Appellant himself misplaced the record with the support of dealing assistant & asked for it through RTI - CIC was misled into imposing penalty of Rs. 25000/- CIC: penalty waived; appellant admonished for abuse of RTI & disciplinary action recommended
Appellant admonished for Abuse of RTI and Recommended action for recovery and discipline, etc.
This is a case of serious misuse of RTI and suppression of record by the appellant himself for securing undue benefit of encashment of leaves which he has already availed. From the depositions and submissions of various officers harassed by him it is revealed that the appellant himself misplaced the record with the support of dealing assistant, and started asking for that record through RTI applications, which caused several rounds of hearing. The Commission was misled by this duo leading to imposition of penalty on an officer who was technically assumed to have suppressed the file. However imposition of fine of Rs 25,000 caused the wonder and misplaced file was discovered in a combined effort of all officers who were victimized by his RTI. With the discovery of file, the fact of false claim of 19 days EL was revealed and fortunately the officer who was fined based on the complaint of appellant was saved.
Exercising powers under Section 18(2) Where the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to inquire into the matter, it may initiate an inquiry in respect thereof. Where the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to inquire into the matter, it may initiate an inquiry in respect thereof. the Commission directs the public authority to conduct inquiry against the appellant and his supporter for ‘suppression of files’, false claim of 19 days Earned leave, causing criminal wastage of time of several senior officers, causing mental harassment for the colleagues for which they are entitled to initiate separate legal actions individually, causing wastage of this Commission’s time and to collect appropriate amount of damages from him.
The Commission also recommends the public authority to initiate action against appellant and his assistant as his misconduct could amount to a crime under Indian Penal Code and Public Record Act, 1993 resulting in appropriate penalty under law. The Commission records its admonition against him for this gross misuse of RTI and directs the Public Authority to put this order in public domain and notice board so that unscrupulous abusers feel ashamed of abusing RTI.
1. The Appellant filed an RTI application dt.21.1.13 with the PIO, DIET, Pitampura seeking the following information:
i) Photocopy of attendance register showing that he was on leave w.e.f 2.1.12 to 20.1.12.
ii) Photocopy of leave application submitted by him w.e.f 2.1.12 to 20.1.12
iii) Leave sanction letter by Principal at the time of applying leave i.e. in January 2, 2012 sanctioning leaves w.e.f 2.1.12 to 20.1.12
iv) Copy of diary/despatch register showing the leave application was submitted for diary on 2.1.12 and also showing joining diary no. with date.
v) Name of Principal who sanctioned his leave leave in January 2012 for the period 2.1.12 to 20.1.12.
vi) Provide dates when the leaves were sanctioned for the period 2.1.12 to 20.1.12.
vii) Provide name of the Principal who sanctioned leave and when.
2. The Commission heard the matter on 29th April 2014 and pronounced decision on 5th May 2014. The Paras 5 to 8 of the above decision are reproduced below:
5. In this appeal the appellant is seeking photo copies of attendance register showing that he was on leave w.e.f. 212012 to 2012012, photocopy of the leave application submitted by him for this period, leave sanction letter, extracts of diary/dispatch register showing the relevant entries of his leave application, name of the Principal who sanctioned his leave in January 2012, etc. Having received no reply within the prescribed period, the appellant preferred first appeal. First Appellate Authority in his order stated that as the file was under submission to the SCERT, the information will be given after receiving the same. The appellant has submitted before the commission that the respondents have deliberately harmed him by falsely debiting 19 days leave from his leave account for the period 212012 to 2012012, even though he did not apply for leave for that period.
6. The respondents have submitted that all the records including those from which information sought by the appellant, were under submission to the State Council of Educational Research & Training(SCERT) in connection with the appointment of a fact finding committee to go into the allegations made by the appellant and hence information could not be given. Joint Director, SCERT is the chairman of the said committee. The said Committee seized all the relevant records for this purpose. This shows how cleverly the information was denied to him. Because the appellant was asserting that ‘leave’ was falsely created, the officers took the lame excuse of ínquiry’and denied the information en bloc.
7. They further stated that the relevant attendance register was misplaced by the custodian of records, Ms. Reena Sharma, DDO. No other record is available in the office regarding the leave of appellant for that period, except a note sheet in his personal file in which the dealing assistant has written that the appellant was on leave from 2112 to 2012012, which was endorsed by the Office Superintendent, Ms. Reena Sharma and approved by the Principal of the Institute and the same was supplied to the appellant, but the appellant denied having received it.
8. From the submissions and letters shown to the Commission by the appellant, the Commission observes that the appellant’s claim that the Principal has unnecessarily debited leave in his service book, even though he did not avail the leave for that period, appears to be correct prima facie from the letter dt. 1682013 written by Dr. Kusum Sharma, Principal to the Principal, DIET, Keshav Puram asking her to credit the leave to his account. The appellant also shown another photo copy of a note, wherein one Mr. Purushotham who dealt with the file, stated that on the basis of diary register, the appellant had not taken leave from 212012 to 2012012. He has also shown the copies of extracts of the diary register during that period, giving in a chronological order the list of letters received by the office and there is no entry of the appellant’s leave application during that period. The Commission, therefore, concludes that there is no force in the claim of the respondent authority, that the relevant attendance register is misplaced. The respondent authority could not explain why action was not taken against the employees who were responsible for misplacing the record, if that was true. . The Commission, therefore, directs the respondent authority to (1) initiate enquiry into the allegations of
missing records, fix responsibility on the officers concerned and take disciplinary action (2) to furnish the desired information to the appellant relating to his leave application, sanctioned letter and other correspondence pertaining to his EL for the relevant period, within 15 days from the date of receipt of this order and (3) to show cause why maximum penalty cannot be imposed on the concerned PIO, Dr. Anul Sharma, Ms. Reena Sharma, OS and Mr. Devender Kumar, Dealing Assistant, for obstructing the furnishing of required information to the appellant. Their explanation should reach the Commission within 3 weeks from the date of receipt of this order.
3. The case was further heard on 25.6.14 and decision pronounced on 4.7.14. The Paras 2 to 11 of the said decision is reproduced below:
3. In compliance of the CIC order, the Appellate Authority vide letter dt.20.5.14 issued show cause notice to Dr.Anjul Sharma, PIO, Ms.Reena Shrma, Office Supdt., and Shri Devender Kumar, Dealing Assistant.
4. The reply furnished by Dr.Anjul Sharma on 27.5.14 is as follows:
I as exPIO tried my best to get the reply and documents from the custodian of the record Ms.Reena Sharma, OS in respect of two RTIs of Shri Harsh Vardhan. Dr.Sunil Kumar, FAA was repeatedly informed by PIO both verbal and written to give directions to OS to provide me the documents but FAA neither gave reply nor provided any documents inspite of my repeated time bound requests and CIC directions. Following documents have not been provided till date Information related to leaves of Ms.Reena Sharma and residential address
Photocopy of attendance register showing that Shri Harsh Vardhan was on leave w.e.f 2.1.12 to 20.1.12.
Photocopy of leave application Leave application letter by Principal
Copy of Diary/Despatch register showing the leave application was submitted
Date when leave were sanctioned.
When I failed to get any reply from FAA and OS, I finally wrote a letter to the applicant on 9.1.13 mentioned ‘the above officers were asked to provide the above said documents but
official concerned is not willing to disclose the information and documents
under RTI Act, Section 8(1). This is for your information’
This was issued with the prior approval of Dr.Sunil Kumar, FAA
This implies that FAA was well aware of the facts that custodian of the record was not providing the documents. Three letters were written to FAA and OS to supply the documents as I exhausted all channels to get the documents.
Dr.Anjul Sharma added that she was issued a show cause notice stating that FAA directed the PIO to provide the said information vide order dt.20.11.12 and 14.6.13 whereas no such directions/orders had never been issued to her.
When she asked FAA to provide the copy of orders, FAA filed to do so. She also requested for imposition of penalty on Dr.Sunil Kumar, FAA and Ms.Reena Sharma, OS for obstructing the supply of information.
5. In her letter dt.2.6.14, Dr.Anjul Sharma explains the efforts made by her to get the information from the OS and when she failed, she sought assistance from FAA and Director of SCERT.
6. In her reply dt.23.5.14, Ms.Reena Sharma, OS submits that the RTI application dt.24.1.13 was replied on 4.2.13 and to the Appellate Authority on 21.6.13. She added that with regard to the photocopies of the personal file of Shri Harsh Vardhan, the same will be provided by the custodian of the personal records i.e. Dealing Assistant. She also states that custodian of all these records is Shri Devender Kumar and keys are maintained by him only. According to her, it was Shri Devender Kumar who was in the habit of providing copies of important documents to Shri Harsh Vardhan. She also adds that her service book is not lying in the almirah of Shri Devender Kumar and this fact is brought to the notice of the Principal for further action and it is her belief that her personal information is being furnished by Shri Devender Kumar to the RTI application in a clandestine manner. During the hearing, she alleged that RTI applicant and Shri Devender Kumar were hand in glove and were harassing her with false claims.
7. Shri Devender Kumar, Dealing Assistant in his reply dt.16.6.14 addressed to the CIC states that he was never asked to furnish any document in respect of Shri Harsh Vardhan by FAA or PIO or OS as all the documents were in the custody of above said officials from day one. He states that in para 3 of the show cause notice issued to him by the FAA, FAA himself mentions that directions are issued to PIO and deemed PIO only to furnish the document. Nowhere his name was mentioned by FAA nor any directions were given. He also requested the Commission to direct Secretary(Education) to order independent enquiry for the theft of documents from the custody of FAA and OS and involving others in the said controversy to cover up their own wrong doings. In reply to the show cause notice issued by FAA, Shri Devender Kumar in his reply dt.26.5.14 states that
8. Dr.Kusum Sharma, Principal, DIET, Pitampura in her letter dt.15.10.13 addressed to Principal, DIET, Keshavpuram stated that during the tenure of Dr.Sunil Kumar, the then Principal, the attendance register was found missing and the same was reported to him in the month of October 2012 and later on file was sent to SCERT. Apart from the missing of attendance register, she also stated that papers diarized/dispatched have been torn, also the relevant papers were neither available in office nor in the personal file of Shri Harsh Vardhan. Giving benefit of doubt, Dr.Kusum Sharma concluded that Shri Harsh Vardhan did not avail leave and wrote to DIET, Keshavpuram to credit 19 days EL so that his dues were cleared before his superannuation.
9. The Commission on perusal of the explanations submitted is of the opinion that the principal person who is being accused by Dr.Anjul Sharma and Dr.Kusum Sharma for obstructing the supply of information and for destruction of records is Dr.Sunil Kumar, the First Appellate Authority. Even
Shri Devender Kumar who is accused of being hand in glove with the RTI applicant by Ms.Reena Sharma has also indirectly blamed Shri Sunil Kumar. Shri Sunil Kumar in his letter dt.20.6.14 has stated that in compliance with the directions of the CIC, Show Cause Notice dt.20.5.14 were issued to
Dr.Anjul Sharma, Ms.Reena Sharma and Shri Devender Kumar. Shri Sunil Kumar while enclosing the replies furnished by these officials in his letter also states that he is not satisfied with the reply and requested the Commission to pass necessary directs as far as imposition of penalty is concerned. The
Commission also observed that Shri Sunil Kumar has not responded to the show cause issued by the Commission vide its notice dt.12.6.14. He has also not refuted the allegations made by the officials against him for obstructing the supply of information. Being a Principal and First Appellate Authority of the Public Authority, he should have used his authority in supplying the information within the time limit. Instead, he chose to blame his subordinates. In the absence of explanation from Shri Sunil Kumar, Commission assumes that he does not have any explanation to give and the conduct of Shri Sunil Kumar as appearing from the submissions made by three officials, holds him guilty of obstructing the supply of information.
10. The Commission, therefore, holds Shri Sunil Kumar, Appellate Authority of being guilty for obstructing the supply of information. The Commission, therefore, imposes a maximum penalty
of Rs.25,000/on Shri Sunil Kumar.
11. The Director, SCERT is directed to recover the amount of Rs.25,000/from the salary payable to Shri Sunil Kumar, Appellate Authority by way of Demand Draft drawn in favour of ‘PAO CAT’ in 5 equal monthly instalments. The first instalment should reach the Commission by 10th
September, 2014 and the last instalment should reach by 10th January, 2015.
The Demand Draft should be sent to Shri Tarun Kumar, Joint Secretary &
Additional Registrar Central Information Commission, Bhikaji Cama Place,
August Kranti Bhawan, New Delhi 110 066.
CIC/AD/C/2013/001195 Page 7
4. Aggrieved with this order, Dr. Sunil Kumar, Appellate Authority submitted a representation dt.22.7.2014 seeking withdrawal of penalty. His response to the charges made by Dr.Anjul Sharma, Dr.Kusum Sharma, Ms.Reena Sharma and Shri Devender Singh are reproduced below:
i). Charge by Dr Anjul Sharma: FAA was repeatedly informed by PIO both verbal and written to give directions to O.S and that reply to RTI was ‘This issues with the prior approval of FAA, Dr. Sunil Kumar.
a) Reply by Sunil Kumar: The said RTI is related to leave records of CCL and EL availed for LTC in the months June July 2011, attendance register thereof and also HRA being drawn by Ms. Reena Sharma. Both O.S and PIO repeatedly replied to the appellant that it is 3rd party information and can’t be revealed. Recently, in June 2014, in a similar case, Dr. Anjul Sharma, PIO has been found guilty of wrongly drawing HRA residing in Govt. accommodation for past many years(in an enquiry set up by Secretary education at SCERT). An order to recover Rs.4,66,130/along with action to be taken against her is issued by highest authority.
b) The reply of PIO given at the stage was not only incomplete but incorrect and fabricated as well. At no stage, any approval was sought from me as FAA even after clear directions to provide relevant information within fifteen days.
c) Dr.Sunil Kumar further adds that he was posted at DIET Pitampura as Principal with effect from 30.1.12 to 23.1.13 and subsequently w.e.f 1.2.14 to till date.
d) During the period 23.1.13 to 31.1.14 (RTI application was dt.21.1.13), he was neither the Principal nor the Appellate Authority, DIET, Pitampura.
e) Dr. Sunil Kumar was not posted in any capacity in the said institute, rather the following were the Principals i.e. Md. Zamir, Dr. Kusum Bhatia and Dr. Kusum Sharma and also the Appellate Authority during filing of reply to Shri Harshvardhan and FAA’s hearing.
f) To the charge of Dr.Anjul Sharma that FAA was repeatedly informed by PIO both verbal and written to give directions to O.S, Dr. Sunil Kumar states that he was not posted in DIET Pitampura as Principal or any other capacity during the said period.
g) Dr.Sunil Kumar also produced an email dt.10.6.13 written by Dr.Anjul Sharma to Director, SCERT which is reproduced below:
I am PIO of DIET, Pitampura. There is an appeal (received in DIET Pitampura on 14.5.13) to reply of RTI of Shri Harsh Vardhan dt.11.4.13. Date of appeal was fixed on 7.6.13 with the consent of Dr.Kusum Bhatia after taking charge by her. She attended meeting as First Appellate on 7.6.13 at 12.00 p.m. Now she is saying that she is not First Appellate and Dr.Alka Kalra is First Appellate of DIET, Pitampura. One month will be over on 14.6.13. I request you to please clear that who is First Appellate of DIET, Pitampura. Reply of other RTIs are also pending’.
h) The above email clearly shows that Dr.Kusum Bhatia was then Principal/FAA and that Dr.Kusum Sharma took over as Principal/FAA w.e.f July 2013 to January 2014.
ii). Charge by Ms.Reena Sharma, O.S Photocopies of personal records will be provided by the Dealing Assistant, Shri Devender Kumar, LDC. She also alleged that her personal information is being furnished by Shri Devender Kumar to the RTI applicant in a clandestine manner. Also RTI applicant and Shri Devender Kumar were hand in glove and were harassing her with false claim
a) Reply of Dr.Sunil Kumar: I was not posted in the said Institute in
any capacity during the time; rather the then Principals/FAAs were responsible for furnishing the replies. Yet, they did not carry out directions issued by Vigilance Officer, SCERT and never even named erring officials or frame any chargesheet as directed by SCERT in the case.
b) Dr. Sunil Kumar, further adds that when Hon’ble issued show cause notice to all concerned including Shri Devender Kumar, dealing assistant for imposing penalty, Mr.Devender wrote a letter to the Principal enquiring about his reply. Surprisingly it is noticed that the said letter was written in the
handwriting of Shri Harshvardhan (Appellant) and signed by Shri Devender Kumar. This proves beyond doubt that Shri Devender Kumar is working at the behest of Shri Harshvardhan(Appellant) under his guidance to realize his ulterior motives. It is clear who is behind the missing attendance register of academic staff, relevant pages of diary register of the period being torn and who helped him in this conspiracy so as to get the benefits of 300 earned leave at the time of superannuation.
iii) Charge by Shri Devender Kumar: FAA or PIO or OS never asked to furnish any document in respect of RTI of Shri Harshvardhan dt.24.1.14. He also requested for independent enquiry…….from the custody of FAA and OS
a) Reply by Dr.Sunil Kumar: I was not posted in the said Institute in any capacity during the time. It is well known fact that custodian of papers/documents are the dealing assistant and O.S. He also enclosed an order dt.20.12.11 signed by Dr.V.P.Singh, Principal which is reproduced below:
Mr.Davender Kumar, LDC is hereby directed to keep the attendance register along with order & movement register out of almirah in administration.
Also, please submit one key of the almirah under your charge to OS(Admn.) as early as possible.
b) It is known fact that FAA has no role to instruct or direct the dealing assistant to provide information as it is obligatory on part of custodians to give the information in his possession as and when it is required by PIO.
(it would be of consequence to point out that it was later noticed at DIET Keshavpuram, that the total no. of Earned Leave in respect of Shri Harshvardhan are less than 300 at the time of his retirement which may cause monetary loss to him. It may be inferred that Shri Harshvardhan along with Shri
Devnder Kumar, dealing assistant conspired to achieve their objective. It was possible with the help of Shri Devender Kumar who was continuously in touch with Mr.Harshvardhan even after transfer to DIET, Keshavpuram.
iv) Charge made by Dr.Kusum Sharma: The para 8 of the order dt.4.7.14 mentions that Dr.Kusum Sharma, then Principal DIET Pitampura wrote a letter to DIET Keshavpuram stating that relevant papers were not available in personal file of Shri Harsh Vardhan and credited 19 days E.L to him giving him the benefit of doubt.
a) Reply of Dr.Sunil Kumar:
1) Dr.Kusum Sharma is drawing full T.A in her salary illegally, despite having official vehicle as principal w.e.f 2010 onwards, the case is being investigated at SCERT ‘Fact finding committee’ and recovery would amount to approx. Rs.1.5 lakhs.
2) Ms.Reena Sharma availed LTC illegally in June 2001 during CCL, tampering with leave records/service book with the approval of Dr.Kusum Sharma and converting into E.L (verifying
and attesting it herself over the principal’s stamp) to prevent recovery of Rs.58,921/and amount of 10 days encashment of E.L.
b) In both the cases, Appellant was blackmailing them that he would complaint and they would have to pay not only heavy amounts but also face disciplinary action. It is important to point out that leaves were credited to the Appellant without the permission or any approval of Head Office, SCERT, where the case is being investigated by ‘Fact finding committee’. The decision was taken on the level of the then Principal, Dr. Kusum Sharma, hurriedly and overlooking all the facts of the case giving him the benefit of doubt(on recommendation of O.S.Ms.Reena Sharma). However, the Head Office, SCERT has never approved this recommendation of DIETPitampur forwarded by Principal Keshavpuram (wherein she has categorically specified for further investigation). SCERT has taken a strong note of it and considered Dr. Kusum Sharma’s decision as arbitrary.
c) Also Dr. Kusum Sharma neither took any interest in already initiated enquiry or carried out the directions of Vigilance Officer, SCERT in this regard. It is clear that Dr.Kusum Sharma, then Principal and Ms. Reena Sharma, OS(Admn.) had never tried to expedite the matter for further investigation which they received time to time from SCERT. Rather they credited 19 days leaves illegally on 15.10.13 on Appellant’s request dt.24.7.13 to revert back, putting all the blame on him (Dr.Sunil Kumar).
d) This needs no further explanation as to why the Principal Dr.Kusum Sharma who was due to retire in 3 months time, hurriedly credited his leave. Also OS, who had initially verified his availing of leave, now recommended for credited it. They conspired to give him benefit as they were sailing in the same boat.
v) The Para 9 of the order dt.4.7.14 is reproduced below:
‘9. The Commission on perusal of the explanations submitted is of the opinion that the principal person who is being accused by Dr. Anjul Sharma and Dr.Kusum Sharma for obstructing the supply of information and for destruction of records is Dr.Sunil Kumar, the First Appellate Authority. Even Shri Devender Kumar who is accused of being hand in glove with the RTI applicant by Ms.Reena
Sharma has also indirectly blamed Shri Sunil Kumar. Shri Sunil Kumar in his letter dt.20.6.14 has stated that in compliance with the directions of the CIC, Show Cause Notice dt.20.5.14 were issued to Dr.Anjul Sharma, Ms.Reena Sharma and Shri Devender Kumar. Shri Sunil Kumar while enclosing the replies furnished by these officials in his letter also states that he is not satisfied with the reply and
requested the Commission to pass necessary directs as far as imposition of penalty is concerned. The Commission also observed that Shri Sunil Kumar has not responded to the show cause issued by the Commission vide its notice dt.12.6.14. He has also not refuted the allegations made by the officials against him for obstructing the supply of information. Being a Principal and First Appellate
Authority of the Public Authority, he should have used his authority in supplying the information within the time limit. Instead, he chose to blame his subordinates. In the absence of explanation from Shri Sunil Kumar, Commission assumes that he does not have any explanation to give and the conduct of Shri Sunil Kumar as appearing from the submissions made by three officials, holds him guilty of obstructing the supply of information.’
a) Reply of Dr. Sunil Kumar: The facts mentioned above along with all the copies of records/orders make it crystal clear that he has never obstructed and destructed information at any stage. Rather, he had left no stone unturned to initiate the enquiry and also timely, forwarded the case to vigilance, SCERT, wherein a ‘fact finding committee’ is constituted which is also investigating the issue in respect of Shri Harshvardhan (leave records), Ms.Reena Sharma(leave records, claiming HRA despite having Govt. accommodation) and Dr.Kusum Sharma (claiming transport allowance despite having official vehicle).
5. The Commission on perusal of the submissions made by Dr.Sunil Kumar observed that he was not posted in DIET, Pitampura as Principal or any other capacity during the period 23.1.13 to 31.1.14. Hence, the Commission vide its notice dt.19.8.14 directed Shri Sunil Kumar, Principal and FAA, Dr. Kusum Sharma, the then Principal, DIET Pitampura, Ms. Reena Sharma, OS, Dr. Anjul Sharma, PIO
and Shri Devender Kumar to submit their show cause explanation in the form of affidavit and be present personally before the Commission on 12.9.14 at 12.00 Noon.
6. Dr. Sunil Kumar, Principal submitted his affidavit vide letter dt.27.8.14 and additional affidavit vide letter dt.4.9.14. Shri Devinder Kumar submitted his affidavit vide letter dt.3.9.14. Dr.Kusum Sharma, Dr.Anjul Sharma and Ms.Reena Sharma submitted their affidavits on 9.9.14.
7. During the hearing held on 12.9.14, the following were present:
i) Dr. Ram Kishan, DIET, Pitampura
ii) Dr. Anjul Sharma, DIET, Pitampura
iii) Shri Devinder Kumar, DIET, Pitampura
iv) Dr. Sunil Kumar, Principal, DIET
v) Dr. Kusum Sharma, Ex Principal
vi) Ms. Reena Sharma, OS
8. During the hearing, Ms. Reena Sharma, OS submitted that during general service records verification they made special search for the file in this case, they could find the documents in folded form in different files. Unless each page is flipped and searched such folded documents could not be discovered. Thus, the officer suspects that it has been done deliberately by the person who wants to be benefitted by such misplacement. From the discovered file, it is disclosed that Appellant, Shri Harsh Vardhan, Sr. Lecturer, DIET, Keshavpuram has availed the leave from 2.1.12 to 20.1.12. Appellant has deceptively framed RTI questions asking for copy of that leave register which was hidden by him and then proceeding further to impose penalty for nonproduction.
In one sentences, appellant is seeking the copies of documents which he himself has misplaced. Dr. Kusum Sharma submitted that Dileep Kumar, dealing assistant told her that there was no record and despite her efforts records could not be found and benefit of doubt was given to the Appellant in whose account the leaves were credited as if he has not availed while the truth was otherwise. Dr.
Sunil Kumar submitted that Dr. Alka Kalra, Principal, DIET, Keshavpuram did not agree with the claim of appellant and she wanted the matter to be probed further by SCERT. On her request, SCERT took a serious note and it and nineteen days leave was debited from the Appellant’s leave account.
9. The Commission concludes that the appellant misled his own office to benefit himself and misled this Commission to impose penalty on innocent and sincere officer for technical reasons. Imposition fine of Rs 25,000 caused the wonder and misplaced file was discovered by combined effort of all officers who were victimized by the harassing questions of the appellant. With the discovery of file, the fact of false claim of 19 days EL was revealed and fortunately the officer who was fined based on the complaint of appellant was saved.
10. The Commission finds it as fraudulent abuse of RTI and process of second appeal by appellant and his supporter Dilip Kumar. This reflects a very pathetic state of affairs of records and selfish involvement of Appellant in hiding the records for his monitory benefit. Appellant Harsha Vardhan did not satisfy with the fraudulent encashment of 19 ELs but conspired to harass his colleagues by abusing the Right to Information Act.
11. The Commission finds that it is unscrupulous abuse of RTI by such a senior officer unbecoming of his stature and education misplaced the record, suppressed the information and wrongfully claimed public money besides harassing officers with RTI application deserve to be disqualified. Hon’ble
Madras High Court in P. Jayasankar v Chief Secretary to Government of Tamil Nadu and Gunaseelan, IPS [W.P No. 3776 & 3778/2013] decided on 18.2.2013 explained powers and duties of the Commission as follows :
“12. … as regards the question as to whether the particular information seeker can be disqualified or blacklisted from sending further representation having regard to the conduct of the concerned person, certainly if a person abuses the process of law and also insinuating the Commission.
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. The Commission exercises two kinds of penal powers; firstly, in terms of Section 20(1), it can impose penalty upon the defaulters or violators of the provisions of the Act and, secondly, Section 20(2) Where the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be, at the time of deciding any complaint or appeal is of the opinion that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, has, without any reasonable cause and persistently, failed to receive an application for information or has not furnished information within the time specified under sub-section (1) of section 7 or malafidely denied the request for information or knowingly given incorrect, incomplete or misleading information or destroyed information which was the subject of the request or obstructed in any manner in furnishing the information, it shall recommend for disciplinary action against the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, under the service rules applicable to him. empowers the Central and the State Information Commission to conduct an enquiry and direct the disciplinary authority concerned to take appropriate action against the erring officer in accordance with law. 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.
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 "noCIC/
go area" of applicability of the Act. It is not mandatory for the authorities toallow all requests for information in a routine manner. The Act of 2005 imposes an obligation upon the authoritiesto 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.
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.
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.“
12. Though the Commission finds that this a fit case to disqualify the abuser of RTI using the powers and duties under RTI Act as interpreted by Madras High Court in the above referred case, the Commission prefers to admonish the appellant and warn not to repeat such misbehavior.
13. Exercising powers under Section 18(2) Where the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to inquire into the matter, it may initiate an inquiry in respect thereof. Where the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to inquire into the matter, it may initiate an inquiry in respect thereof. the Commission directs the public authority to conduct inquiry against the appellant and his supporter for ‘suppression of files’, false claims of 19 days Earned leave, leading to criminal wastage of time of several senior officers, causing mental harassment for the colleagues, for which they are entitled to initiate separate legal actions individually, and causing wastage of this Commission’s time and to collect appropriate amount of damages from him.
14. The Commission records its admonition against him for this gross misuse of RTI and directs the Public Authority to put this order in public domain and notice board so that unscrupulous abusers feel ashamed of abusing RTI.
15. The Commission also recommends the public authority to initiate action against appellant and his assistant as his misconduct could amount to a crime under Indian Penal Code and Public Record Act, 1993 resulting in appropriate penalty under law.
16. The Commission also recommends the Respondent Public Authority to probe into the suspected wrongful association of Shri Devinder Kumar who was Dealing Assistant and take necessary action depending on the findings of the enquiry.
17. The Commission in view of the discovery of the file and detailed explanation submitted by Dr. Sunil Kumar withdraws the order dt.4.7.14 imposing the penalty of Rs.25,000/on him.
18. The case is closed at the Commission’s end.
Citation: Harsh Vardhan v. District Institute of Education & Training (D.I.E.T) in CIC/AD/A/2013/001195SA