnLine CIC 310, decided on 17-05-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench of the Delhi High Court comprising of Vibhu Bakhru, J., allowed a petition before it, setting aside the impugned order by which, the petitioner’s contention against CBI being within the purview of Section 24 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 and therefore, not obliged to disclose information sought by Respondent 2.

Briefly, the facts leading up to the impugned order was that Respondent 2, who is an officer with the CBI was facing departmental proceedings and the offences alleged against him were grave and sensitive in nature. Respondent 2 filed an application under the RTI Act seeking certain information related to the disciplinary proceedings. The petitioner declined to disclose the information sought stating that the CBI was listed under the Second Schedule to the Act and thus was outside the purview of the Act. Respondent 2 then filed an appeal which was rejected, followed by a second appeal, which was also rejected. An application seeking information under the Act was filed again, which was not entertained based on the same grounds as before. Respondent 2 then preferred appeals, the first of which was rejected, however, the second was allowed. The present petition impugns the order of the aforesaid appeal.

The Court analyzed the impugned order, finding out that the CIC was of the view that the exclusionary clause of Section 24(1) of the Act was not available in respect of information sought by it’s own officials regarding their service matters. Upon analyzing Section 24(1) of the Act and the proviso thereunder that all information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violations do not fall within the exclusionary clause. The Court, however, held the present situation could not, by a long stretch, be considered to be a ‘human rights violation’. CIC held to be in error. Petition allowed.[Central Bureau of Investigation v. Central Information Commission, 2018 SCC OnLine Del 7003, decided on 02.02.2018]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission: The Commission recently addressed a second appeal on the grounds that the appellant had not been provided the desired information by the CPIO that was spught in certain paragraphs of the RTI application.

The CPIO contended that he had already given the available copy of the document that would provide the person  concerned with the information sought out for in one of the paragraphs in question. For another such paragraph, the CPIO contended that the list of persons who attended the hearing had been provided.

The Commission held that there remained no scope of intervention for the information the informant sought in the first paragraph in question. As for the other paragraph that the complainant sought clarity on through the second appeal, the Commission held that the appellant had originally sought for a copy of the attendance sheet and not simply the names. The Commission put forth the condition that the attendance sheet would only be furnished after blacking out of the personal contact information of all the persons concerned, which if not followed would lead to contravention of Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act. [T.K. Roy v. CPIO;  CIC/CICOM/A/2017/314723/SD, order dated 18/1/2018]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission: The Commission was recently addressing an appeal from an applicant who sought to seek information on the action taken on his letter for his appointment on compassionate grounds. Before the Commission, appellant submitted that that correct and complete information has not been provided to him in response to his RTI application.

The CPIO in reply to the query stated that as per an office circular of 2008, it had been decided that no fresh casual/daily rated labour should be engaged under any circumstances. The appellant before the Commission sought redressal of his grievances pertaining to appointment on compassionate grounds. To this, Commissioner Sudhir Bhargava said that RTI is not the proper law for redressal of grievances and there are other appropriate fora for resolving such matters. The Commissioner observed  that full information had been provided to the appellant and disposed of the appeal accordingly. [Shivanandan Yadav v. CPIO, Damodar Valley Corporation, Kolkata, Decision No. CIC/POWER/A/2017/105911, order dated 01.12.2017]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: The Court set aside an earlier order of the Central Information Commission declaring ministers in the Union government and all State Governments as public authorities under Section 2(h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005.

Information Commissioner Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu had also recommended in his decision that the ministers should be given an official website for suo motu disclosure of information under the Right to Information Act and also said that ‘oath of secrecy’ should be replaced with ‘oath of transparency’. The order passed on 12th March, 2016 had also asked the Cabinet Secretary, Chief Secretary of all States and Union Territories (with Legislative Assembly) and the Principal Secretary to the Minister of Law & Justice to file a compliance report within three months. Accordingly, the case was brought before the Hon’ble High Court.

Setting aside the order, the Single Judge Bench of  Vibhu Bakhru,J. held that, “…there was no occasion for the CIC to enter upon the question as to whether a Minister is a ‘public authority’ under Section 2(h) of the Act.” It also said that since the CIC has no jurisdiction whatsoever to decide upon this matter, its order is set aside. [Union of India  v. Central Information Commission, 2017 SCC OnLine Del 12144, order dated 23.11.2017]


Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission: The Commission was hearing an appeal from an RTI applicant who sought information from Delhi Soccer Association (DSA) regarding the status of various complaints received by its office bearers. He also sought details of the members of Sexual Harassment Committee, copy of notices and minutes of meetings of DSA and so on through total eleven points in view of Sexual harassment allegations against the Vice-President of DSA.

Against the appeal, the respondent authority contended that it was not a public authority under S. 2(h) and (f) of the RTI Act. The respondents contended that it was not the appropriate authority to seek information and at the same time, also contended that it had replied to some RTI queries of the appellant. To this, Commissioner Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu said that its arguments were self contradictory and also bashed the respondents for its conduct stating that such a conduct was highly unbecoming of a sports body concerned with public activity like football. He said they want all the authority relating to sport in the territory, but do not want to disclose any information which ideally, they should have voluntarily disclosed.

Commission noted that DSA is the only State level sports body for football in Delhi and therefore, it intrinsic part of public authority with all the powers, finances and support from the federation to conduct, promote and select teams in the Football sport. Commission further observed that DSA should understand that it is answerable to each and every sports person and sports lover in this country and has an obligation to the nation to bring out highly meritorious football players from the National Capital Region of Delhi, without quarreling to deny any information.

The Commission without any hesitation declared the respondents to be a public authority under the RTI Act as it is under the control of Government of India, AIFF and with grant of monopoly, that is totally established over the sport of Football within territory of NCR of Delhi, the Delhi Soccer Association is a body controlled and substantially financed by the Government of India. Finally, the Commission ordered the DSA to appoint a PIO as per Section 19(8)(a)(ii) of the Act and report back the compliance, within 30 days, update their official website with all the necessary information, intimate what action was taken on the sexual harassment complaints against DSA’s VP without disclosing the name of the complainants and also intimate the appellant if the allegations are correct or not. [D.K. Bose v. PIO, Delhi Soccer Association, 2017 SCC OnLine CIC 1792, decided on 21.11.2017]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central information Commission: Commission recently heard an appeal from RTI applicant who sought information about the number of complaints received by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, copy of inquiry proceedings in those complaints, date-wise decisions of cases where the accused persons were found guilty and the reliefs they were granted.

The CPIO replied to him that the information sought by him could not be furnished as it was exempted from being disclosed under Section 8(1)(j) of RTI Act invading the privacy of the individuals involved. Upset with the answer of the CPIO, CIC observed that the exemption pleaded by NCPCR is not at all convincing as privacy exemption can be used to refuse only to give information about the name of the child and not to refuse the entire information en bloc. The NCPCR has hired services of a consultant and adviser, who instead of guiding the CPIO properly to disclose the information, misguided him to deny the entire information.

CIC came down upon the authorities saying that the two experienced seniors did not even provide reasons to justify denial as they failed to perform their duty by not providing information severing the name of the children from the rest of the information under Section 10(1) RTI Act. Also, the Commissioner M. Sridhar Acharyulu directed Mr. G. Suresh, PIO as well as the Senior Consultant and Advisor treating them as “deemed PIOs” to show-cause why maximum penalty should not be imposed upon each of them, for illegal obstruction of information.

It finally directed the respondent authority to provide information regarding cases pending for over two years pertaining to Bihar Circle and details of disposal of cases where accused were found guilty, after removing names and personal details of children within next 15 days. [Ajit Kumar Singh v. PIO, National Commission for Protection of Child Right, 2017 SCC OnLine CIC 1505, decided on 20.09.2017]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission: The Commission recently dealt with an RTI application in which the appellant had sought information regarding the month and year of release of 500 rupee notes of the series mentioned in the application. The CPIO, RBI presented its defense under Section 7(9) of the RTI Act stating that the information was not available in the form in which it was sought and collecting the same would divert disproportionately the resources of the Bank.

In the appeal before the Commission, the respondent contended that there are four printing presses in all and after the notes are printed, the presses send them to 19 regional offices from where these are sent to four thousand plus currency chests and finally, to the banks and the public.

The Commission pointed out to the respondent that Section 7(9) cannot be invoked to deny the information, but it only casts a positive duty on the authorities to provide the information in the very form it is sought. Information Commissioner Sharat Sabarwal also asked the respondents as to in which form they could provide the information. It was answered by them that they would send the RTI application to four printing presses so that they can inform the appellant about the dates on which the notes of the series he asked about were sent for the first time to the nineteen regional offices.

In light of the foregoing discussion, the Commission directed the CPIO to transfer the application to the printing presses within the next 5 days and prescribed a time-limit of 30 days to the printing presses to furnish the information. [Mukesh Singhal v. CPIO, RBI, 2017 SCC OnLine CIC 1488, decided on 07.09.2017]