Certified copy of two communications from ITPO to CVC were sought - PIO: the file noting & correspondence relate to an ongoing departmental enquiries and information sought is exempt u/s 8(1)(h) - CIC: denial upheld relying on file no.CIC/AT/A/2008/00437
1. Vide RTI dt 14.11.12, appellant had sought certified copy of two communications from ITPO to CVC.
2. Dy PIO vide letter dt 13.12.12, informed the appellant that the file noting and correspondence relate to an ongoing departmental enquiries and advice sought from CVC. As departmental enquiry proceedings are underway, information sought is exempt u/s 8(1)(h).
3. An appeal was filed on 8.1.13, placing reliance on the judgement of Justice Ravindra Bhatt of the Delhi High Court.
4. AA vide order dt 6.2.13, upheld the decision of the PIO.
5. Submissions made by the appellant and public authority were heard. Appellant submitted that while he has been provided copies of the two documents sought in his RTI, he has not been provided the noting portion. In support of his contention, the appellant has referred to CIC decision (Appeal no. CIC/SS/A/2012/001427 dt 30.8.12) and the Delhi High Court’s decision in the case of Bhagat Singh. Public authority submitted that while in the first case, departmental proceedings are pending with the CVC, in the second case, the departmental action is pending with ITPO itself. Disclosure of the document at this stage will impede the process of enquiry. Public authority drew attention of the Commission to a two member decision of the Commission comprising Shri Wajahat Habibullah and Shri MM Ansari, wherein the request of the appellant for documents related to departmental enquiry, were denied.
6. The issue of providing documents when the process of departmental proceedings is ongoing has been decided by the Commission and relevant extract from Commission’s order dt 31.10.2008 – file no.CIC/AT/A/2008/00437 – is reproduced below:
“6. Commission has noted that a number of employees of the public authorities facing departmental / vigilance and other forms of proceedings from their respective managements have tended to use the RTI Act to access information ⎯ specially file-notings in their own vigilance matters / disciplinary matters ⎯ in order to somehow lay hands on evidence that they could use in their favour. Commission has no problem with such an approach but since premature disclosure of information, specially file notings, prior to the final decision being made in a disciplinary action has the potential to disrupt the proceedings, Commission has been guarded in authorizing such disclosures. The RTI Act, apart from being a rights-expanding instrument, it is also an instrument for improving governance. In that sense, it is always helpful to be guarded in interfering with the disciplinary proceedings, through which the managements enforce discipline within the organization and bring the guilty employees to book. Most disciplinary proceedings are under laws, which prescribe the processes of the proceeding such as the documents that can be disclosed to the officer proceeded against, the discretion of the enquiry officers to decide what documents to be disclosed to the accused officers in conformity with the norms of justice and fair-play and so on. Each time an RTI-proceeding is started to force disclosure of documents, regardless of what the enquiry officers may have to say on this, potentially the process of the enquiry is impeded. Considering its large ramification, it is unsafe to authorize disclosure of such information under the RTI Act.”
7. The ratio of the above decision applies to the present appeal also. The Commission concurs with the decision of the CPIO/AA. The appeal is disposed of.
Central Information Commissioner
Citation: Shri N.K. v. India Trade Promotion Organization in File No.CIC/SS/A/2013/001455/RM