CIC advised the Respondent to suo-motu disclose such recruitment rules/policy in public domain in compliance with Section 4 of the RTI Act to ensure transparency, credibility, objectivity and accountability in the functioning of the Public Authority
O R D E R
The Appellant vide his RTI application sought information on 05 points regarding the copies of approved recruitment Rules of NATRIP approved by Governing Council, copies of sanction posts, vacant posts and promotion policies of NATRIP approved by Governing Council up to 31st December, 2015, advertisement published for recruitment/tenders after March,2014, names and approved copies of note sheet of selection committees for all interviews and tenders for NATRIP after March,2014 and copies of complaints and action taken reports of the same in NATRIP during the period from April, 2014 to September, 2015.
The CPIO vide its letter dated 04.05.2016 provided a point wise reply of the Appellant wherein information w.r.t Points 04 and 05 was denied under Section 8(1)(j) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information: Provided that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person. of the RTI Act,2005. Dissatisfied by the response of the CPIO, the Appellant approached the FAA. The FAA vide its order dated 23.06.2016 directed the CPIO to provide certain information to the Appellant, keeping in view the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005. Accordingly, the Sr. Administrative Officer vide its letter dated 05.07.2016 informed the Appellant that the information sought by him had been compiled in 1000 pages and therefore requested him to submit the document charges @ Rs. 2/- per page to the Public Authority. Dissatisfied by the response of the Sr. Administrative Officer, the Appellant wrote an objection letter dated 21.07.2016 to the FAA.
The FAA vide its letter dated 04.08.2016 informed the Appellant that in the event of any objection to the FAA order or its non-compliance, the Appellant was free to file a Second Appeal before the Commission and that the jurisdiction of FAA was over after the disposal of First Appeal. Thereafter, the Sr. Administrative Officer vide its letter dated 29.08.2016 enclosed 1000 pages with its letter to the Appellant. Dissatisfied with the information received, the Appellant again approached the FAA. The FAA vide its letter dated 13.02.2017, reiterated it response of order dated 04.08.2016.
Facts emerging during the hearing:
The following were present:
Appellant: Mr. S. Murli Manoharam;
Respondent: Mr. Dinesh Vasishta, Sr. AO (Arrived very late after the hearing citing traffic excuses);
The Respondent remained absent during the hearing despite prior intimation. The Appellant reiterated the contents of his RTI application and stated that he had not been furnished the information sought by him in his RTI application despite a specific direction by the FAA. It was acknowledged that he had received 1000 pages of documents but they contained either repeat pages or blank papers without providing the information sought by him. It was articulated that the information sought by him was of general nature which would have been placed in the Public Domain in accordance with Section 4 of the RTI Act, 2005 relating to suo-motu disclosure by the Public Authority. It was, therefore, prayed that a suitable penalty be imposed for the harassment and torture inflicted on him by consistently chasing up the CPIO despite directions of the FAA in this regard. He demanded that a suitable penalty be imposed on the Respondent for harassing him in this regard. The Respondent submitted that all relevant information enclosed in more than 1000 pages had already been supplied to the Appellant. However, he agreed that the copies of the documents furnished were not attested or certified and assured that the same could be rechecked and provided as per the orders of the Commission.
The Commission observed that a voluntary disclosure of all information that ought to be displayed in the public domain should be the rule and members of public who having to seek information should be an exception. An open government, which is the cherished objective of the RTI Act, can be realised only if all public offices comply with proactive disclosure norms. Section 4(2) It shall be a constant endeavour of every public authority to take steps in accordance with the requirements of clause (b) of sub-section (1) to provide as much information suo motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including internet, so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information. of the RTI Act mandates every public authority to provide as much information suo-motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including the Internet, so that the public need not resort to the use of RTI Act. The Commission also observes the Hon’ble Delhi High Court ruling in WP (C) 12714/2009 Delhi Development Authority v. Central Information Commission and Another (delivered on: 21.05.2010), wherein it was held as under:
“16.It also provides that the information should be easily accessible and to the extent possible should be in electronic format with the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be. The word disseminate has also been defined in the explanation to mean - making the information known or communicating the information to the public through notice boards, newspapers, public announcements, media broadcasts, the internet, etc. It is, therefore, clear from a plain reading of Section 4 of the RTI Act that the information, which a public authority is obliged to publish under the said section should be made available to the public and specifically through the internet. There is no denying that the petitioner is duty bound by virtue of the provisions of Section 4 of the RTI Act to publish the information indicated in Section 4(1)(b) Every public authority shall publish within one hundred and twenty days from the enactment of this Act,- (i) the particulars of its organisation, functions and duties; (ii) the powers and duties of its officers and employees; (iii) the procedure followed in the decision making process, including channels of supervision and accountability; (iv) the norms set by it for the discharge of its functions; (v) the rules, regulations, instructions, manuals and records, held by it or under its control or used by its employees for discharging its functions; (vi) a statement of the categories of documents that are held by it or under its control; (vii) the particulars of any arrangement that exists for consultation with, or representation by, the members of the public in relation to the formulation of its policy or implementation thereof; (viii) a statement of the boards, councils, committees and other bodies consisting of two or more persons constituted as its part or for the purpose of its advice, and as to whether meetings of those boards, councils, committees and other bodies are open to the public, or the minutes of such meetings are accessible for public; (ix) a directory of its officers and employees; (x) the monthly remuneration received by each of its officers and employees, including the system of compensation as provided in its regulations; (xi) the budget allocated to each of its agency, indicating the particulars of all plans, proposed expenditures and reports on disbursements made; (xii) the manner of execution of subsidy programmes, including the amounts allocated and the details of beneficiaries of such programmes; (xiii) particulars of recipients of concessions, permits or authorisations granted by it; (xiv) details in respect of the information, available to or held by it, reduced in an electronic form; (xv) the particulars of facilities available to citizens for obtaining information, including the working hours of a library or reading room, if maintained for public use; (xvi) the names, designations and other particulars of the Public Information Officers; (xvii) such other information as may be prescribed and thereafter update these publications every year; and 4(1)(c) Every public authority shall publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect public; on its website so that the public have minimum resort to the use of the RTI Act to obtain the information.”
Furthermore, High Court of Delhi in the decision of General Manager Finance Air India Ltd & Anr v. Virender Singh, LPA No. 205/2012, Decided On: 16.07.2012 had held as under:
“8. The RTI Act, as per its preamble was enacted to enable the citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. An informed citizenry and transparency of information have been spelled out as vital to democracy and to contain corruption and to hold Governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed. The said legislation is undoubtedly one of the most significant enactments of independent India and a landmark in governance. The spirit of the legislation is further evident from various provisions thereof which require public authorities to:
A. Publish inter alia:
i) the procedure followed in the decision making process;
ii) the norms for the discharge of its functions;
iii) rules, regulations, instructions manuals and records used by its employees in discharging of its functions;
iv) the manner and execution of subsidy programmes including the amounts allocated and the details of beneficiaries of such programmes;
v) the particulars of recipients of concessions, permits or authorizations granted. [see Section 4(1) (b), (iii), (iv), (v); (xii) & (xiii)].
B. Suo moto provide to the public at regular intervals as much information as possible [see Section 4(2) It shall be a constant endeavour of every public authority to take steps in accordance with the requirements of clause (b) of sub-section (1) to provide as much information suo motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including internet, so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information. ].”
As observed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the decision of R.B.I. and Ors. V. Jayantilal N. Mistry and Ors, Transferred Case (Civil) No. 91 of 2015 (Arising out of Transfer Petition (Civil) No. 707 of 2012 decided on 16.12.2015
“The ideal of ‘Government by the people’ makes it necessary that people have access to information on matters of public concern. The free flow of information about affairs of Government paves way for debate in public policy and fosters accountability in Government. It creates a condition for ‘open governance’ which is a foundation of democracy.”
Moreover, it was further observed by the Commission that under Section 2(j) “right to information” means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes the right to- (i) inspection of work, documents, records; (ii) taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records; (iii) taking certified samples of material; (iv) obtaining information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts where such information is stored in a computer or in any other device; of the RTI Act, 2005, ‘the “right to information” means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority.....’ and therefore the Public Authority was duty bound under the RTI Act, 2005 to provide the information to the RTI Applicants which was held by it or was under its control. In this context, the Commission referred to the decision of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the matter of Civil Appeal no. 6454 of 2011 Central Board of Secondary Education and Anr. Vs. Aditya Bandopadhyay and Ors. held as under:
"35. At this juncture, it is necessary to clear some misconceptions about the RTI Act. The RTI Act provides access to all information that is available and existing. This is clear from a combined reading of Section 3 and the definitions of "information" and "right to information" under clauses (f) and (j) of Section 2 of the Act. If a public authority has any information in the form of data or analysed data, or abstracts, or statistics, an applicant may access such information, subject to the exemptions in Section 8 of the Act.....”
With regard to the imposition of penalty on the CPIO/PIO under Section 20 of the RTI Act, 2005, the Commission took note of the ruling of Hon’ble Delhi High Court in W.P.(C) 11271/2009 Registrar of Companies & Ors v. Dharmendra Kumar Garg & Anr. (delivered on: 01.06.2012) wherein it was held:
“61. Even if it were to be assumed for the sake of argument, that the view taken by the learned Central Information Commissioner in the impugned order was correct, and that the PIOs were obliged to provide the information, which was otherwise retrievable by the querist by resort to Section 610 of the Companies Act, it could not be said that the information had been withheld malafide or deliberately without any reasonable cause. It can happen that the PIO may genuinely and bonafidely entertain the belief and hold the view that the information sought by the querist cannot be provided for one or the other reasons. Merely because the CIC eventually finds that the view taken by the PIO was not correct, it cannot automatically lead to issuance of a show cause notice under Section 20 of the RTI Act and the imposition of penalty. The legislature has cautiously provided that only in cases of malafides or unreasonable conduct, i.e., where the PIO, without reasonable cause refuses to receive the application, or provide the information, or knowingly gives incorrect, incomplete or misleading information or destroys the information, that the personal penalty on the PIO can be imposed. This was certainly not one such case. If the CIC starts imposing penalty on the PIOs in every other case, without any justification, it would instill a sense of constant apprehension in those functioning as PIOs in the public authorities, and would put undue pressure on them. They would not be able to fulfil their statutory duties under the RTI Act with an independent mind and with objectivity. Such consequences would not auger well for the future development and growth of the regime that the RTI Act seeks to bring in, and may lead to skewed and imbalanced decisions by the PIOs Appellate Authorities and the CIC. It may even lead to unreasonable and absurd orders and bring the institutions created by the RTI Act in disrepute.”
Similarly, the following observation of the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in Bhagat Singh v. CIC & Ors. WP(C) 3114/2007 are pertinent in this matter:
“17. This Court takes a serious note of the two year delay in releasing information, the lack of adequate reasoning in the orders of the Public Information Officer and the Appellate Authority and the lack of application of mind in relation to the nature of information sought. The materials on record clearly show the lackadaisical approach of the second and third respondent in releasing the information sought. However, the Petitioner has not been able to demonstrate that they malafidely denied the information sought. Therefore, a direction to the Central Information Commission to initiate action under Section 20 of the Act, cannot be issued.”
Furthermore, the High Court of Delhi in the decision of Col. Rajendra Singh v. Central Information Commission and Anr. WP (C) 5469 of 2008 dated 20.03.2009 had held as under:
“Section 20, no doubt empowers the CIC to take penal action and direct payment of such compensation or penalty as is warranted. Yet the Commission has to be satisfied that the delay occurred was without reasonable cause or the request was denied malafidely. ……The preceding discussion shows that at least in the opinion of this Court, there are no allegations to establish that the information was withheld malafide or unduly delayed so as to lead to an inference that petitioner was responsible for unreasonably withholding it.”
The Complainant could not contest the submission of the Respondent or substantiate his claims further regarding malafide denial of information by the respondent or for withholding it without any reasonable cause.
Keeping in view the facts of the case and submissions made by both the parties, the Commission directs the Respondent to provide the certified copies of all the documents as directed by the FAA in its order, within a period of 15 days from the date of receipt of this order.
The Commission also advises the Respondent to suo-motu disclose such recruitment rules/policy in public domain in compliance with Section-4 of the RTI Act, 2005 to ensure transparency, credibility, objectivity and accountability in the functioning of the Public Authority. The CEO, NATRIP is advised to ensure compliance of the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005 in letter and spirit.
The Appeal stands disposed with the above direction.
Citation: Mr. S. Murli Manoharam v. National Automotive Testing & R&D Infrastructure Project, Ministry of Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises in Appeal No.:-CIC/NATRI/A/2017/117839-BJ, Date of Decision: 30.11.2017