CIC: the inspection of computers cannot be allowed as there would be many other information on the computers which would qualify for exemption; by convention the FAA should give an opportunity of hearing to any appellant if expressly desired
Vide RTI dt 17.6.13, appellant had sought information on 3 points as follows:
A) Please provide certified copies of half yearly/annual returns filed by CVC under RTI Act from 2009 to 2013 including for RTI applications/appeals.
B) Please provide copies of Appellate Orders passed by both the RTI First Appellate Authorities of CVC from 1.11.12 till date.
C) Please provide inspection of all computers through which Appellate Order of RTI’s FAA in CVC from 1.11.12 are generated, typed or stored.
2. CPIO vide letter dt 16.7.13 asked appellant to deposit Rs 52 for 26 pages relating to query A). For query B) and C), it was submitted that the information sought is not readily available and culling and compiling of information from individual files as requested involves deployment of additional manpower which would divert the limited human resource of the public authority. Hence the information cannot be provided keeping in view the provisions contained u/s 7(9) An information shall ordinarily be provided in the form in which it is sought unless it would disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority or would be detrimental to the safety or preservation of the record in question. An information shall ordinarily be provided in the form in which it is sought unless it would disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority or would be detrimental to the safety or preservation of the record in question. of the RTI Act. Reliance was also placed on the CIC decision in case no.CIC/SM/A/2011/002070 in respect of Shri Natraj Saha Vs CVC. In respect of query no. C), it was pointed out that the computers, apart from orders of the FAA, contain many other confidential/sensitive data and various other legal and confidential matters relating to third parties. No separate data is available exclusively for FAA orders. Hence inspection is denied keeping in view Sections 8(1)(e), (g), (h) and (j) of the RTI Act.
3. An appeal was filed on 20.7.13.
4. AA vide order dt 19.8.12, upheld the decision of the CPIO and disposed of the appeal.
5. Submissions made by the appellant and public authority were heard. Appellant provided written submissions at the time of hearing which are taken on record. Following submissions are made by the appellant:
i) He submitted that the FAA Shri Alok Bhatnagar is guilty of non-compliance of CIC order dt 18.7.13 (CIC/SM/A/2013/000312) relating to grant of hearing to the appellant and the relevant para is extracted below: “Although the Right to Information Act or the rules made there under do not prescribe in detail the procedure to be followed by the AA in dealing with first appeals, by convention the AA should give an opportunity of hearing to any appellant if the appellant expressly wants to be heard. Therefore, we would like the AA to bear this in mind and wherever any such request is made, to afford an opportunity of hearing to that appellant.”
ii) In view of the above, he wanted a token compensation of Rs 10000 to be awarded and disciplinary action ordered against the FAA.
iii) He also submitted that the FAA has deliberately and with malafide intention, denied the information sought and observed that grounds of denial by the FAA in para 6 of his order is wrong. In this connection, appellant referred to several orders issued by the FAA wherein a copy of his order is marked to the Guard File and questioned as to how copies of FAA orders which he has sought in query no. B of his RTI, have been denied.
iv) Appellant referred to the DOPT OM dt 15.4.13 relating to implementation of suo motu disclosure u/s 4 of the RTI Act.
6. The appellant in query no. B of his RTI has sought copy of AA’s orders of CVC from 1.11.12 till date of providing the information. The CPIO denied the information under provisions of Section 7(9) An information shall ordinarily be provided in the form in which it is sought unless it would disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority or would be detrimental to the safety or preservation of the record in question. An information shall ordinarily be provided in the form in which it is sought unless it would disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority or would be detrimental to the safety or preservation of the record in question. of the RTI Act while the FAA denied the information on the grounds that no such data as sought by the appellant is being maintained by the CVC. FAA further observed that in the absence of the name of the appellant, it is not possible to provide any information as requested for by the appellant. According to the FAA’s own admission, there are around 280 such appeals for which information is being sought. According to the CPIO, there are over 15 different CPIOs in the CVC and as such, the Commission is of the view that denial of information on varying grounds does not make any sense.
7. The Commission is of the view that the FAA has decided to deny the information and then gone about raising various issues justifying the same. In the light of the DOPT guidelines, this information which is to be made public in any case, should have been provided to the appellant.
8. The relevant para of DOPT OM referred to above is reproduced below:
“1.4 RTI Applications
1.4.1. All Public Authorities shall proactively disclose RTI applications and appeals received and their responses, on the websites maintained by Public Authorities with search facility based on key words. RTI applications and appeals received and their responses relating to the personal information of an individual may not be disclosed, as they do not serve any public interest.”
9. We find that the FAA has been remiss in his arguments and has acted in a manner which is in violation of the letter and spirit of the RTI Act. The CPIO is directed to provide this information to the appellant within three weeks of date of receipt of the order.
10. Insofar as query no. C of the RTI is concerned, we concur with the decision of the CPIO/AA that the inspection of computers cannot be allowed as there would be many other information on the computers which would qualify for exemption under various sections of the RTI Act.
11. As per Section 19(8)(b) In its decision, the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, has the power to require the public authority to compensate the complainant for any loss or other detriment suffered; of the RTI Act, CIC has power to award compensation to the complainant for any loss or any other detriment suffered. As the Commission do not find any such loss or detriment suffered by the appellant and hence the request for compensation is denied. However, the Commission finds the following lapses on part of the public authority:
i) Shri Alok Bhatnagar, Addl Secretary and AA has failed to provide an opportunity of hearing to the appellant before deciding his first appeal in spite of earlier CIC directions vide its decision dt 18.7.13 (CIC/SM/A/2013/000312).
ii) For not implementing DOPT guidelines dt 15.4.13 regarding suo motu disclosure as mentioned in para 8 above.
In view of the above, a copy of this order be marked to the Chief Vigilance Commissioner for issuing appropriate directions in respect of suo motu disclosure and to issue requisite directions to the FAA to ensure that the provisions of the RTI Act are adhered to both in letter and spirit. The appeal is disposed of.
Chief Information Commissioner
Citation: Shri R.K. Jain v. Central Vigilance Commission in File No.CIC/SM/A/2013/001302/RM