CIC: PIO failed to clarify why RTI application was transferred to other PIOs; failed to give sufficient cause for the delay & negligence in providing the information; PIO came late for the hearing before CIC - Penalty of Rs 10,000 imposed on PIO u/s 20(1)
Show Cause Hearing u/s 20 (1) of the RTI Act
The information was sought on 4 points from the Ministry of Rural Development regarding the status of an NGO / Charitable Trust, Vishwa Jat Mahasangh’s position whether it was blacklisted or not as the appellant’s NGO did not figure in the Black List category. The CPIO, M/o Rural Development transferred the RTI application to CAPART which is one of the donor agencies. CAPART informed the appellant that the said NGO was not under any funding restriction category. On 17.1.2014, during the hearing, the respondent from CAPART had stated that there are other donor agencies within the Ministry of Rural development from which similar information can be sought, on which the Commission had directed CPIO, M/o Rural Development to provide the information regarding other donor agencies within the Ministry. Accordingly, fresh notices were issued to the CPIO for appearance on 23.4.2014. Despite notice, the CPIO, Ministry of Rural Development had neither provided information to the appellant regarding donor agencies, nor was there any record of the application being transferred to other donor agencies, if any. The CPIO, in fact, transferred it again to CAPART which had already provided information available in their dept. He did not appear before the Commission on 23.04.2014, despite notice.
The Commission vide order dated 23.04.2014, had directed for issuance of a show cause notice to the CPIO, M/o Rural Development for neither providing the information nor transferring the RTI application to other donor agencies u/s 6(3) of the Act, despite directions by the Commission in this regard. Shri S.K. Gupta, CPIO/US, who attended the hearing, submitted that the appellant was intimated vide letter dt. 14.11.2014 that there is no further information to be provided in furtherance of the replies provided by CAPART. He further stated that the RTI application has been transferred to PIOs of all states on point no. 4. On query by the Commission as to why the RTI application was transferred when there is no information to be provided in furtherance of information already provided by CAPART, the respondent was unable to reply. The issue before the Commission was whether the information was provided to the appellant regarding the status of NGO/Charitable Trust – Vishwa Jat Mahasangh’s was blacklisted or not as the appellant’s NGO did not figure in the Black List category. The RTI application was filed before the Ministry of Rural Development. The CPIO forwarded the RTI application, initially, only to CAPART and information held by CAPART was provided to the appellant. However, on more than one occasion, no one from the M/o Rural Development appeared before the Commission to make their submissions. Only on the issue of the current show cause notice, the respondent has appeared before the Commission and, that too, he is unprepared. He has not been able to satisfy the Commission as to why the RTI application has been, recently, transferred to PIOs of all states when there is no further information to be provided and why the same was not transferred to other donor agencies, at the very initial stage.
The Commission observes with concern that Shri S.K. Gupta, CPIO/US failed to give sufficient cause for the delay and negligence in providing the information. The respondent, here, has stated that there is no further information to be provided, which could have been intimated to the appellant, at the very first instance, i.e. on receipt of the RTI application. However, the CPIO, M/o Rural Development transferred the RTI application to CAPART on more than one occasion. The CPIO informed the appellant only on 14.11.2014 that there is no further information to be provided, apart from what has already been provided by CPIO, CAPART. Neither was the information provided till now nor any submissions in response to the show cause notice issued were made. The respondent failed to give sufficient reasons for the delay/obstruction in providing information to the appellant.
An intimation, that the public authority holds no information on the queries sought by the appellant, was sent to him on 14.11.2014, which shows the lackadaisical approach of the PIO towards the RTI regime; further, he came late for the hearing in the instant case. He failed to clarify why RTI application was transferred to other PIOs and to whom, for that matter. In view of the above, the Commission imposes a penalty of Rs 10,000 (rupees ten thousand only) u/s 20(1) Where the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be, at the time of deciding any complaint or appeal is of the opinion that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, has, without any reasonable cause, refused to receive an application for information or has not furnished information within the time specified under sub-section (1) of section 7 or malafidely denied the request for information or knowingly given incorrect, incomplete or misleading information or destroyed information which was the subject of the request or obstructed in any manner in furnishing the information, it shall impose a penalty of two hundred and fifty rupees each day till application is received or information is furnished, so however, the total amount of such penalty shall not exceed twenty-five thousand rupees: Provided that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall be given a reasonable opportunity of being heard before any penalty is imposed on him: Provided further that the burden of proving that he acted reasonably and diligently shall be on the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be. on Shri S.K. Gupta, CPIO/US, M/o Rural Development, for violation of the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005, on more than one occasion. This amount will be deducted from the salary of the Shri S.K. Gupta, CPIO/US, M/o Rural Development, in two equal instalments @ Rs. 5000/- per month starting from January 2015. The total amount of Rs. 10,000/- will be remitted by March 2015. The FAA/Secretary, M/o Rural Development, is directed to recover the amount of Rs. 10,000/- from the salary of Shri S.K. Gupta, CPIO/US, and remit the same through a Demand Draft or a Banker’s Cheque in the name of Pay & Accounts Officer, CAT, payable at New Delhi and send the same to Shri Shanti Priye Beck, Joint Secretary (Admn.), Central Information Commission, Room No. 302, 2nd Floor, August Kranti Bhawan, New Delhi – 110066.
Citation: Shri Maharaj Shree v. M/o Rural Development in F.No.CIC/SS/A/2013/002528-YA