A case of change of the PIO in a public authority
The appellant filed an application under RTI with the Income Tax Department. He later sent another letter to the Public Information Officer (PIO) marked 'RTI modification' in which he had corrected his bank account number. He filed a complaint with the Central Information Commission (CIC) for the 15 months delay in receipt of reply to his RTI application.
In between the two letters sent by the appellant, the PIO of the public authority had changed. The former PIO submitted that the RTI application sent by the appellant was not received. The appellant proved his argument by producing the copy of the certificate signed by the Senior Superintendent of postal services that said RTI application had been delivered to the department on the date mentioned by the appellant. The respondent accepted that as per record maintained in his Dak register, the second letter was received but that it had never been put up to him by his staff. The current PIO submitted that she learnt of the pending RTI application only when she received the order of the Commission directing the disclosure of information and that she had subsequently provided the sought information.
View of CIC
Under section 20(1) 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, refused 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 impose a penalty of two hundred and fifty rupees each day till application is received or information is furnished, so however, the total amount of such penalty shall not exceed twenty-five thousand rupees: Provided that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall be given a reasonable opportunity of being heard before any penalty is imposed on him: Provided further that the burden of proving that he acted reasonably and diligently shall be on the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be. of the RTI Act the Commission imposed a penalty of Rs. 25,000/- on the former PIO for not having furnished the requested information to the appellant before handing over charge to the new PIO, stating that the explanation given by him was not credible. The Commission directed the First Appellate Authority (FAA) to recover the amount of Rs. 25,000/- from the salary of the PIO at the rate of Rs. 5000/- per month.
Transfers and postings are part and parcel of any government job. A person who has worked as a PIO should remember that even after being removed from the charge of the PIO, penalty proceedings may catch up later. The time period for sending a reply should be strictly followed by every PIO.
Citation: Shri Dipendra N. Chatterjee v. Income Tax Department in Adjunct to Complaint: No. CIC/DS/C/2011/000143
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2012/CIC/311
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