CIC: The different standards of interpretation prevailing in the same bank indicate that the officials are not fully familiar with the provisions of RTI Act & their correct application - CIC: designate appropriate number of CPIOs & organize training prog
Files No. CIC/VS/C/2013/000347/SH, CIC/VS/C/2013/000349/SH, CIC/VS/C/2013/000350/SH,
CIC/VS/C/2013/000352/SH, CIC/VS/C/2013/000353/SH, CIC/VS/A/2013/001050/SH and
These seven files contain appeals / complaints filed by the Appellant / Complainant regarding delayed response to seven RTI applications, all dated 16.1.2013, filed by him to various branches of the Respondent Bank, seeking information on seven points regarding ATM operations. In all cases, Shri Arjun Sethi, Assistant General Manager and PIO in the New Delhi Zonal office of the bank responded on 4.3.2013. He provided information on point No. 1 of the RTI applications. Regarding points No. 2 to 7, he stated that the Respondents were trying to obtain the required information from the concerned branches and it would be forwarded to the Appellant / Complainant “within a short period of time.” The Appellant filed an appeal to the First Appellate Authority in all cases. On 22.5.2013, Shri A. R. K. Prasad, Deputy General Manager and Appellate Authority responded in all seven cases to provide the information on points No. 2 to 7. Though appeals to the FAA were filed between 3.4.2013 to 10.4.2013, in his letter dated 22.5.2013, the FAA stated that the appeals were received by him on 22.4.2013.
Hearing on 12.8.2014
2. The Appellant / Complainant has approached the Commission in all the cases, praying that a penalty be imposed on the CPIO for the delay in responding to his RTI applications. The Appellant has stated that his RTI applications dated 16.1.2013 were received by the CPIO on 20.1.2013 and information on six of the seven points was provided to him by the FAA vide his letter dated 22.5.2013.
3. We had earlier fixed a hearing on this matter on 25.6.2014, when the Appellant / Complainant was present. However, no one turned up to represent the Respondents during that hearing. The Registry later on confirmed to us that the Respondents had received our notice for the above hearing and yet no one was present to represent them. We were, therefore, obliged to schedule yet another hearing today. Shri Ramesha J. S., AGM, who represented the Respondents was unable to offer any explanation regarding the delay in responding to the RTI applications. He stated that he was not “prepared fully” to answer our questions on the issue and prayed for extra time to prepare himself. In this context, we note that our notice for today’s hearing was issued on 14.7.2014 and the Respondents had sufficient time to prepare for it. Moreover, this is the second time that the Commission’s time was wasted because of representation of the Respondents by an officer, who was unable to present their case. As stated above, the Respondents were not represented during the earlier hearing on 25.6.2014, in spite of our written notice having been received by them. In view of the foregoing, we are not willing to accept the prayer of Shri Ramesha J. S. for extra time to prepare himself to represent the Respondents.
4. In response to our query, Shri Ramesha J. S., AGM stated that Shri Arjun Sethi, AGM was the PIO in the Zonal Office in New Delhi, when the RTI applications were received. He further submitted that Shri Sethi was PIO till 30.4.2014 and has since retired from the service of the bank. Since no satisfactory explanation has been given to us for the delay in responding to the RTI applications, we have decided to enquire further into this matter. In terms of the power vested in us under Section 18 (3) of the RTI Act, we direct Shri Arjun Sethi, former Assistant General Manager and PIO to appear before us on 10 th November, 2014 at 10.00 a.m. at Room No. 305, Second Floor, August Kranti Bhawan, Bhikaji Cama Place, New Delhi – 110066, to explain why he should not be penalised in terms of the provisions of subsection 1 of Section 20 of the RTI Act, 2005 for his failure to provide information in response to the seven RTI applications within the timeframe stipulated in the said Act.
5. Shri Ramesha J. S., AGM and PIO is directed to forward a copy of this order at the earliest by registered post to Shri Arjun Sethi, former AGM and PIO.
Hearing on 10.11.2014
6. As directed in our order dated 12.8.2014, Shri Arjun Sethi, former Assistant General Manager and PIO appeared before us today. He submitted that in his RTI applications dated 16.1.2013, the Appellant / Complainant had sought information under seven points on ATM transactions. The information sought in some of the points was for the last ten years and required checking of the relevant data for that period. He further submitted that the applications were filed by the Appellant at seven different branches under the South Delhi Zonal Office of the bank. Since Shri Arjun Sethi, the designated PIO was based in the Zonal Office, all the applications were forwarded by the branches to him for necessary action. Since the ATM operations of the bank are controlled by their FTS centre in Bangalore and the HO Delivery Channel Mangalore, the applications received on different dates from the concerned branches were forwarded to the above offices for collection of data. The above offices provided the information available with them and advised the PIO that the remaining information would have to be collected from the concerned branches. At this stage, Shri Arjun Sethi, PIO sent an interim reply to the Appellant on 4.3.2013, responding to point No.1 and stating that the Respondents were trying to obtain the required information from the concerned branches in respect of points No. 2 to 7. Shri Sethi submitted that the Appellant filed an appeal to the FAA and the information collected from the various branches was provided to him in the FAA’s order dated 22.5.2013.
7. In respect of the complaint on File No. CIC/VS/C/000336/SH, we had earlier passed an order on 26.8.2014. Shri Venkatesh Murthy, PIO, appearing on behalf of the Chandigarh Zonal Office during today’s hearing, stated that the available information in respect of the RTI application dated 16.1.2013, filed at the Rewari Branch, has been collected and that he would be forwarding it to the Complainant.
8. The issue before us in all the eight cases is the delay in responding to the RTI applications in question / provision of information and the prayer of the Appellant / Complainant for imposition of penalty on the CPIO. In the above context, we note that the information sought in some points of the RTI applications was for the last ten years, requiring checking of the relevant data for that period before responding to the queries in question. Further, the applications were filed in different branches of the bank, while the PIO was based in the Zonal Office. This resulted in inevitable delay in movement of the applications between the branches and the concerned Zonal Office. In response to our query, Shri Anand Mohan Dayal, Manager (Law) submitted that the names and addresses of the designated PIOs do not figure on the website of the bank. This clearly results in filing of some RTI applications at the branches and the consequent delay because of their movement between the branches and the Zonal Office. The information sought had to be collected from different offices. Moreover, different interpretation of the provisions of the RTI Act seems to prevail in different offices of the bank. Thus, while the Delhi Zonal Office provided information, albeit with delay, to the queries of the RTI applications of the Appellant / Complainant, the Chandigarh Zonal Office took the stand that the same queries, in the RTI application in respect of the Rewari Branch, did not fall within the ambit of information as defined in Section 2 (f) of the RTI Act. The different standards of interpretation prevailing in the same bank indicate that the concerned officials are not fully familiar with the provisions of the RTI Act and their correct application. Taking into account the totality of the facts concerning the appeals / complaints before us, we do not believe that these are fit cases for imposition of penalty on the PIO under Section 20 of the RTI Act. However, it is clear that the Respondent Bank needs to streamline its RTI work to ensure that the RTI applications received by it are disposed of properly and within the timeframe stipulated in the RTI Act. Therefore, by virtue of the power vested in us under Section 19 (8) (a) of the RTI Act, we direct the public authority to take the following steps:
(a) Carry out suitable decentralization of the RTI work and designate an appropriate number of CPIOs in different offices to ensure timely disposal of the RTI work.
(b) Place the names, addresses, telephone and fax numbers etc. of the designated PIOs and FAAs of the bank on its website, so that RTI applicants submit their applications to the appropriate offices.
(c) Organize at an early date a familiarization-cum-training programme in RTI matters for its concerned officials.
9. With the above direction and observations, the eight appeals / complaints are disposed of.
10. Copies of this order be given free of cost to the parties. The Registry is directed to forward a copy of this order by name, besides the usual recipients, to Shri S. L. Bansal, CMD of the Respondent Bank.
Citation: Shri Harinder Dhingra v. Corporation Bank in File No. CIC/VS/C/2013/000347/SH File No. CIC/VS/C/2013/000349/SH File No. CIC/VS/C/2013/000350/SH File No. CIC/VS/C/2013/000352/SH File No. CIC/VS/C/2013/000353/SH File No. CIC/VS/A/2013/001050/SH File No. CIC/VS/A/2013/001063/SH File No. CIC/VS/C/2013/000336/SH