CIC: Both the PIO & the APIO are guilty of obstructing flow of information in replying to the RTI applications, for which no convincing reasons have been submitted - CIC: u/s 20(1), a penalty of Rs 15,000 imposed on PIO & a penalty of Rs 10,000 on APIO
Show Cause Hearing u/s 20 (1) of the RTI Act
Relevant facts emerging during hearing on 24.11.2014
The Commission vide order dated 27.10.2014, issued a show cause notice to Shri D.P.Bhardwaj, PIO/EE(B), West Zone, South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) for deliberately obstructing the flow of information in relation to second appeals no. IC/YA/A/2014/000463, CIC/YA/A/2014/000594 and CIC/YA/A/2014/000347. Shri R.K.Jain, on behalf of the appellant, submitted that the respondent had not provided information in compliance to CIC order dated 27.10.2014. He further submitted that the respondent at the time of hearing on 24.09.2014, had requested three/four days time to submit their written submission, but they failed to do so till date of decision i.e. 27.10.2014. This shows callous attitude on the part of the respondent in not providing the information sought.
Shri D.P.Bhardwaj, AE(B)/APIO (who arrived late after the hearing had already started) submitted that he has been designated as APIO, South DMC, Delhi and not the CPIO. On a query by the Commission as to who is the CPIO, Shri Bhardwaj replied that the EE(B) is the CPIO, who is responsible to comply with the order of the FAA and to submit written submissions in compliance to CIC orders. On this, Shri Jain submitted that the CPIO includes APIO also and quoted Section 2(c) of the RTI Act, which reads as follows: “2. .... (c) "Central Public Information Officer" means the Central Public Information Officer designated under sub-section (1) and includes a Central Assistant Public Information Officer designated as such under sub-section (2) of section 5;
5. .... (2) Without prejudice to the provisions of sub-section (1), every public authority shall designate an officer, within one hundred days of the enactment of this Act, at each sub-divisional level or other sub-district level as a Central Assistant Public Information Officer or a State Assistant Public Information Officer, as the case may be, to receive the applications for information or appeals under this Act for forwarding the same forthwith to the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or senior officer specified under sub-section (1) of section 19 or the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be: .....” Shri Jain contended that merely on the ground that he is an Assistant PIO and not the CPIO, does not absolve him from his liabilities under the Right of Information Act.
The Commission notes with concern that Shri D.P.Bhardwaj, while attending two earlier hearings of the Commission, never brought this fact to the notice of the Commission that he was not the CPIO but only the APIO. The Commission, in their order dated 20th August, 2014 and 27th October, 2014 had directed the CPIO to submit their written submissions and compliance report to the Commission. In response, the CPIO has not provided any response. The FAA in his orders also directed the CPIO to comply with the directions given. In the light of the above, the Commission directs Shri A.K.Meena, CPIO, EE(B)I West Zone, South Delhi Municipal Corporation, to show cause as to why penalty should not be imposed on him u/s 20 of the RTI Act for deliberating obstructing the flow of information to the appellant, as per provisions of the RTI Act. CPIO is afforded an opportunity of personal hearing on 08.01.2015 at 4 PM on which date he must present himself before the Commission. Written submission, if any, should reach the Commission by 30.12.2014 positively. If there are other persons responsible for obstructing the flow of information to the appellant, the CPIO is directed to inform such persons in writing about the show cause notice and direct them to submit their written submissions, if any, and to attend the Commission’s hearing on the above mentioned date. In case the CPIO, EE(B)I West Zone, SDMC, fails to comply with the Commission’s directions, it will be construed that he is the only person responsible for obstructing the flow of information to the appellant as sought in his RTI applications above. Shri D.P.Bhardwaj, AE(B)/APIO is also directed to attend the Commission’s hearing on 08/01/2015 at 1600 hours positively. The hearing is adjourned till January 08, 2015 at 1600 hours.
Relevant facts emerging during hearing on 08.01.2015
Appellant and APIO Shri D.P.Bhardwaj are present. Shri Bhardwaj reiterated his stand taken earlier. CPIO Shri A.K.Meena through his written submission dated 29.12.2014 submitted that he has never defied the order of the Information Commission and always tried to abide by the provisions of the RTI Act. The directions issued by the Commission with reference to the present appeals have been complied with in toto. He further requested for dropping the show cause proceedings against him and tendered unconditional apology for the inconvenience cause to the Commission.
The Commission notes with concern that the CPIO in his written submission has failed to explain the reasons to obstruct the flow of information as per provisions of the RTI Act, 2005. The Commission is of the firm opinion that both the CPIO and the APIO are guilty of obstructing flow of information in replying to the RTI applications of the appellant, for which no convincing reasons have been submitted.
In view of the above, the Commission imposes a penalty of Rs 15,000 (rupees fifteen thousand only) u/s 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. on Shri A.K.Meena, EE(B)/CPIO, West Zone, South Delhi Municipal Corporation, and a penalty of Rs 10,000 (rupees ten thousand only) on Shri D.P.Bhardwaj, AE(B)/APIO, West Zone, South Delhi Municipal Corporation for violation of the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005. The amount of Rs 15,000 will be deducted from the salary of Shri A.K.Meena, EE(B)/CPIO, West Zone, South Delhi Municipal Corporation, in three equal instalments @ Rs. 5000/- per month starting from February 2015. The total amount of Rs. 15,000/- will be remitted by April 2015. The amount of Rs 10,000 will be deducted from the salary of Shri D.P.Bhardwaj, AE(B)/APIO, West Zone, South Delhi Municipal Corporation in two equal instalments @ Rs. 5000/- per month starting from February 2015. The total amount of Rs. 10,000/- will be remitted by March 2015. The Superintendent Engineer, FAA, South Delhi Municipal Corporation is directed to recover the above amounts of Rs. 15,000/- and Rs 10,000/- respectively from the salaries of S/Shri A.K.Meena and D.P.Bhardwaj, and remit the same through Demand Drafts or Banker’s Cheques in the name of Pay & Accounts Officer, CAT, payable at New Delhi and send the same to Shri Shanti Priye Beck, Joint Secretary (Admn.), Central Information
Commission, Room No. 302, 2nd Floor, August Kranti Bhawan, New Delhi – 110066.
Citation: Shri Deepak Khullar v. South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) in F.No.CIC/YA/A/2014/000463 F.No. CIC/YA/A/2014/000594 F.No. CIC/YA/A/2014/000347