Penalty for replying without reading the contents of the letter
The appellant sought information about his complaint filed with the Chief Vigilance Officer against certain officers for embezzlement of NDMC funds through misrepresentation of laid out norms and order. The PIO asked the applicant to appear in his office within three days of the date of receipt of his letter while warning that if the appellant fails to do so, the matter shall be treated as closed. Aggrieved with the reply of the PIO, the appellant filed his first appeal with the First Appellate Authority (FAA) and not receiving any reply from the FAA, he filed the present petition before the Commission against non supply of the information.
View of the CIC
While admitting the delay in supplying the information, the PIO submitted that the required information has been furnished to the appellant following the order of the FAA. The appellant stated that though he has not yet studied the information the Respondents have furnished to him, it is his belief that the Respondents have still not disclosed to him complete facts of the case. The Commission directed the PIO to allow the appellant to inspect the respective file(s) and receive attested photocopies of documents, which he may select from the inspected file(s).
The Commission observed that the verdict of the PIO that he will close the case if the appellant fails to appear in his office was a sheer violation of the provision of the Act since nowhere in the Act this power (closing the case) has been conferred upon him. Therefore, on 2nd November 2011, the Commission issued a Notice why penalty 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 should not be imposed upon him for obstructing the transmission of information to the appellant.
On 30th November 2011, the Commission took up the matter for imposition of penalty. The PIO submitted that on the day when he had replied to the applicant, he was very upset because of ill health and also with some domestic problems because of which he had signed the letter without having read it. The PIO apologized for this action of his and assured the Commission that he is aware of his statutory responsibilities as laid down in the RTI Act. He further added that he had personally apologized to the appellant who had accepted his apology. The Commission noted the submissions of the PIO and the fact that the appellant is not willing to press for imposition of penalty. However, the Commission directed the FAA to enquire into this matter and take appropriate action against the PIO as per the service rule applicable in this case.
Citation: Shri J.S. Jendu v. New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) in File No. CIC/AD/C/2011/001261