CIC: By practice ‘missing file’ cannot be read into as exception in addition to exceptions prescribed by RTI Act; It amounts to breach of Public Records Act, 1993 and is punishable with imprisonment up to a term of five years or with fine or both
1. The appellant is present. Mr. S. K. Jha, CPIO, Mr. Anil Kumar Srivastava, Principal and Mr. A. K. Singh, Asst. Registrar represent Public Authority.
2. The Commission’s order dated 24.11.2015 :
5. The Commission having heard the above submissions and perused the record, directs the CPIOs [both the present CPIO and the then CPIO] to show cause why penalty should not be imposed on them for not complying with the Commission’s order dated 16.1.2014, within the prescribed period, as alleged by the appellant and why compensation should not be granted to the appellant for the hardship he had undergone in obtaining the information. Their explanation should reach the Commission within 21 days from the date of receipt of this order. The Commission also directs the both the CPIOs (University/CMP College) to make one more effort to search the records and furnish the documents sought by the appellant within one month from the date of receipt of this order.
6. The Commission orders accordingly.
3. The appellant stated that he joined the service in 1981. He claimed that he has not got even a single promotion during his entire service period, though he is eligible as per rulers. Now he is in the verge if retirement. He said that the documents sought by him are very important for him and that due to non-availability of the document, the appellant could not get his senior grade and selection grade. CPIO stated that information sought by the appellant is not available in the college. Representative of the university stated that all the records were sent to the appellant through post.
4. On 06.07.2012 the Principal of the college wrote a letter to the V.C. in which it was stated that Mr. Mohd. Sirajul Haque had appeared before the screening committee, held by the order of V.C., and report was sent to the concerned college and to the university. The appellant is seeking copy of order of V.C., wherein both the university and college claimed that they had searched the records, but it was not available. Due to non-availability of the document, the appellant could not get his senior grade and selection grade (faculty member) from 2013. The appellant insisted that when the letter with annexure was to be with the public authority.
5. Assistant Registrar, CPIO submitted that Joint Registrar of Faculty is responsible for holding such records, because of which he could not supply the records and he was helpless.
6. The submissions and proceedings before Shri Rajiv Mathur, IC and this Commission reveal serious negligence on the part of the authorities in protecting the records. The RTI Act in no way provides any exemption from disclosure of information on the ground of “missing files”. Unless proved that record was destroyed as per the prescribed rules of destruction/ retention policy, it is deemed that record continues to be held by public authority. Claim of file missing or not traceable has no legality. By practice ‘missing file’ cannot be read into as exception in addition to exceptions prescribed by RTI Act. It amounts to breach of Public Records Act, 1993 and punishable with imprisonment up to a term of five years or with fine or both. Public Authority has a duty to initiate action for this kind of loss of public record, in the form of ‘not traceable’ or ‘missing’. The Public Authority also has a duty to designate an officer as Records Officer and protect the records.
7. The Commission directs Mr. S. K. Jha, CPIO, Mr. Anil Kumar Srivastava, Principal and Mr. A. K. Singh, Asst. Registrar to show cause why maximum penalty should not be imposed upon them for not providing the information to the appellant why disciplinary action is not recommended against them and public authority to explain why compensation should not be paid to the appellant for harassing him by not providing the requisite information for a long time, within 21 days from the date of receipt of this order. The Commission holds Joint Registrar (Faculty), Assistant Registrar who is also CPIO and representative of CMP Degree College responsible for non-traceability of records as they failed to express reasonable cause. The explanation given in the form of affidavit is absolutely not satisfied.
8. The Commission directs Joint Registrar, considering him as deemed PIO to show cause why maximum penalty should not imposed against him for losing such important documents, within 21 days from the date of receipt of this order.
9. The Commission directs Registrar, University of Allahabad to give report on action taken on the pathetic condition of his office loosing very important record like this and inform the Commission what kind of measures they would initiate to address the grievance of the appellant in light of the claim of non-traceability in the letter written by University and screening committee report, within one month from the date of receipt of this order.
(M. Sridhar Acharyulu)
Citation: Mohd. Sirajul Haque v. University of Allahabad in Case No.CIC/RM/A/2014/000027SA