Are all the zonal offices of LIC supposed to provide same information to the same applicant separately?
The appellant filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with various zonal offices and the head office of the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) seeking information pertaining to expenditure incurred in providing hospitality to the members of the external audit parties by the zonal offices by way of vouchers and the related file notings. The Public Information Officer (PIO) stated that the information was not available in the format as requested and that they were not obliged under the RTI Act to expend their scarce resources on compiling and collating information that were scattered in many files.
During the hearing before the Central Information Commission (CIC), the respondent submitted that the expenditure incurred on hospitality offered to the members of the audit parties was part of their entertainment expenditure and other miscellaneous expenditures. The respondent stated that this fall within the powers of the head of office in each of the departments and as no separate head of account/ list of such expenditure is maintained for this expenditure, the same could not be provided to the information seeker. The respondent provided data pertaining to the total income, net total income and total management expenses along with the entertainment expense ratio and miscellaneous expenses ratio for the certain years which is less than 0.04% of the total income. The respondent further submitted that the expenses incurred on the audit and inspection teams were nominal and also within the sanctioned budget by the competent authority and were petty in nature.
View of CIC
The Commission, in the larger context of transparency in public expenditure where certain amount of discretion is inbuilt, directed the appellant to identify any one of the offices at which he wishes to inspect the documents pertaining to the issue of his RTI application and identifies the same to the PIO, Head office. The CIC also directed the PIO to then fix a mutually convenient date and time within 2 weeks thereafter on which the appellant can visit the said office at his own expense and inspect the documents for two hours, free of cost. The Commission also directed that prior to the inspection, the identified office will flag all the vouchers pertaining to the expenditure on the audit and inspection party for last one year. This procedure will minimise the cost of 'collecting and collating' information to the public authority and will also meet the appellant's ultimate goal of suitably highlighting this matter so that in future all concerned will take adequate care to keep this expenditure at a reasonable level.
Citation: Mr. N. Saini v. LIC of India in Appeal: No. CIC/DS/A/2012/001796
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2013/CIC/1264
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