CIC: No reply has been provided by the then CPIO within the time frame as envisaged under the RTI Act and also no substantial explanation for such delay was tendered by the present CPIO during the hearing; SCN issued for imposing penalty under RTI Act
The Appellant filed an online RTI application dated 03.05.2022 seeking the following information:
1. “With respect to the Project Upgradation of iron ore handling facilities in the outer harbor, kindly provide information about, kindly provide the following information
(i) Customer wise, volume of cargo handled during the financial year 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22. Pl. provide cargo volumes for each customer separately and each year separately
(ii) Amount of Revenue share levied by VPT, and paid by the Concessionaire Essar Vizag Terminals Ltd. Also provide details about delay in payment of Revenue share alongwith details of the amount for which payment was delayed and the number of days of delay, separately for each instance of delay or default.
2. Kindly provide the following information with respect to Current Status of the Project Installation of mechanized iron ore handling facilities at WQ1 berth in the inner harbour of the Port
(i) Civil Work, Provide details for each line item of Civil Work separately as specified in the Concession Agreement (CA)
(i) Mechanical Work, Provide details for each line item of Mechanical Works separately as specified in the Concession Agreement (CA)
(ii) Marine Work, Provide details for each line item of Marine Work separately as specified in the Concession Agreement (CA).
(iv) Electrical Work, Provide details for each line item of Electrical Work separately as specified in the Concession Agreement (CA).
(v) Kindly provide project progress in % terms, physical progress and financial (cost wise) progress separately.
(vi) Copy of latest project progress report in respect of the above project placed by VPT at it recent board meeting.
(vii) Expected date of commissioning of the project.”
Having not received any response from the CPIO, the appellant filed a First Appeal dated 20.06.2022. FAA’s order dated 16.08.2022 upheld the CPIO’s reply (which is not on record).
Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied, the appellant approached the Commission with the instant Second Appeal.
Relevant Facts emerging during Hearing:
The following were present:-
Appellant: Present through video-conference.
Respondent: B. N. Naik, Director (M) & CPIO present through video-conference.
The Appellant stated that he is aggrieved by the fact that a copy of the reply which the FAA has referred to in his order was not at all provided to him till date.
The CPIO invited attention of the bench towards his written submission dated 25.10.2022, relevant extracts of which are produced below for ready reference –
Due to unforeseen reasons reply was not given to the application. Meanwhile, the applicant, has filed First Appeal dt.20.06.2022, for which a letter has been sent to Sr PO & PIO of General Administration Department of VPA informing that his request has been examined duly taking the relevant provisions of the RTI Act into consideration and the information he requested in respect of "Up gradation of iron are handling facilities in the outlet harbor and installation, of mechanized iron ore handling facilities in the inner harbor of the Port” has been awarded to M/s Essar Vizag Terminal Pvt. Limited, as the concessionaire has objected to disclose the information due to commercial confidence and contains trade secrets. and his request was rejected under Section 8 (1)(j) of RTI Act, 2005 with a request to forward the same to the RTI applicant. Sr. PO & PIO of General Administration Department has sent the reply to the applicant vide ltr no. IGAD/RT|/P/A/2022/9912, Dt 16.O8.2022.
It is most pertinent to mention that the Applicant in question is requesting the information of the Company where he worked earlier and subsequently terminated from the Company. This was learnt from the Company Essar Vizag Terminal Limited vide their letter dated 27.02.201 7 in connection with another RTI Application filed by him. The PIO as well as the First Appellate Authority have repeatedly rejected his requests, owning to the provisions of Section 8 (1) (d) & (1) (j) of the RTI Act, 2005 as the Competent Authority was not satisfied that larger public interest has warranted the disclosure of such information, since the seeker of the information is the terminated employee of the Company where he worked.
Against the said 1st Appeal. the Dy. Chairman & 1st Appellate Authority has rejected the appeal of the RTI applicant duly informing PIOs decision is in order.”
The CPIO further submitted that a similar Second Appeal of the Appellant was also already heard and adjudicated by the coordinate bench of CIC bearing case no. CIC/VPTRS/A/2019/161681 on 01.12.2021 where the Commission took the view that denial of information by the CPIO was appropriate.
The Appellant interjected to contest that the RTI Application heard in Appeal no. CIC/VPTRS/A/2019/161681 and the one in question in the instant case were different and not completely same. Therefore, he requested the Commission to direct the CPIO to provide a point wise reply along with the relevant information.
The Commission at the outset considering the Appellant’s contentions is baffled with the fact that no reply has been provided by the concerned then CPIO to the instant RTI Application within the time frame as envisaged under the RTI Act and also no substantial explanation for such delay was tendered by the present CPIO during the hearing, shows the disdainful approach of the Respondent Authority in dealing with the RTI matters which is nothing but an unwarranted obstruction to the Appellant’s right to information and is in grave violation of the RTI Act.
Now, therefore, the concerned then CPIO, CMEE (at the time of receipt of RTI Application) is hereby directed to send his written explanation to show cause as to why action should not be initiated against him under Section 20 of the RTI Act for not giving timely reply coupled with relevant information to the Appellant. The said written explanation of the concerned then CPIO along with supporting documents, if any, through the present CPIO should reach the Commission within 15 days from the date of receipt of this order.
B. N. Naik, present CPIO should serve a copy of this order to the then CPIO for timely compliance of the above said direction under due intimation to the Commission.
In view of the above, the CPIO is directed to revisit the contents of RTI Application and provide firstly a copy of his written submission dated 25.10.2022 and also a point wise reply along with the relevant available information which will suffice the information sought for in RTI Application keeping in view the applicability of provisions of RTI Act.
The aforesaid reply/information shall be provided by the CPIO free of cost to the Appellant within 7 days from the date of receipt of this order under due intimation to the Commission.
The appeal is disposed of accordingly.
Citation: Chandrakant Shah v. Visakhapatnam Port Trust, File No: CIC/VPTRS/A/2022/645286, Date of Decision: 31/10/2022