Appellant sought information regarding action taken on his complaint to CVC & issues related thereto - CIC: RTI Act was promulgated to make the public authorities more transparent & accountable to public; Provide certified copy of CVC investigation report
O R D E R
The Appellant vide his RTI application sought information regarding action taken on his complaint to CVC dated 19.11.2012 and issues related thereto. The CPIO and Executive Director (RTI) vide its letter dated 25.11.2014, stated that the Public Authority had not received the aforesaid complaint and as such the record defined under Section 2(i) “record” includes. (a) any document, manuscript and file; (b) any microfilm, microfiche and facsimile copy of a document; (c) any reproduction of image or images embodied in such microfilm (whether enlarged or not); and (d) any other material produced by a computer or any other device; of the RTI Act, 2005 does not exist. Therefore he expressed his inability to accede to the request of the Appellant. Dissatisfied by the response of the CPIO, the Appellant approached the FAA. The FAA, vide its order dated 22.01.2015, concurred with the response of the CPIO.
Facts emerging during the hearing:
The following were present: Appellant: Mr. N. Saini (M: 09826097030) through VC;
Respondent: Mr. P. R. Mishra, Secretary (RTI), LIC Central Office, Mumbai (M: 8291416255) and Mrs. Nivedita Chanda, AO (M: 9004055562) through VC;
The Respondent informed the Commission that in the aforesaid case, hearing in the matter had already been conducted on 26.08.2015, however the Appellant was not present at the time of the hearing. The Appellant confirmed to the submission made by the Respondent in this regard and stated that vide orders of the High Court, the hearing before the Commission had been re-scheduled to the present date. However, the Commission was not in possession of any authentic records in this regard. The Appellant reiterated the contents of his RTI application and stated that substantive information had not been provided to him, till date. In its reply, the Respondent submitted that the CPIO vide its letter dated 25.11.2014 had stated that complaint referred in the RTI application was not traceable. However, subsequently, at the Appeal stage, when the Appellant appended a letter received from the CVC intimating about the registration details of his complaint under PIDPI, it could be traced out. Explaining the background of the case, the Respondent submitted that the subject matter was initially investigated in the year 2007 by their Internal Vigilance Department and involvement of 09 officials was found. The said officials were issued displeasure letter. Subsequently, on receipt of CVC reference dated 23.05.2013, the matter was again probed and factual report was sent to the CVC on 24.09.2013. The CVC vide its communication dated 05.06.2014 treated the matter as dealt with and closed it. On a query from the Commission regarding whether copy of the letter received from the CVC and report of investigations conducted during the year 2007 were provided to the Appellant, the Respondent replied in the negative. During the course of hearing, the Respondent also submitted that certified copies of the internal report of 2007 was exempted from disclosure as per Section 8 (1) (j) of the RTI Act, 2005 since the documents qualified as personal details of the Third Party. In reply, the Appellant argued that the information sought by him was in the larger public interest and the report denied to him by the Respondent had already been provided to him by the CVC, wherein references of systematic deficiencies were highlighted.
In this context, the Commission referred to the observations made by Hon’ble Court in the light of disclosure of information in “public interest”, keeping in view the true spirit behind the promulgation of the RTI Act, 2005, which are as under:
The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in SLP(C) NO. 7526/2009 (CBSE & Anr. Vs. Aditya Bandopadhyay & Ors) had observed as under:
“37. The right to information is a cherished right. Information and right to information are intended to be formidable tools in the hands of responsible citizens to fight corruption and to bring in transparency and accountability. The provisions of RTI Act should be enforced strictly and all efforts should be made to bring to light the necessary information under Clause (b) of Section 4(1) of the Act which relates to securing Page 3 of 4 transparency and accountability in the working of public authorities and in discouraging corruption”
The High Court of Delhi in General Manager Finance Air India Ltd & Anr v. Virender Singh, LPA No. 205/2012, Decided On: 16.07.2012 regarding the disclosure of information for public interest, held:
“8. The RTI Act, as per its preamble was enacted to enable the citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. An informed citizenry and transparency of information have been spelled out as vital to democracy and to contain corruption and to hold Governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed. The said legislation is undoubtedly one of the most significant enactments of independent India and a landmark in governance.”
Moreover, the purpose and object of the promulgation of the RTI Act, 2005 was to make the public authorities more transparent and accountable to the public and to provide freedom to every citizen to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, consistent with public interest, in order to promote openness, transparency and accountability in administration and in relation to matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
Much before the legislative enactment of the RTI Act, 2005, our Judiciary, in a progressive interpretation of the Constitutional provisions, had paved the way towards delineating the Right to Information. In 1975, in State of UP vs. Raj Narain (1975 AIR 865, 1975 SCR (3) 333), Justice Mathew had ruled:
“In a government of responsibility like ours, where all the agents of the public must be responsible for their conduct, there can be but few secrets. The people of this country have a right to know every public act, everything that is done in a public way by their public functionaries.”
It is noted that certain issues have been raised in the several RTI applications filed by the Appellant which categorically relate to disclosure of fraud and corruption and the alleged Financial Defalcation at a large scale in the Respondent Public Authority which needs to be brought to light in the larger public interest. In a service oriented company like the Life Insurance Company, the Commission noted with concern the manner in which the delivery of services was being implemented and would caution its management to initiate immediate necessary steps to reorient its thinking, strategy and delivery in the larger public interest.
In this context, the Commission draws reference to the observations made by the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in its decision dated 13/07/2012 (W.P. (C) No. 1243 of 2011- UPSC vs. R.K. Jain) wherein while discussing on the issue of disclosure of information in larger public interest the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi had held as under:
“‘The second half of the first part of clause (j) of Section 8(1) shows that when personal information in respect of a person is sought, the authority concerned shall weigh the competing claims i.e., the claim for the protection of personal information of the concerned person on the one hand, and the claim of public interest on the other, and if “public interest” justifies disclosure, i.e., the public interest outweighs the need for protection of personal information, the concerned authority shall disclose the information.”
Also, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the decision of R.B.I. and Ors. V. Jayantilal N. Mistry and Ors, Transferred Case (Civil) No. 91 of 2015 (Arising out of Transfer Petition (Civil) No. 707 of 2012 decided on 16.12.2015, while dealing with significance of free flow of information had stated as under:
“The ideal of ‘Government by the people’ makes it necessary that people have access to information on matters of public concern. The free flow of information about affairs of Government paves way for debate in public policy and fosters accountability in Government. It creates a condition for ‘open governance’ which is a foundation of democracy.”
Keeping in view the facts of the case and the submissions made by both the parties, the Commission directs the Respondent to provide certified copy of CVC investigation report in the matter to the Appellant, within a period of 15 days from the date of receipt of this order. The Appeal stands disposed with the above direction.
Citation: Mr. N. Saini v. LIC of India in Appeal No.:-CIC/MP/A/2015/001059-BJ, Date of Decision : 08.05.2017