CIC observed that the information was provided by the CAPIO and not by the CPIO - CIC took a very serious view of this lapse and counselled the CPIO, SAIL to be more careful in future so that such lapses do not recur
O R D E R
1. The complainant filed an application under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) before the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL), seeking information on six points pertaining to Advertisement No. 01/2016 dated 09.03.2016 by Rourkela Steel Plant (RSP), SAIL, including, inter-alia, (i) name and designation of the officer who approved the advertisement keeping the maximum age at seventy for the post of Air Traffic Controller and (ii) name, address and age of the candidate selected for the post and appointed.
2. The complainant filed a complaint before the Commission on the grounds that the CAPIO rather than the CPIO provided incomplete information and denied part of the information on point nos. (iii) and (iv) of the RTI application under Section 8(1)(j) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information: Provided that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person. of the RTI Act on the plea that it is personal information and would not serve any public interest/activity. The complainant requested the Commission to direct the CPIO to provide the information sought and award compensation for the harassment he suffered.
3. The complainant Shri Akshaya Kumar Samal and the respondent Shri Virender Kullu, DGM (Pers.), Rourkela Steel Plant attended the hearing through video conferencing.
4. The complainant submitted that complete and correct information sought by him has not been provided by the respondent. The complainant further submitted that information pertaining to the license validity certificate as well as the marks obtained by the selected candidates has not been provided to him. The complainant further submitted that the information sought was provided by the CAPIO and not by the CPIO, which is a violation of Section 5(4) of the RTI Act.
5. The respondent submitted that pointwise information has been provided to the appellant vide letter dated 27.06.2016. The respondent further submitted that information such as the address of the selected candidates, copies of certificates/license validity certificate and marks obtained by the selected candidate was not provided being personal information of a third party.
6. The Commission, after hearing the submissions of both the parties and perusing the records, observes that information such as the address of the selected candidates, copies of certificates/license validity certificate and marks obtained by the selected candidate has not been provided to the complainant on the grounds that the same pertains to personal information of a third party. However, this exemption has been incorrectly invoked as the information sought pertains to the selected candidate. The Commission further observes that the exemption was claimed due to an error of judgment on the part of the CPIO concerned. However, it cannot be said that the CPIO had acted consciously and deliberately with a malafide intention to provide incorrect or misleading information to the complainant. Further, no penalty can be imposed for wrong judgment. Moreover, in a decision in the matter of Kripa Shanker v. Central Information Commission- judgment dated 18.09.2017 in W. P. (C) No. 8315/ 2017, the High Court of Delhi held that:
“….13… Indisputably, merely because the view taken by a PIO is not correct, it would not lead to an inference that he is liable to penalty. There may be cases where the PIO is of the view that the information sought is exempt from disclosure under Section 8 of the Act. If this view is subsequently found to be incorrect, it would not necessarily mean that he would be subjected to penalty. The question of imposition of penalty depends on whether the conduct of PIO is reasonable and whether there is any bona fide justification for denial of information; penalty is levied only if it is found that the information was denied without reasonable cause.”
In view of the above ratio, in the absence of any malafide intention, it would not be appropriate to initiate any action for imposition of penalty on the CPIO.
7. The Commission observes that information was provided by the CAPIO and not by the CPIO. The Commission takes a very serious view of this lapse. The public information officers are entrusted with the responsibility of providing information to the citizen under the RTI Act. It is expected that the CPIO on receipt of a request shall as expeditiously as possible provide the information sought for by the applicant. In this case, the CPIO did not discharge his responsibility properly. The Commission, therefore, would like to counsel the CPIO, RSP, SAIL to be more careful in future so that such lapses do not recur and that the provisions of the RTI Act are implemented in letter and spirit.
8. With the above observations, the complaint is disposed of.
9. Copy of the decision be provided free of cost to the parties.
Citation: Akshaya Kumar Samal v. CPIO, Rourkela Steel Plant, Steel Authority of India Ltd. in Decision No. CIC/YA/C/2016/000254 Dated 10.10.2017