Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): Amita Pandove (Information Commissioner) held that,

“…information which is available in record or accessible by a public authority can only be provided under the RTI Act.” 

“Appellant is not just pressurizing the Respondent public authority by seeking clarification/confirmation, but also harassing them by filing multiple queries followed by reminders, e-mail communications etc.” 

“…under the provisions of the RTI Act, disclosure of information is a rule and non-disclosure is an exception.”

Information was sought by the appellant through an RTI Application. On being dissatisfied, the appellant had filed the first appeal in October, 2018 which had not been adjudicated by the First Appellate Authority.

Appellant filed a second appeal under Section 19 of the RTI Act and sought information.

On query by the commission, appellant informed the Commission that two written submissions had been filed on his behalf, to which the Commission cautioned the appellant to desist from such practice as the same was not in accordance with the letter and spirit of the RTI Act.

Respondent submitted that the information sought by the appellant was voluminous and the same was scattered in many files. He added that providing photocopies of all the information required collection/collation of data, which attracted Section 7(9) of the RTI Act.

Appellant interjected to state that how the Commission can adjudicate the aspect of voluminous information. Upon query by the Commission as to on what authority he is making this statement, he failed to provide a substantiating reply. The Commission yet again cautioned the Appellant for vitiating the proceedings of the instant hearing.

Commission’s Decision

Coram noted that the appellant adopted a convoluted method to express the facts of the instant case.

Commission expressed that it is of the view that,

 As much as the CPIO has a statutory responsibility to comply with the provisions of the RTI Act, applicants filing a request under RTI Act should also keep in mind that they should not transgress the letter and spirt of the RTI Act by flooding RTI Applications, which are cumbersome, protracted and circumlocutory in nature.

 Commission admonished the appellant for going beyond the stipulated word limit, which troubled the respondent to ascertain what information had been sought and pertained to which Department.

Therefore, in Coram’s opinion the appellant instead of seeking information in a reasonable and comprehensible way resorted to adopting a tortuous method containing quite a lot of issues/queries in a disorganized manner, resulting in unfathomable hurdles on the part of the respondent.

Word of Caution by the Commission

“…Appellant being a responsible citizen who poses to be concerned about the functionality of the Respondent public authority must impliedly know his limitations while filing an RTI query before any Respondent public authority.  

 Commission strictly cautions him that in future, he shall holistically adhere to the relevant provisions of the RTI Rules, 2012 while filing any RTI Application before any public authority.”

Bench stated that the Appellant’s contention was rather preposterous because mere statements such as ‘involving larger public interest’ and ‘national interest’ do not suffice and the onus to prove the same lies with the Appellant.

Commission was put into doubt about the intention of the appellant whether he genuinely wants information or just wants to harass the Respondent public authority.

Majority of queries sought by the appellant were in respect to the PIO’s confirmation regarding certain aspects such as dates pertaining to commencing and concluding of certain constructions at Naval/Coast Guard berths, names of the vendors who were awarded contracts for the aforesaid construction, date of execution of the lease agreement etc. from the Respondent.

Information: Can the appellant seek any information under the sky?

Commission pointed out that though it is not mandatory to provide reasons for seeking information under the RTI Act, but the same does not mean that an applicant can seek all/any information under the sky.

 Further, it was observed that appellant relatively misinterpreted the term “information”.

Photography: Is it allowed under the RTI Act?

In the present matter, appellant has argued that photography is allowed under the RTI Act under Section 2(j)(iv) of the RTI Act.

Bench while considering the importance of the services rendered by the respondent public authority to the country as well as considering the information sought by the Appellant in the instant RTI Application, held that photography of the averred documents/records/information cannot be allowed because the question of photography arises only if the condition of the document/record is in a dilapidated state and cannot be photocopied anymore by repeated handling.

Commission elaborated that the appellant in a cyclostyled manner framed the queries of the instant RTI Application, wherein he had specifically asked the PIO to ‘CONFIRM’ the commencing and concluding date of certain constructions, ‘CONFIRM’ whether the Respondent has a copy of the NGT’s Order pronounced on 02.09.2016 concerning to the dredging and other expansions of MPT etc., which is beyond the purview of Section 2(f) of the RTI Act.

Commission opined that the appellant was only on a mission to seek vengeance or has some personal vendetta against the respondent public authority.

Appellant understood that the provisions of the RTI Act can be twisted according to his whims and fancies as well as to his requirements.

 It was added to the observations during the hearing, the Appellant rather made an attempt to mystify both the Commission as well as the Respondent by taking refuge on unconnected events or mentioning certain things without any proof.

The modus operandi adopted by the Appellant is nothing but a classic example of systematic persecution as well as wasting precious time of the public authority as well as the Commission at the cost of the public exchequer.

Commission finds that the Respondent has provided an opportunity to the Appellant to inspect the relevant records, which the Appellant is contesting till date, which is rather bizarre to note.

Commission further counselled the appellant that as per Section 6(1) of the RTI Act, Parliament made amply clear that while enacting the RTI Act it had categorically provided a right to an Indian citizen that he/she shall make a request and not requests.

Adding more to its remarks, Coram noted that Appellant rather appeared to have converted the provisions of the RTI Act as a tool of oppression/intimidation, which the Commission discourages outrightly.

Enough opportunity had been provided to the appellant to inspect the relevant records which he did not avail till date, hence no illegality was found on the part of the respondent for seeking proof of citizenship because considering the importance and sensitivity of the information sought in the instant RTI Application as well as the alleged antecedents of the appellant, the respondent public authority has on a selective basis and as a matter of abundant caution sought proof of citizenship from the Appellant.

Public authority has the liberty to seek proof of citizenship from an applicant, when he/she is seeking information, at times may be sensitive from security perspective and this concern can never be disregarded.

 Keeping in view the totality of circumstances discussed above, the Commission found no infirmity in the information provided by the Respondent.

Therefore, the appeal was dismissed in view of the above terms. [Samir Sardana v. CPIO, Mormugao Port Trust; 2021 SCC OnLine CIC 4310; decided on 10-05-2021]

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

Attention has been drawn to media reports regarding orders passed by Central Information Commission regarding an RTI query with regard to AarogyaSetu App. As per the orders, of the CIC, CPIOs of MeitY, NeGD and NIC have been directed to appear on 24-11-2020. MeitY is taking necessary steps to comply with the orders of the CIC.

With regard to the above, it is clarified that there should be no doubt with regard to the AarogyaSetu App and its role in helping contain COVID-19 Pandemic in India. As was announced through Press Releases and Social Media posts on 2-04-2020, AarogyaSetu App was launched by Government of India in public-private partnership mode to bring people of India together in its fight against COVID19. The AarogyaSetu App was developed in a record time of around 21 days, to respond to the exigencies of the Pandemic with Lockdown restrictions only for the objective of building a Made in India Contact Tracing App with the best of Indian minds from Industry, Academia and Government, working round the clock to build a robust, scalable and secure App. Since 2-04-2020, regular press releases and updates have been issued on AarogyaSetu App including making the source code available in Open-domain on 26-05-2020. The names of all those associated with the development of the App and management of the App ecosystem at various stages was shared when the code was released in Open/Public Domain and the same was shared widely in media also.

The same can be accessed on https://github.com/nic-delhi/AarogyaSetu_Android/blob/master/Contributors.md. On all such occasions, it has been clearly mentioned that the AarogyaSetu App has been developed by NIC in collaboration with volunteers from Industry and Academia. AarogyaSetu app has been developed in the most transparent manner and all details and documents including Privacy Policy and AarogyaSetu Data Access & Knowledge Sharing Protocols issued on 11th May 2020 has been uploaded on the AarogyaSetu Portal – aarogyasetu.gov.in. The portal has all details about the App including those regarding How the App works, COVID updates and Why one should use AarogyaSetu. Regular updates about AarogyaSetu App have been shared on all Social media platforms as also Government portals. Several TV shows and media briefings also have shared complete details about the App, it’s development and how it is assisting the fight against COVID19.

As has been mentioned earlier, the App has been developed in a collaborative effort of Government and Private Sector. The App has been downloaded by more than 16.23 Cr users and has greatly augmented the efforts of front line health workers in the fight against COVID-19. It has helped identify Bluetooth contacts of COVID positive users and issued alerts for helping people to stay safe. These Bluetooth contacts have been advised for caution, quarantine or testing depending on the extent of exposure to COVID-19 positive user. Amongst those who have been advised testing, almost 25% have tested positive. This is much higher compared to the overall positivity rate of 7-8%. Thus, the efficiency of testing has gone up with AarogyaSetu. In addition, AarogyaSetu ITIHAS interface with location data has helped identify emerging hotspots where proactive steps have been taken by Health authorities and administration in order to contain the spread of the Virus. Thus, AarogyaSetu has proved to be very useful in India’s fight against COVID-19. Recently, WHO has also appreciated the role of AarogyaSetu in containing the pandemic in India.


Ministry of Electronics & IT

[Press Release dt. 28-10-2020]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): Amita Pandove (Information Commissioner), came down heavily on CPIO, All India Radio for abdicating his duties.

Appellant filed an RTI application seeking information on the following points:

  1. “Have the security personnel, i.e., armed and /or unarmed security guards and security supervisors ever been deployed in All India Radio Directorate premises through any private security agency sponsored by Director General of Resettlement (DGR).
  2. If so, was the extra amount such as Relieving Charges etc. paid to the security agency for the arrangement of substitute of the Guards availing weekly off or other holidays as admissible to him/them in accordance with DGR guidelines.
  3. In the event of payment of extra amount such as Relieving Charges etc., how were the substitutes of the Guards or by extra hours of duty by any other guards within the contracted strength of Guards.
  4. In the event of the arrangement of substitute of any Guard proceeding on admissible weekly off/holiday from within their contracted strength of Guard, how was the payment against extra hours of duty performed by such guards regulated by payment of overtime or from payment of Relieving Charges etc.”

Instant RTI application was transferred by the RTI Cell to S.K. Tiwary, DDA (Archives) DG: AIR. CPIO had informed the appellant that AIR: Installations/transmitters were covered under the Indian Official Secrets Act, 1923 and therefore were prohibited places. Further CPIO stated that the information sought at point 1 to 4 were in the form of query which could not be replied by the CPIO as per the relevant provisions of the RTI Act.

Present second appeal was filed in light of unsatisfactory reply being furnished by the respondent.

Bench observed that the denial of the information by the respondent was only based on the argument that the disclosure of information may jeopardize the safety and security of AIR: installations and accordingly he invoked Section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act.

Section 22 of the RTI Act was referred, which stated as follows:

“22. Act to have overriding effect – The provisions of this Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in the Official Secrets Act, 1923 (19 of 1923), and any other law for the time being in force or instrument having effect by virtue of any law other than this Act.”

Bench stated that the implication of the above Section has to be read into the present matter, wherein, even if the protocol of any other nature subsisted, it was the statutory duty of the CPIO to respond on the RTI application by either providing the information or denying it under appropriate exemption clause of the RTI Act.

Since no reasonable justification was given by the CPIO, Commission attributes the mala fide intention of the CPIO per se in the deemed refusal.

Commission warned the CPIO to remain careful in future while dealing with the matter under the RTI Act.

CPIO is not at liberty to rely on other law/rules/orders/circulars for the time being in force, in matters of RTI Act. It is a statutory duty cast upon him to affect relevant provisions according to the circumstances and he cannot abdicate his powers enlarged unto him under RTI Act, as has been done in the instant case.

Supreme Court’s observation in the matter of CPIO, Supreme Court of India v. Subhash Chandra Agarwal,2009 SCC OnLine Del 2714, held that:

“There can be no doubt that the Act is premised on disclosure being the norm, and refusal, the exception.”

Hence, in view of the above CPIO was directed to provide relevant information to the appellant as sought in the RTI application. [Rajesh Babu v. CPIO, Asstt. DG (Security) Prasar Bharati, (India’s Public Service Broadcaster), Directorate General, All India Radio; Second Appeal No. CIC/DGAAR/A/2018/635823; decided on 07-10-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19Tribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): Bimal Julka, Chief Information Commissioner, noted that the RTI application seeking very pertinent information with regard to COVID-19 pandemic was shuttled between one public authority to another and held that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare shall collate all the information and furnish the same to complainant and on its’ website.

Complainant sought records by way of his RTI application on the following points:

  • Date when the Government of India first received information on the coronavirus/Wuhan virus/ virus affecting China.
  • Whether any communication was received by the Government of India about a possible pandemic like situation in India between the period of November 2019 to March, 2020?
  • Copy of the minutes of meeting that took place into the possibility of declaring coronavirus a health emergency or not between the period of March 5th to March 14th, 2020.
  • Whether the Government of India/any of its ministries or departments had received warnings/alerts/communication from the World Health Organisation on the possibility of coronavirus affecting India?
  • Whether any internal reports on a possibility of a pandemic like situation arising in India was communicated within the Ministry or its departments?
  • Any intelligence information on the coronavirus diseases originating from China possibly affecting India in future?
  • Whether the Government of India/this Ministry or its various departments sought China’s assistance in getting the sample of Virus?
  • Was China requested to share virus genetic sequence?
  • On which date did ministry of health first communicated the information of Virus possibly affecting India to PMO?
  • When was the issue of inadequate PPE discussed in the Ministry?
  • Whether additional funds were sought to fight against the virus. If so the date on which the first request and subsequent requests were made and to whom be furnished?
  • Whether the Ministry proposed a ban on incoming Chinese citizens to India?
  • Whether the ICMR received any reports/communications/internal warnings/memos/internal reports during the period of November 2019 to March 2020 about the possibility of a pandemic like situation in India due to the virus: To this ICMR responded that all the information pertaining to circulars, notifications, etc, is available on the ICMR website.
  • Whether the Government of India/this Ministry or its various departments was monitoring the situation in China and its possible effects on India?

To almost all the above queries, ICMR responded with a standard response — Not pertains to ICMR.

Complainant remained dissatisfied with the respondent’s response.

RTI Act

Commission observed that a voluntary disclosure of all information that ought to be displayed in the public domain should be the rule and members of public who having to seek information should be an exception.

Another significant observation was that, an open government, which is the cherished objective of the RTI Act, can be realised only if all public offices comply with proactive disclosure norms.

Accountability

Several decisions are being made by the Governments involving huge interventions in the healthcare impacting daily lives of billions of people, hence it is essential that the decisions are thoroughly documented in order for the Government to remain accountable.

Information pertaining to COVID-19

Complainant sought very pertinent information with regard to COVID-19 situation, which could not be made available by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Commission held that authentic, verified and cogent reply based on factual information needs to be furnished to the complainant as also disclose on the Public Authority website for the benefit of public at large.

Secretary, Health & Family Welfare was advised to have this matter examined at an appropriate level and the Nodal Authority so notified should furnish all the details sought by the Complainant in a clear, cogent and precise manner within a period of 30 days.

In view of the above complaints were disposed of. [Saurav Das v. CPIO, 2020 SCC OnLine CIC 626, decided on 23-07-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19Tribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): Vanaja N. Sarna, Information Commissioner disposed of a complaint while stating the following on CPIO’s cryptic one liner response on the issue of migrant workers:

Commission is pained to see such a callous and non-serious attitude of the CPIO while handling the RTI application, more so, during such times of pandemic when every citizen is worried about the frayed lives of the country’s poor and has precipitated an unprecedented humanitarian crisis for migrant workers.

Information Sought

Complainant sought the information from Chief Labour Commissioner with regard to data about migrant workers, who were stranded and placed in various temporary shelter/relief camps.

Submissions

Complainant submitted that he is not satisfied with the reply of the CPIO as he is not seeking any personal information about any particular stranded migrant worker. Instead he merely sought State-wise and district-wise statistics of compliance with the D.O. letter of the Chief Labour Commissioner and statistical information about migrant workers identified during the said enumeration exercise, along with their gender-wise and occupation-wise breakups.

He only sought intimation of the URL of the webpage where the statistics are posted on an official website.

Therefore the reply of the CPIO is difficult to believe and highly unacceptable. There is no reason why this Respondent Public Authority ought not to have such information in their custody when such information has been specifically called for through the D.O.

Respondent Authority cannot shy away from its responsibility of collecting information about migrant workers and making the same publicly accessible even during normal times.

Adding to the submissions, it was stated that, suo moto and time bound public disclosure of data about migrant workers is of utmost importance for ensuring the well-being of this key segment of our society and economy.

Observation & Decision

It is established beyond doubt that the CPIO has handled the RTI application in a very callous and casual manner.

CPIO in his reply dated 05.05.2020 had simply stated that as per the Stat Section is concerned, no such details as asked by the Complainant were available.

Commission was not convinced with the fact that when a D.O. letter was issued by the Chief Labour Commissioner during the time when the whole country is under the grip of a pandemic which has seriously affected the migrant workers and the D.O. letter was sent to all Regional heads to collect the data related to migrant workers, then how is it possible that no action, whatsoever, was taken on this D.O.

To the utmost surprise of the Commission, the CPIO has given a cursory, flimsy and inappropriate reply to the Complainant while totally ignoring the seriousness of the issue raised by the Complainant.

Commission records its severe admonition against the CPIO for such negligent handling of the RTI application concerning an issue of such wide implications.

CPIO appears to be completely unaware of the provisions of the RTI Act as had he been aware, he could have transferred the same to the appropriate authority to obtain the collated information from them.

Such poor handling shows complete laxity towards the implementation of the RTI Act which was enacted to promote transparency and accountability in the country and in case such a lapse is repeated in future, the Commission will be constrained to initiate penal action against the CPIO.

Need of the hour is to get concrete data regarding the number of stranded migrant workers across the country so that necessary measures may be taken by the concerned State Governments/ UTs to provide some relief to them.

Further the Commission added to its conclusion that, it is pertinent to note that given the uncertainties of the present times, any further delay in disclosing these details or evading the disclosure will only compound the difficulties of either side, the government and that of the unfortunate migrant workers.

Commission invoked Section 25(5) of the RTI Act and issued an advisory to the respondent authority to maintain a robust and dynamic website for placing all data related to migrant workers therein as and when it is received from different Regional Heads.

Thus, it is necessary for the CPIO to put his best possible efforts to collect this data from different Regional Heads and place the same on their website immediately even if it is done in a piece meal manner.

An advisory is issued under Section 25(5) of the RTI Act to the Chief Labour Commissioner, to suo-moto upload maximum data as available with them in relation to the migrant workers stranded in relief camps or shelters organised by governments or at the workplace of their employers or generally clustered in any district and wherever possible cumulative numbers of the migrant workers and the names of the districts from where the data is collected should also be uploaded in compliance with Section 4 of the RTI Act, 2005, having regard to the peculiar circumstances prevalent in the country. [Venkatesh Nayak v. CPIO; Office of the Chief Labour Commissioner; CIC/OTCLC/C/2020/669711/03585; decided on 27-05-2020]

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

An RTI application was filed with regard to the PM Cares Fund, wherein following details were sought:

  •  Total amount deposited in the PM Cares account till date
  • Total amount deposited in the Fund in the last 2 months
  • PAN details give to open PM Cares account
  • Details of the amount spent from the PM Cares Fund till date
  • Details of the person who has deposited the highest amount till date in the PM Care Fund

To the above, following was the reply:

“PM Cares Fund is not a Public Authority under the ambit of Section 2 (h) of the RTI Act, 2005. However, relevant information in respect of PM Cares Fund may be seen on the Website- pmcares.gov.in”

Thus, in view of the above response, no citizen can seek any details with regard to the PM Cares fund.


Image credits of the RTI application: @SuryaHarshaTeja –> Twitter

Also read:

Section 2(h) of RTI Act, 2005

“public authority” means any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted—

(a) by or under the Constitution;

(b) by any other law made by Parliament;

(c) by any other law made by State Legislature;

(d) by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government,

and includes any—

(i) body owned, controlled or substantially financed;

(ii) non-Government organisation substantially financed,

directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government;

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC):  Vanaja N. Sarna (Information Commissioner) while disposing of the RTI application instructed the ADG & CPIO, UIDAI – to convene periodic conferences to educate the officials concerned including the CPIOs and FAAs about the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005.

In the present RTI Application, CPIO had claimed exemption under Section 8(1) (a) of the RTI Act without providing any reasoning as mandated under the said Section.

The exemption claimed by the CPIO was not proper — as claimed by the appellant. Appellant contended that CPIO had failed to explain or give any reasons regards the applicability of the exemption, which is mandatory according to the said Section.

It is necessary to give the reasoning as to how the information sought would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India. Appellant further added to his submissions that, providing an Aadhaar card to a citizen is a public activity and hence information should be provided to him.

To substantiate the above-stated contentions, the appellant relied on several cases amongst which, following was held in —  Shruti Singh Chauhan v. Assistant Director (Vigilance); 2008 SCC OnLine CIC 5300,

“…The Commission disapproves of the practise of PIOs using the exemptions of Section 8 (1), without providing reasoning. The Commission is likely to view such a practise as a denial of information without reasonable cause and take consequent actions as per the law.”

CPIO submitted that the desired information cannot be shared in accordance with Regulation 7 of the Aadhaar (Data Security) Regulations, 2016, which states that,

“nature of information that cannot be shared outside the Authority unless mandated under the Act includes but not limited to Information in CIDR, Technology details, Network Architecture, Information Security policy and processes, software codes, internal reports, audit and assessment reports, application details, asset details, contractual agreements, present and future planned infrastructure details, protection services and capabilities if the system.”

Commission’s Observations:

It was noted by the commission that, CPIO claimed a blanket exemption without justifying the applicability of Section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act.

Neither the PIO during the hearing nor the CPIO responding to the RTI application could justify their position as to how the disclosure of the information would be in contravention of any of the provisions enshrined under Section 8 of the RTI Act, 2005.

Commission referred to the decision of Delhi High Court in Commr. Of Police v. D.K. Sharma, WP (C) No. 12428 of 2009, dated 15-12-2010, wherein it was held that:

“…Court is inclined to concur with the view expressed by the CIC that in order to deny the information under the RTI Act the authority concerned would have to show a justification with reference to one of the specific clauses under Section 8 (1) of the RTI Act.”

Adding to the above observations, Commission also noted that without considering the contents of each of the points raised by the appellant, CPIO claimed blanket exemption under Section 8(1) of the RTI Act, 2005 which is – totally incorrect.

FAA without deciding the appeal on merits upheld the reply of the CPIO, which clearly depicts that there is a complete lack of knowledge of the provisions of the RTI Act.

Decision:

Thus in view of the above discussion and observations of the Commission, CPIO is directed to consider the RTI application afresh and provide a point-wise reply on the same to the appellant. [Hema D Souza v. ADG(E&U-II) & CPIO, UIDAI, 2020 SCC OnLine CIC 2, decided on 30-01-2020]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): Sudhir Bhargava, Chief Information Commissioner, addressed an application filed before CPIO, Supreme Court of India with respect to information regarding the Advocates-On-Record examination conducted in the year 2015.

The above-stated information was sought by the appellant regarding Advocates-On-Record examination on the following points:

  • re-checking/re-evaluation of his answer sheet of Paper-III (Advocacy and Professional Ethics),
  • whether the registrar has the power to award grace marks and
  • How many candidates approached the High Court under Writs and succeeded in getting a favourable order.

Appellant had filed a second appeal before the Commission on the grounds that he was not afforded an opportunity of hearing before the FAA, and the information provided to him by the respondent was incorrect.

Appellant’s Contention

Appellant submitted that he appeared for the AOR examination in 2015, wherein he could not pass in Paper-III, due to incorrect results displayed by the respondent. Further, he re-appeared for the same examination in 2016 in Paper-III, wherein he again could not pass in the examination, hence filed the present RTI application regarding re-checking and re-evaluation.

Adding to the above appellant stated that, he got 46 marks in Paper-III, but the same was shown as 42 when the result was declared, which was again repeated in 2016.

Thus the correct information was not provided to him by the respondent.

Respondent’s Contention

He submitted that the appellant was provided with a point-wise reply and the same was accepted by the FAA.

CPIO was requested by the appellant to send his answer scripts for re-evaluation/re-checking, which was not permissible under the RTI Act, as under the provisions of the RTI Act appellant cannot expect the respondent to take certain action or initiate action as desired by him. The appellant was informed that the information being sought by him does not come under the ambit of Section 2(f) of the RTI Act.

Respondent advised the appellant to refer the regulations framed in respect to the above under the Supreme Court Rules, 2013. It was affirmed by the respondent that the result was displayed as per the marks obtained by a candidate in the examination.

Clarification in respect to the answer scripts for the AoR examination was provided by stating that, the answer scripts are retained only for a time frame of 1 year as per the Regulation 18 of the Advocates-on-Record examination contained in Supreme Court Rules, 2013, therefore, the same would have been weeded out before the filing of the RTI application and cannot be provided.

RTI Act is not the proper law for redressal of grievances and there are other appropriate fora for resolving such matters.

Decision

Commission on perusal of the facts and contentions of the parties observed that due information was provided to the appellant and thus the Commission accepts the stand of the respondent that,

RTI Act is not the proper law for redressal of grievances and there are other appropriate fora for resolving such matters.

Appeal was disposed of in view of the above terms. [Pratap Singh v. CPIO, Supreme Court of India;  2019 SCC OnLine CIC 1230; decided on 14-10-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jammu & Kashmir High Court: Sanjay Kumar Gupta, J. rejected an application for seeking condonation of delay in the filing review petition.

The facts of the case were that the petitioner filed an RTI application against the order wherein respondent have denied filling up of 36 vacancies under the ST category or allotment of the same to a Physically Handicapped candidate in ST Category. When no response was received to the RTI application, the first appeal was made by the applicant, in which no order was passed. Thereafter the second appeal was preferred which was disposed of through an order by stating that no post was filled under ST category from Handicapped person.

Mazhar Ali Khan, counsel for the applicant stated that on obtaining the copy of the order, he could not reach the court as at that time summer vacations were going on. It was further stated that the statutory period of 30 days is prescribed under the Limitation Act as well as High Court rules and there is a delay of 446 days in filing the review petition. It was further submitted that there was a cause of action after the order of the second appeal under the RTI Act and the delay can be condoned as it was otherwise beyond the control of the petitioner.

The Court was of the opinion that the rules of limitation are not superfluous or vestigial but are to be interpreted in a meaningful manner so as to save the system from anarchy. The Court added that the law of limitation fixes a life span for every legal remedy. It was further held that the applicant was gross negligent that the word sufficient cause was not used in the application. The court thus held that Law is also clear that each day after limitation time, is required to be explained by cogent means. It cannot be set aside on flimsy grounds and at the wish of applicant who remained all along negligent. Thus the application seeking condonation of delay along with review petition was dismissed by the Court.[Harish Chander v. State of J&K, 2019 SCC OnLine J&K 481, decided on 28-05-2019]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): Information Commissioner, Suresh Chandra, partly allowed a second appeal filed before him in an issue related to non-receipt of the information raised by the appellant through his RTI application.

The appellant filed an application on 25-08-2015 under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) before the respondent-Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), Andhra Bank, Jaipur seeking information under twenty-five points related to tender for the service of the generator in the bank, to which CPIO replied on 24-09-2015. The appellant being dissatisfied with the response, preferred the First Appeal but the First Appellate Authority did not pass any order. Aggrieved thereby, the appellant filed a Second Appeal dated 16-12-2015, before the State Information Commission (SIC), Jaipur which was transferred to this Commission on 12-01-2017 for consideration.

The appellant contended that the reply given by the respondent was unsatisfactory and therefore requested the Commission to direct him to provide complete pointwise information and to take the necessary action as per Section 20 of the RTI Act. The respondent submitted that he had taken the facility of the generator from a person, other than the appellant, by following due procedure and the appellant’s agreement was terminated as per the terms of the agreement, aggrieved by which, the appellant filed the subject RTI.

The Commission in its order noted that most of the information sought by the appellant was in the form of queries which did not qualify for ‘information’ as defined under Section 2 (f) of the RTI Act. The Commission found that the reply given by CPIO was ‘evasive’, hence it directed the respondent to provide the information sought by the appellant on points 2, 3, 9, 13, 18, 19, 20 23 and 24 of his RTI application within 10 days from the date of receipt of the order.[Rajendra Sharma v. CPIO, Andhra Bank, 2019 SCC OnLine CIC 299, Order dated 03-05-2019]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission: Complainant-appellant in a recent case before Commission had sought clarification in respect of the difference in his last basic salary drawn from the CPIO and Sr. DPO, Office of the Division Railway Manager, Northern Railway. During the hearing the representative of the respondent PIO submitted that the requisite reply was given to the appellant after more than a month of filing of the RTI application.

On query by the Commission, the respondents could not explain the reason for delay in providing the requisite reply to the complainant and also for not complying with the First Appellate Authority (FAA)’s order had directed the CPIO and nodal authority to provide the requisite information to the applicant within a stipulated time.

On perusal of the records, Commissioner Amitava Bhattacharya observed that the replies were just and proper. However, he went on to say that the issue here remained that it was not provided on time. Hence, the Commission issued strict warning to the Sr. DPO and the DPO, O/o DRM, New Delhi to ensure that in future in every case reply to an RTI application is invariably provided within 30 days of receipt of the said RTI application.

The Commission further issued advisory under Section 25(5) of the RTI Act to the General Manager, Northern Railway to sensitize its officers to the need for replying to an RTI application within the stipulated time period as per the provision of the Act. It has instructed it further to evolve a procedure by which the CPIOs shall submit compliance report to the First Appellate Authorities regarding implementation of the FAA’s order in a time bound manner to realize the objective of the Act in its letter and spirit. [Ved Prakash v. CPIO and Sr. DPO, Northern Railway, CIC/NRAIL/C/2017/116075, decided on 20.10.2017]