CIC: The appellant did not come with clean hands; he has no right to demand information, or action against nonpayment of pension or compensation - CIC held him as abuser of RTI; His appeals to be scrutinized to rule out abuse before admission
Date of hearing : 11.05.2016
Date of decision : 13.05.2016
1. Appellant is present. Public Authority represented by
(a) Mr. Bhupendra Kumar, PIO of CMO,
(b) Ms. Raj Rani, PIO, ADC, NDMC, Rohini Zone,
(c) Mr. Lalit Gupta, CPIO, NDMC HQ,
(d) Mr. V. K. Suman, APIO, Finance Department,
(e) Mr. Chander Mohan, PIO(HQ), Nodal Officer, North DMC,
(f) Ms. Manju Sahoo, PIO, Planning Department &
(g) Ms. Indu Mohan, APIO, Planning Department.
2. Appellant retired bank official, Charanjit Singh Bhatia’s main grievance was nonpayment of pension to his wife Harbhajan Kaur Bhatia under disability pension scheme. He wrote several letters and filed RTI applications to CMO, which transferred them to several public authorities. The Commission directed on 2012016 white paper on pensions in Delhi.
3. On 5th March 2016 the Commission directed (a) Mr. Bhupendra Kumar, PIO of CMO, (b) Ms. Raj Rani, PIO, ADC, NDMC, Rohini Zone, (c) Mr. Lalit Gupta, CPIO, NDMC HQ, (d) Mr. V. K. Suman, APIO, Finance Department, (e) Mr. Chander Mohan, PIO(HQ), Nodal Officer, North DMC, (f) Ms. Manju Sahoo, PIO, Planning Department & (g) Ms. Indu Mohan, APIO, Planning Department, to file explanations. It also directed CMO about action on order of Delhi High Court to take over pensions from Municipalities. As the appellant was demanding compensation vehemently, the Commission asked him to submit an affidavit explaining losses he suffered.
Hearing on 11.5.2016
4. The appellant Mr. Charanjeet Singh Bhatia has shown a pay order for Rs. 3000/given by Assistant Commissioner, Rohini Zone, NDMC dated 24.02.2016 paying pension for three months. Though he earlier demanded compensation, he claimed in a written submission to the Commission that he never claimed compensation. Hence, the Commission cancels its order of compensation to this appellant.
5. Appellant also stated that he is drawing pension of Rs. 31,540/per month, which he never suppressed, as his income was Rs 27,000 plus in application for pension to his wife. Instead of an affidavit he filed a plain statement. When objected by respondents, he has given another letter to Commission saying what all he stated was true and he would be responsible for the facts stated therein.
6. PIO of CMO and other officers submitted that applicant is a cantankerous person found harassing several public authorities and misuser of RTI. He alleged that applicant is having sufficient income and hence not eligible for any pension. PIO stated that with monthly income of Rs 31,540 he and his wife would not be entitled to either old age pension or disability pension. According to rules one can apply for disability pension till 59 years of age if the family income is not more than Rs. 75,000/per annum. If applicant is of 60 years and above, he is required to apply under old age pension scheme, subject to family income limit of Rs 60,000 per annum. He quoted an order of CIC dated 29.4.2013 wherein the fact of termination of his son from services on allegations of fraud was recorded and prayed that all his applications/appeals under RTI should be scrutinized before admitting them and as his applications are cantankerous misuse, the Commission should not waste its precious time on them.
7. PIO of Financial Assistance Section, Mrs Saroj Rawat submitted a note saying data of pensions was received from three Municipal Corporations and the department moved a proposal in this regard for the government to take a decision. Department of Social Welfare fo GNCTD submitted eligibility criteria for various kinds of pensions.
8. Ms Manju Sahoo, Deputy Director, Plg and PIO, stated that Rs 1138 crore has been released to all the three DMCs under plan budget in 201516 till January 2016 against the approved budget of Rs 1649 crore. Besides the plan fund they also got some non plan fund. Rs 2026 crore has been released to three DMCs under Non plan Budget in 201516. The PIO/ Local Bodies also submitted details of information furnished reasons for transfering RTI application. The PIO finance department explained that DMCs have various resources for pensions.
9. The NDMC stated that Rs 150.10 crore was released for pension fund and it partially depends on Delhi Government for funds.
10. The PIO of CMO has submitted a detailed explanation how the CMO transferred only to four offices, and did not expect them to be further transferred. He assured to be careful in handling such applications and their transferring. The Commission requires the public authority to evolve a system of reasonable consideration before deciding to transfer RTI application to multiple public authorities. In view of the assurance, and with above direction, the Commission concludes there is no need for continuing penalty proceedings.
11. Ms. Rajrani, ADC has shown the original application for pension submitted and signed by Charanjit Singh Bhatia for his wife, stating ‘husband’s income was Rs 27,000 plus per month’. There was an endorsement and signature by the area councelor Ms. Shobha Vijender along with a seal of approval. In that application her age was shown as 69 years. Officers of NDMC agreed that with monthly income admitted as Rs 27,000 plus by the applicant, his wife is not entitled to get pension.
12. Thus its obvious that the sanction of pension to appellant’s wife was against the eligibility norms prescribed by the NDMC. It is surprising as to why no officer or area councilor verified ineligibility.
13. In each ward 750 persons are getting pensions (both disability and old age pension), there are 34 Wards in Rohini Zone alone. In all there are 272 wards in three MCDs. As each of them gets Rs 1000 per month, the burden on the exchequer would be (750 X Rs. 1000 X 272) Rs 20 crore 40 lakh per month.
14. This means per annum three municipalities are giving away Rs 244.80 Crore for pensions. The way the appellant wife was sanctioned pension without verifying the facts available on the application itself, gives rise to serious doubts about possible draining of the public money. Even after the appellant approached, the concerned department did not verify eligibility criterion, but handed over a cheque for Rs 3000 recently as pension for three months. The Commission directs Addl. Deputy Commissioner, Rohini Zone, NDMC to give a comprehensive note on pension to Ms. Harjbhajan Kaur Bhatia and action taken, including the recovery of money paid, if necessary, within 20 days from the receipt of this order.
15. After hearing the submissions and analysing written notes by various departments including the NDMC, the Commission apprehends that there might be many more such pensions ignoring eligibility norms. It is noticed that, once the application for pension is endorsed by the area municipal counselor, no officer is verifying eligibility norms but simply paying in cheques. This need to be thoroughly probed to prevent draining of public money. The elected representatives like Municipal Counselors are expected to be answerable to the people for recommending the pensions and they should be doubly cautious not to endorse without verification. The Commission found fear, pressure and lethargy in the official machinery as they simply sanction the pensions and issue the cheques after the applications were endorsed by the Municipal Counselors. They are acting as if there is a single criterion, i.e., endorsement by the Area Municipal Counselor and nothing else.
16. Though Delhi Government is not meeting complete expenditure of MCDs for pensions, its contribution is running into hundreds of crores as revealed by the Delhi Government officers referred above. Delhi Government has released more than Rs 2174 crore to three Municipalities in Plan and Non Plan categories. Hence the Delhi Government has a greater responsibility to ensure that their funds granted for pensions are not drained away by unverified sanction only on endorsement of Area Municipal Counselors.
17. Exercising its powers under Section 19(8) the Commission requires various public authorities to initiate necessary steps as follows:
a) As the three MCDs are autonomous bodies governed by democratically elected representatives, the Commission requires, the office of Lieutenant Governor of Delhi to take necessary remedial measures to ensure strict compliance of eligibility norms in sanctioning pensions.
b) The Commission require, the office of Honourable Lieutenant Governor to obtain a comprehensive note on payment of pensions by three MCDs, after thorough verification and elimination of ineligible pensions and initiate necessary action,
c) The Commission directs three Municipal Corporations in Delhi to put the note on pensions as mentioned above on their official websites.
d) Area Municipal Counselors, their political parties and the Honorable Mayors should be accountable and responsible to follow the norms prescribed for pensions. The Counselors also should be individually answerable as to why they have recommended ineligible candidates for pension.
e) The Commission requires the honorable Mayor of North Delhi Municipal Corporation to find out how many pensions were granted on recommendations of Area Municipal Counselors in violation of eligibility norms of income and initiate necessary steps to stop this drainage of funds, and to recover the money from ineligible candidates like appellant’s wife, or from the Area Municipal Counselor, if found guilty of wrongful recommendation. Three MCDs should consult legal experts as to why this should not be considered as misappropriation of public money and why all those guilty including abettors through endorsement should not be prosecuted.
f) It is necessary for the Government of Delhi to strictly instruct the officers not to blindly pay pensions simply on recommendation of Area Municipal Councelor alone, but to follow all the norms prescribed.
g) The Commission requires, the honourable Area Municipal Councelor Mrs. Shobha Vijender to explain her political party, the Mayor, and her voters in general along with a copy of such explanation to this Commission, why an ineligible applicant was recommended for the pension in glaring violation of income norms and to assure the people that ineligible candidates would not be recommended in future. Such incidents should lead to introduce systems to make Representatives of People including Area Municipal Councelors or legislators to be brought under the ambit of transparency law to make them accountable and answerable to the people.
18. The Commission recommends the Delhi Government to consider taking over the pension payment scheme as directed by the Delhi High Court as soon as possible, since its contribution to MCDs or Pension scheme is substantial.
19. The Commission finds the appellant did not come with clean hands. His wife being an ineligible receiver of pension, whose application he signed, he has no right to demand information, or action against nonpayment of pension or compensation. His misapplication has caused lot of confusion, wastage of money and time of several public authorities including this Commission. Being an educated person and retired officer, he should be ashamed of misappropriating the public money by wrongfully securing pension and return the money to the NDMC. The Commission holds him as abuser of RTI and directs the central registry of the CIC to scrutinize all his appeals/complaints to rule out abuse before admission. The Commission directs the registry to send copies of this order also for the attention of Honourable Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, Honourable Chief Minister of Delhi, Honourable Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi, Honourable Mayors of three Municipal Corporations of Delhi and their Municipal Commissioners.
(M. Sridhar Acharyulu)
Citation: Charanjeet Singh Bhatia v. Director of Local Bodies in File No.CIC/SA/A/2015/00134