CIC directed the CBEC that all information relating to the registration of Service Associations, Federations/their Service Rules etc. should be placed in the public domain to facilitate dissemination of information in compliance with Sec 4 of the RTI Act
O R D E R
The Appellant vide his RTI application sought information regarding the validity and period for registration of order no. B12017/03/2013-AD IV-A dated 31.03.2014 and the copy of such order issued by one Mahasangh, etc. The CPIO vide its letter dated 19.01.2017 provided point wise response to the Appellant. Dissatisfied by the response of the CPIO, the Appellant approached the FAA. The FAA vide its order dated 28.03.2017 held that only such information as was available on record, could be provided by the CPIO under the RTI Act,2005. However, the CPIO was directed to provide an explanation regarding the delay caused in providing information to the Appellant.
Facts emerging during the hearing:
The following were present:
Appellant: Shri Arvind Kumar Agarwal through VC;
Respondent: Mr. B. Ginkhan Mang, US and Mr. S. S. Bisht, SO;
The Appellant reiterated the contents of his RTI application and stated that satisfactory reply had not been furnished to him. It was specifically argued that the delay in sending the reply was not explained as also the enclosures sought to have been dispatched by the Respondent had not been received by him. Explaining the matter, the Respondent informed that the necessary replies had been furnished to the Appellant. They had also enclosed a copy of the Service Associations/Federations recognized by them instantly as also their renewal from time to time. On being queried whether all such details were posted on the website, the Respondent could not explain satisfactorily but assured that they would certainly place such details on its website. With regard to the delay in furnishing the reply, the Commission was informed that consequent upon the announcement of GST and related development concerning restructuring of their department, it was not feasible for them to furnish the information within the specific time period and apologized for the delay. It was however, conveyed that on 11.08.2017 they had sent a letter with enclosures to the Appellant. In its written submission presented to the Commission dated 17.08.2017, point-wise reply with necessary enclosures had been furnished with a copy to the Appellant that contains detailed explanations to the issues raised by the Appellant.
Hearing both the parties and on perusal of records, the Commission observed that a voluntary disclosure of all the information that ought to be displayed in the public domain should be the rule and members of the 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, 2005 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, 2005. In this context, the Commission referred to the decision of The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in SLP(C) NO. 7526/2009 (CBSE & Anr. Vs. Aditya Bandopadhyay & Ors) wherein it had observed as under:
“37. The right to information is a cherished right. Information and right to information are intended to be formidable tools in the hands of responsible citizens to fight corruption and to bring in transparency and accountability. The provisions of RTI Act should be enforced strictly and all efforts should be made to bring to light the necessary information under Clause (b) of Section 4(1) of the Act which relates to securing transparency and accountability in the working of public authorities and in discouraging corruption”
The Commission also observed that 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), 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.”
In this context, a reference can also be made to the decision by Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in General Manager Finance Air India Ltd & Anr. Vs. Virender Singh, LPA No. 205/2012, Decided On: 16.07.2012 wherein it 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. ].
Also, 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, while dealing with significance of free flow of information had stated as under:
“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.”
Keeping in view the facts of the case and the submissions made by both the parties, the Commission instructs the Respondent that all information relating to the registration of Service Associations, Federations/their Service Rules etc. should be placed in the public domain to facilitate dissemination of information to the public at large. Thus, suo moto disclosure of all such information in compliance with Section-4 of the RTI Act, 2005 should be made to ensure transparency, objectivity and accountability in the functioning of the Public Authority.
The Appeal stands disposed with the above direction.
Citation: Shri Arvind Kumar Agarwal v. Central Board of Excise and Customs in Appeal No.:-CIC/CBECE/A/2017/133860-BJ; Date of Decision: 17.08.2017