CIC directs Chief Secretary not to tamper with or dislocate any official document
In response to the TV news channels running news about the sting operation alleging destruction of government files in the offices of the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, an urgent complaint / petition with the Central Information Commission seeking directions to the Chief Secretary, Delhi Government to ensure the safekeeping of all records until the newly elected Government takes over.
The petitioners cited the judgement of Hon'ble Supreme Court in the case of Chief Information Commissioner and Another Vs. State of Manipur and Another (Civil Appeal No.10787-10788 of 2011, judgement dated 12.12.11) in which the SC had taken note of the supervisory powers of Central and State Information Commissions, and also to the decision of Hon'ble SC in CBSE & Another Vs. Aditya Bandhopadhyay and Another (Civil Appeal No.6454 of 2011, judgement dated 9.8.11), wherein the Court explained the nature of powers of Central and State Information Commissions, under RTI Act, particularly Sec. l9(8) which entrusted Information Commissions with the power to require any public authority to take any such steps as may be necessary to secure the compliance with the provisions of the Act, besides Sec.19(8)(4) which empowers the Commission to require a public authority to make necessary changes to its practices relating to the maintenance, management and destruction of records.
It was argued that that apprehension of destruction of records, if becomes true, would cause irreparable loss because the evidence of corruption or innocence would be destroyed forever, block many future RTI responses by public authorities because of absence of record due to destruction and it might even lead to a situation where criminal justice cannot be administered by proper investigation and prosecution of the offenders under Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 or any other law.
The Commission issued the ‘ad-interim direction’ as under:-
i) The CIC found the complaint admissible as there appeared reasonable apprehension of commission of cognizable offence which if not prevented, would cause serious consequences to administration of criminal justice and affecting the rule of law.
ii) Due to urgency and in view of protecting the records as the circumstances may not wait for a few more days for CIC to issue regular notice of hearing, the CIC did not go give a hearing to the Chief Secretary, GNCTD. The CIC observed that the Respondent has a responsibility as Head of the Govt. machinery to protect the public records which is important state property and which could be the evidence of corruption or innocence of responsible public servants.
iii) Invoking section l8(3)(a) of the RTI Act, the CIC issued summons to the Respondent public authority to give written information about the result of enquiry of alleged destruction of public records.
iv) Invoking section l8(3)(c) of the RTI Act which requires public authority to submit a list of public record papers and documents in custody of Government if destroyed either legitimately or otherwise, along with justification of legitimate destruction.
v) Invoking powers u/s18(3) read with section 19(8) and section 25(5) of the RTI Act, the Commission directed the Chief Secretary, GNCTD to issue necessary directions to "record officers" designated under Public Records Act, 1993 and "Public Information Officers" designated under RTI Ad, 2005 to secure, keep safe and undertake not to destroy, displace or in any other way tamper with or dislocate or dislodge or disturb any official document in the custody of various departments of GNCTD.
vi) The Commission also directed the Chief Secretary, GNCTD to alert the vigilance officers / any other concerned officers to take all preventive steps to protect the records from destruction.
vii) If the Chief Secretary, GNCTD comes to notice of any such destruction as apprehended, he may initiate necessary criminal action against concerned person as destruction of records might amount to serious crime by itself under Indian Penal Code or any other law.
The matter has been posted for hearing on further hearing for January 15, 2014.
Citation: Ms. Maja Daruwala and Venkatesh Nayak v The Chief Secretary, GNCTD in File No. CIC/SA/C/2013/000018