In case of change of PIO, who is responsible for the delay in providing information?
The appellant filed an application under the Right to information (RTI) act with the Department of Posts seeking information in relation to some speed posts/letters. He wanted to know the dates on which these were delivered, reasons for late delivery, officers responsible for late delivery etc. The Public Information Officer (PIO) provided point-wise information to the appellant and also gave explanation/ justification to some of the queries along with supporting documents.
During the hearing before the Central Information Commission (CIC), the appellant stated that he has not been provided complete and correct information in respect of some queries like copy of enquiry report in respect of delayed speed posts, copy of rules/procedure for claiming compensation in case of delay/loss of speed post, details regarding 7 complaints received for delayed delivery of speed post, name(s) of staff/official(s) held responsible, action taken against them and compensation paid to claimants for the period 2010-11. He also submitted that reply to his RTI application was received after more than two months and hence penal action should be taken against the respondent. The respondents were not present for the hearing. The Commission directed that complete and correct information as requested should be furnished to him within 15 days of receipt of this order. 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 CIC also issued a show cause notice to the PIO for not furnishing the complete, correct and timely information.
Despite the orders of the CIC, no information was provided to the appellant. Even after being given two opportunities to explain his conduct, the PIO did not appear before the CIC. After directions were issued to the FAA by the CIC to identify the officer responsible for the lapse, the concerned PIO appeared before the Commission. The then PIO accepted that the RTI application was received in his office but the same was forwarded to Postmaster Firozabad for his comments after a gap of one month. The reply from Postmaster Firozabad was received after a gap of another month advising him to prepare a point-wise reply and send the same to the appellant. Subsequently he was transferred and newly appointed PIO then sent a reply to the appellant. The newly appointed PIO also explained that there was a delay of twenty nine days on his part despite the orders of the Commission as the foresaid order was not put up to him.
View of CIC
The Commission observed that the earlier PIO was responsible for the initial delay of 22 The provisions of this Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in the Official Secrets Act, 1923 (19 of 1923), and any other law for the time being in force or in any instrument having effect by virtue of any law other than this Act. days. The CIC further observed that the second PIO provided the information after a delay of 29 days despite the clear orders of the Commission for which he was also responsible. The CIC held that the reasons cited by him is untenable as the PIO’s primary duty is to give priority to RTI matters so that complete and correct information can be furnished in a time bound manner to applicants as provided in the Act. The CIC also observed that the current PIO appeared for hearing only after repeated reminders from the Commission which shows the sad state of affairs in the respondent’s office for dealing with RTI matters. The Commission levied a penalty of Rs. 5,500/- on the earlier PIO and Rs. 7,500/- on the current PIO for the inordinate delay on their part.
Citation: Mr. S.C. Agrawal v. Department of Posts in Decision No. CIC/LS/A/2011/003438/BS/0920-Adjunct-Penalty
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2013/CIC/972
Click here to view original RTI order of Court / Information Commission