The Appellant sought confirmation that no action was warranted on his complaint made to the IT Deptt. - CIC: Provide a reply to the Appellant explaining the details of the action taken on his complaints as soon as the investigation is completed
O R D E R
The Appellant vide his RTI application sought information on 04 queries seeking confirmation that no action was warranted and that no such action would be taken in future on his complaint made to the concerned Department and issues related thereto. The CPIO vide its reply dated 26.08.2016 transferred the matter to the ACIT, Circle 35(1), New Delhi and directed to take necessary action in the matter also for providing sought information to the Appellant. Dissatisfied by the response of the CPIO, the Appellant approached the FAA. The FAA order is not on the record of the Commission.
The Appellant vide his RTI application sought information on 03 queries regarding a copy of action taken on his letters dated 06.05.2016 and 30.06.2016, and office order dated 25.09.2016. The CPIO, vide its letter dated 14.03.2017, denied disclosure of information as per Section 8 (1) (j) of the RTI Act, 2005. Dissatisfied by the response of the CPIO, the Appellant approached the FAA. The FAA vide its letter dated 11.04.2017 requested the Appellant to appear in his office on 24.04.2017. HEARING:
Facts emerging during the hearing:
The following were present:
Appellant: Mr. O P Gandhi;
Respondent: Mr. Gaurav, Inspector;
The Appellant reiterated the contents of the RTI application and stated that no satisfactory information had been provided in the matters, till date and that an exemption under 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. was incorrectly claimed by the Respondent since the information sought did not relate to a Third Party as he himself was the complainant in these matters. In its reply, the Respondent submitted that a suitable reply was provided by the CPIO vide letter dated 11.04.2017 and an opportunity of hearing on 21.04.2017 was granted to the Appellant which he did not avail off. Subsequently, an order was passed by the FAA on 28.04.2017 whereby a direction was given to the ACIT to take appropriate action against the letters dated 22.02.2016 and 23.06.2016 filed by the Appellant. It was also submitted that no concrete evidence was produced by the Appellant in support of his complaints. The Appellant contested the aforementioned submission and stated that false and misleading statements were made by the Respondent as he had received a notice of hearing before the FAA on 21.04.2017 itself and therefore it was practically impossible for him to be present on the same day. It was also stated that he was not in receipt of the order of the FAA dated 28.04.2017. During the hearing, a copy of the aforementioned FAA order was handed over to the Appellant which was acknowledged by him. On being queried whether in respect of the allegations of corruption and malpractices made by him as a whistle blower, if he had approached the Chairman, CBEC/DG(Vig.)/CBI etc., he replied in the negative.
The Commission observed that no documents were placed before the Commission by the Respondent with regard to the action taken by them in compliance with the FAA order dated 28.04.2017. On a closer perusal of the documents available on record, it was observed that in Appeal No.:- CIC/DOREV/A/2017/193989-BJ, the queries of the Appellant were not in the nature of information as defined under Section 2(f) “information” means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force; of the RTI Act, 2005.However, with regard to Appeal No. CIC/CCITD/A/2017/129900-BJ, the Commission observed that being the Complainant himself, the Appellant was entitled to know the broad outcome of the action taken on his complaints and a suitable response to such extent was required to be furnished by the Respondent.
The Commission observed that the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in the matter of Kamal Bhasin v. Radha Krishna Mathur and Ors., W.P.(C) 7218/2016 dated 01.11.2017 had held as under:
“6. In the present case, the petitioner stands as a relator party as he is also one of the complainants. The petitioner is not seeking any personal information regarding respondent No. 3, but merely seeks to know the outcome of the complaint made by him and other such complaints. The PFC Officers Association had pointed out certain conduct which according to them was irregular and warranted disciplinary action; thus, they would be certainly entitled to know as to how their complaints have been treated and the results thereof.
7. Section 8 (1) (j) of the Act reads as under:-
"8. Exemption from disclosure of information.-(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen,- xxxxxxxxx (j) information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has not 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 Central Information Commission appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information."
8. It is apparent from the plain reading of the aforesaid clause that in order to claim exemption from disclosure of any information, the essential conditions that must be satisfied are: (i) that it is personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest; or (b) that it would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual. However, even if the aforesaid conditions are satisfied, the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the Appellate Authority may disclose the information if they are satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information.
9. The proviso of Section 8 (1) of the Act is also important and reads as under: "Provided that the information, which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person."
10. By virtue of the aforesaid proviso to Section 8(1) of the Act, it is enacted that information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person. In the present case, it was doubtful whether information as to the fate of the complaints can be considered as personal information that has no relationship with public interest or public activity. The activity of the Central Vigilance Department includes investigation and taking action in cases of corruption. Secondly, the complaint related to the allegations of misconduct and how these complaints were treated were clearly matter of public interest.
11 In the circumstances, this Court directs the respondent to disclose to the petitioner as to what action had been taken pursuant to his complaint and other similar complaints made against the then CMD. The petitioner would not be entitled to any notings and deliberations of the Group of Officers or Disciplinary Authority but only information as to what action was taken in relation to the complaints in question.”
The Commission in the decision of Shri Virag R. Dhulia v. Income Tax Department, Kolkata in CIC/LS/A/2009/001179 dated 18.02.2010 had held as under:
“It is to be noted that investigation into a TEP cannot be allowed to go on ad-infinitum and that it should be concluded in a reasonable time frame whereafter the broad outcome thereof needs to be communicated to the appellant i.e. whether the allegations made in the TEP are fully true, partially true or untrue. No further information needs to be disclosed at this stage.”
This Commission referred to the order dated 18/06/2013 (File No. CIC/RM/A/2012/000926 Sh. Ved Prakash Doda v/s ITO) wherein it was held as under:
“6. It has been the stand of the Commission that in respect of a tax evasion petition, once the investigation is completed, the appellant should be informed the broad results of the investigation, without disclosing any details. The appellant has a right to know as to whether the information provided by him was found to be true or false.”
As regards the issue of correctness of the investigations conducted by the Respondent, the Commission observed that it fell in the domain of redressal of grievance for which the Appellant should approach an appropriate forum.
Keeping in view the facts of the case and the submissions made by both the parties and in the light of natural justice, the Commission instructs the Respondent to provide a self contained reply to the Appellant explaining the details of the action taken by them on his complaints mentioned in Appeal No. CIC/CCITD/A/2017/129900-BJ, as soon as the investigation gets completed.
The Appeals stand disposed accordingly.
Ciation: Mr. O P Gandhi v. Income Tax in Appeal No.:- CIC/DOREV/A/2017/193989-BJ + CIC/CCITD/A/2017/129900-BJ, Date of Decision: 16.03.2018