CIC: The RTI application was being dealt with in a casual manner - CIC remanded the case to the FAA to examine the matter on merits and issue a speaking order within 30 days - CIC cautioned the CPIO to attend to the RTI applications diligently
O R D E R
The Appellant vide his RTI application sought information on 86 points inter alia the list of agents of the DO and all branches along with their phone numbers from 2006 to 31/12/2016, whether Transfer Mobilisation Policy -150 Km was implemented from 2006 to 20/1/2017, if yes, the transfer details of all the staffs, whether the Micro offices fell under the DOs, if yes, the list of the addresses and staff details thereof and other issues related thereto. Dissatisfied due to the non-receipt of any response from the CPIO, the Appellant approached the FAA. The reply of the CPIO/ order of the FAA, if any, are not on record of the Commission.
Facts emerging during the hearing:
The following were present:
Appellant: Absent; Respondent: Mr. J Panneerselvam, Branch Manager, OICL Vellore, , and Ms. S Logeswari, Manager/ CPIO, OICL Chennai through VC;
The Appellant remained absent during the hearing. The Respondent informed the Commission that in July, 2017 a reply had been sent to the Appellant informing him that the information in the matter was being compiled and would be furnished at the earliest. The First Appeal remained unanswered. During the hearing, the Respondent (Vellore) also could not reply satisfactorily and it was evident that the RTI application was being dealt with in a casual manner. The Commission was also in receipt of a written submission from the Respondent dated 04.01.2019 wherein it was submitted that the information called for was not readily available with them as also the data pertaining to more than 10 years old and very voluminous in nature. It was further submitted that the information sought was pertaining to other Authority i.e. IRDA. Moreover, they have already spent a lot of man power and money to collect the information sought by the Appellant. Considering the fact regarding the non availability of sufficient man power, huge outgo involved in collecting and collating the information, they expressed their inability to furnish the information as the same were not readily available with them.
The Commission felt that correct and timely response was the essence of the RTI mechanism enacted to ensure transparency and accountability in the working of Public Authorities. In this context, the Commission referred to the decision of the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in Mujibur Rehman vs Central Information Commission (W.P. (C) 3845/2007)(Dated 28 April, 2009) wherein it had been held as under:
“14.......The court cannot be unmindful of the circumstances under which the Act was framed, and brought into force. It seeks to foster an "openness culture" among state agencies, and a wider section of "public authorities" whose actions have a significant or lasting impact on the people and their lives. Information seekers are to be furnished what they ask for, unless the Act prohibits disclosure; they are not to be driven away through sheer inaction or filibustering tactics of the public authorities or their officers. It is to ensure these ends that time limits have been prescribed, in absolute terms, as well as penalty provisions. These are meant to ensure a culture of information disclosure so necessary for a robust and functioning democracy.”
Furthermore, the Hon’ble Delhi High Court decision in J P Aggarwal v. Union of India (WP (C) no. 7232/2009 it has held that:
“The PIO is expected to apply his / her mind, duly analyse the material before him / her and then either disclose the information sought or give grounds for non-disclosure.”
A reference was drawn to the decision of the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in the case of J.P Agrawal v. Union of India-2013(287) ELT25(Del.) wherein it was held as under:
7.“it is the PIO to whom the application is submitted and it is who is responsible for ensuring that the information as sought is provided to the applicant within the statutory requirements of the Act. Section 5(4) is simply to strengthen the authority of the PIO within the department; if the PIO finds a default by those from whom he has sought information. The PIO is expected to recommend a remedial action to be taken”. The RTI Act makes the PIO the pivot for enforcing the implementation of the Act.”
Furthermore, in OM No. 20/10/23/2007-IR dated 09.07.2009, while elaborating on the duties and responsibilities of the FAA, it was stated that:
“3. Deciding appeals under the RTI Act is a quasi judicial function. It is, therefore, necessary that the appellate authority should see that the justice is not only done but it should also appear to have been done. In order to do so, the order passed by the appellate authority should be a speaking order giving justification for the decision arrived at.
The Commission observed that there is complete negligence and laxity in the public authority in dealing with the RTI applications. It is abundantly clear that such matters are being ignored and set aside without application of mind which reflects disrespect towards the RTI Act, 2005 itself. The Commission expressed its displeasure on the casual and callous approach adopted by the respondent in responding to the RTI application. It was felt that the conduct of Respondent was against the spirit of the RTI Act, 2005 which was enacted to ensure greater transparency and effective access to the information.
The Appellant was not present to contest the submissions of the Respondent or to substantiate his claims further.
Keeping in view the facts of the case and the submissions made by the Respondent, the Commission remands the case to the FAA to examine the matter on merits and issue a speaking order within a period of 30 days from the date of receipt of this order. The Commission also cautions the CPIO to attend to the RTI applications diligently in accordance with the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005.
The Commission also instructs the Respondent Public Authority (CMD) to convene periodic conferences/seminars to sensitize, familiarize and educate the concerned officials about the relevant provisions of the RTI Act, 2005 for effective discharge of its duties and responsibilities. The Appeal stands disposed with the above direction.
Citation: Mr. S. Thiyagarajan v. Oriental Insurance Company Limited in Second Appeal No.:- CIC/OINCL/A/2017/166955-BJ, Date of Decision: 08.01.2019