Appellant’s representative alleged that the CIC was biased towards respondents - CIC: she had exhibited no remorse & continued spoiling peace, dignity & decorum - CIC admonished her & issued warning; the appellant was advised not to engage such people
Appellant’s representative made allegations that the CIC was biased towards respondents - CIC: allegations are irresponsible, defamatory and baseless; her conduct during hearing was not appropriate. And she had exhibited no remorse and continued spoiling peace, dignity and decorum of the Commissions’ court room - CIC: Had it been a court of law, her conduct would have amounted to physical interference with the process of hearing and hence could have held to be ‘contemptuous’ - CIC: the CIC preferred to admonish her for her reckless and defamatory remarks during hearing and warned her not to repeat the same and any repetition of such conduct would invite the disqualification, besides reserving the right to proceed against her in both civil and criminal proceedings - CIC advised the appellant not to engage such irresponsible people to represent her
The Commission has power to disqualify information seeker or his/her representative for irresponsible conduct of representation and misbehavior. Commission admonished the representative and warned not to repeat the behavior, besides reserving right to proceed against her in civil and criminal courts. The appellant is advised not to authorize such irresponsible persons. Heard on 12.8.14. Appellant was not present but represented by Ms. Swati Yadav. Respondent is represented by Ms. Renu Sharma and Shri Anita Bharal.
2. The Appellant filed an RTI application dt.7.3.13 with the PIO, Education Dept., GNCTD seeking information against nine points with regard to a complaint received regarding allegation of corporal punishment against Mrs. Sandhya Pasricha while she was working as Vice Principal of I.S.K.V. GBlock, Saket, New Delhi during the year 2008. On not receiving any reply, the Appellant filed an appeal dt.19.4.13 with the Appellate Authority. The Appellate Authority vide order dt.21.5.13 directed the PIO to provide information to the Appellant within fifteen days. The Appellant filed a second appeal dt.18.8.13 running into twelve pages before CIC.
3. During the hearing, the Respondent produced before the Commission a letter dt.8.8.14, a copy of which was also supplied to the representative of the Appellant. Ms. Swati Yadav submitted that the reply of the Respondent Public Authority that no specific complaint regarding allegation of corporal punishment against Mrs. Sandhya Pasricha has been received is false. She produced before the Commission a show cause issued to Mrs. Sandhya Pasricha. When the Commission queried about the show cause, the Respondent produced before the Commission a letter dt.18.1.108 written by Ms. Susheela Kumari, Librarian stating that Vice Principal Ms. Sandhya Pasricha is in the habit of beating the children. The Respondent added that the letter is a passing reference written on a plain paper and it is not addressed to anybody. The Respondent also produced before the Commission another letter dt.9.7.12 of Ms. Susheela Kumari addressed to the Principal of the school in which she states that she has never been asked to confirm about this so called complaint by the Authority who received it. She also adds in her letter that if this paper is treated as a complaint then by whom this complaint had been received four and half years ago. She added that in the so called complaint, the conduct of Ms. Sandhya Pasricha have been stated which was based on the facts which she used to see during those days and therefore she is unable to understand how her statement has reached to some Authority unknown to her and have become a complaint.
4. In this case it appears to be a passing reference somewhere in a different report. It could be personal information. In this context it is relevant to know the legal position regarding ‘personal information’. Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Girish Ramchandra Deshpande Vs CIC [(2013)1SCC212], stated that the disclosure of personal information of an employee of the Public Authority was involved observed as follows:
“13. We are in agreement with the CIC and the courts below that the details called for by the petitioner i.e. copies of all memos issued to the third respondent, show cause notices and orders of censure/punishment etc. are qualified to be personal information as defined in clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act. The performance of an employee/officer in an organization 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. Of course, in a given case, if the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer of the Appellate Authority is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information, appropriate orders could be passed but the petitioner cannot claim those details as a matter of right.”
5. Whether complaint filed against public servant is personal information of that public servant? The Commission in Sh. Manoj Arya Vs. CPIO, Cabinet Secretariat [CIC/SM/A/2013/000058] whereby the appellant had sought for copies of the complaint made against the third party, the commission while dismissing the appeal of the appellant observed as follows: ‘The entire information sought by the Appellant revolves around the complaints made against an officer of the government and any possible action the authorities might have taken on those complaints. The Appellate Authority was very right in deciding that this entire class of information was qualified as personal information within the meaning of the provisions of Section 8(1)(j) 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: Provided that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person. of the RTI Act. In this connection, it is very pertinent to cite the decision of the Supreme Court of India in the SLP(C) No.27734 of 2012 (Girish R Deshpande Vs CIC and others) in which it has held that ‘the performance of an employee/officer in an organization 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 could cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of that individual’. The Supreme Court further held that such information could be disclosed only if it would serve a larger public interest. The information sought by the Appellant in this case is about some complaints made against a government official and any possible action the authorities might have taken on those complaints. It is, thus clearly the kind of information which is envisaged in the above Supreme Court order. Therefore, the information is completely exempted from disclosure under the provisions of the RTI Act which both the CPIO and the Appellate Authority have rightly cited in their respective orders.’
6. The Appellant on the other hand made serious allegations against the officers of the Respondent Public Authority even demanding their identity cards to disclose their exact identity. During the hearing she did not hesitate to make unreasonable remarks including allegations against the Commission. She was rude in her behavior and not ready to hear the questions of the Commission to respond, instead she was shouting that even the Commission should not find out the purpose of the RTI application to ascertain the public interest. She did not allow the hearing to go on with her continuous shouting and went on angrily abusing till she left the hearing room. The Appellant contended that this statement by Ms. Susheela Kumari is a specific complaint whereas the Respondent justified their answer that there was no specific complaint.
7. The Commission has quasi judicial powers, and empowered to conduct enquiry and recommend disciplinary action against public servant, as explained by the Supreme Court in Namit Sharma vs. Union of India reported 2013 (1) SCC 745, which was referred by Madras High Court in P. Jayasankar Vs Chief Secretary to Government of Tamil Nadu and Gunaseelan, I.P.S. [W.P. Nos. 3776 and 3778 of 2013] whereby the Court extracted paragraphs 37, 62, 74 and 80: “13. The Supreme Court vide its judgment in Namit Sharma vs. Union of India reported 2013 (1) SCC 745 had dealt with the scope of Section 20 of the R.T.I. Act and declared that the Information Commission exercises a quasi judicial power.
37. … The Central/State Information can, under Section 20(2), even direct disciplinary action again the erring Public Information Officers. Further, the appropriate Government and the competent authority have been empowered to frame under Sections 27 and 28 of the Act of 2005, respectively, for carrying out the provisions of the Act. …. 62..... Under the provisions of the Act, particularly Sections 4, 12, 18, 19, 20, 22, 23 and 25, it is clear that the Central or State Information Commission, as the case may be, not only exercises adjudicatory powers of a nature no different than a judicial tribunal, but is vested with the powers of a civil court as well. Therefore, it is required to decide a lis, where information is required by a person and its furnishing is contested by the other. …. Hence, the Commission has powers to pass orders having civil as well as penal consequences. Besides this, the Commission has been given monitory and recommendatory powers. In terms of Section 23, the jurisdiction of the civil courts has been expressly barred.
74.... It is clear that the authorities concerned, particularly the Information Commission, possess the essential attributes and trappings of a court. Its powers and functions, as defined under the Act of 2005 also sufficiently indicate that it has adjudicatory powers quite akin to the court system. They adjudicate matters of serious consequences. The Commission may be called upon to decide how far the right to information is affected where information sought for is denied or whether the information asked for is "exempted" or impinges upon the "right to privacy" or where it falls in the "nogo area" of applicability of the Act. It is not mandatory for the authorities to allow all requests for information in a routine manner. The Act of 2005 imposes an obligation upon the authorities to examine such matter seriously being fully cautions of its consequences and effects on the right of others. It may be a simple query for information but an have far reaching consequences upon the right of a third party or an individual with regard to whom such information is sought. Undue inroad into the right to privacy of an individual which is protected under Article 21 of the Constitution of India or any other law in force would not be permissible. In Gobind v. State of M.P., this Court held that (SCC p. 155, para 22) 22... privacy dignity claims deserve to be examined with care and to be denied only when an important countervailing interest is shown to be superior. In Ram Jethmalani v. Union of India, this (Supreme) Court has observed that the right to privacy is an integral part of the right to life. Thus, the decision making process by these authorities is not merely of an administrative nature. The functions of these authorities are more aligned towards the judicial functions of the courts rather than mere administrative acts of the State authority. Madras High Court finally said: “In view of the above finding, henceforth, no information seeker can be allowed to insinuate or defame the Commissioners in the guise of prosecuting their cases”. It also stated: 14. Under such circumstances, when specific power is vested on the Commissioner and the Commission had proceeded against the information seeker, who had abused the Chief Information Commissioner in the course of his proceedings, it will be open to the said authority to disqualify a particular information seeker by passing a speaking order.” The allegations made by the representative of information seeker, in this case Ms. Swathi Yadav, in the presence of officers of representative authority, Legal Consultants and other staff of the Commission besides parties who came into room for hearing the next appeal, that the Commission was biased towards respondents are irresponsible, defamatory and baseless. Her conduct during hearing was not appropriate. The legal and factual position need to be discussed and the respondent authority’s representative had to be heard. If that was viewed and suspected as bias and pro Respondent Authority, it will be highly objectionable. Her conduct in representing information seeker was irritating, she was intemperate and quite disturbing besides hurling several insinuations against all including this Commissioner. At a time it was impossible for the Commission to go ahead with the performance of duty. She had exhibited no remorse and continued spoiling peace, dignity and decorum of the Commissions’ court room. Had it been a court of law, her conduct would have amounted to physical interference with the process of hearing and hence could have held to be ‘contemptuous’. The Commission prefers to admonish her for her reckless and defamatory remarks during hearing and warns her not to repeat the same and any repetition of such conduct would invite the disqualification as held by the Madras High Court in above referred case, besides reserving the right to proceed against her in both civil and criminal proceedings. The Commission advises the appellant not to engage such irresponsible people to represent.
8. After looking into the facts and legal position the Commission concludes that the information sought has been given as per the record of the Public authority and the appeal is dismissed.
(M. Sridhar Acharyulu)
Citation: Chob Singh v. Education Dept., GNCTD in Case No. CIC/DS/A/2013/001644SA