CIC: There is complete negligence and laxity in the public authority in dealing with the RTI applications - CIC: It is abundantly clear that such matters are being ignored and set aside without application of mind which reflects disrespect towards RTI Act
O R D E R
The Appellant vide his RTI application sought information regarding the qualifications required for appointment for the post of lecturer in the B.Ed. College, cut off marks required to qualify for interview and issues related thereto. The CPIO vide letter dated 18.01.2017 provided the details of the websites where the information could be accessed. Dissatisfied by the response, the Appellant approached the FAA. The FAA vide order dated 21/22.02.2017, directed the CPIO to provide clear and cogent information to the Appellant within 07 days.
Facts emerging during the hearing:
The following were present:
Appellant: Mr. Rakesh Kumar through VC;
Respondent: Dr. Prabhu Kumar Yadav, US, NCTE;
The Appellant reiterated the contents of his RTI application and stated that despite protracted correspondence with various offices of the Public Authority, the information sought had not been clarified, so far. The Respondent reiterated the reply of the CPIO/FAA and narrated the duties and functions of the Public Authority. It was submitted that barring Points 01 and 07, the remaining information was not held by them and that a suitable reply had been furnished to the Appellant. Contesting the reply, the Appellant drew attention to several of his correspondence and the manner in which he was made to run from pillar to post to seek certain basic details.
The Commission observed that as per the provisions of Section 19 (5) of the RTI Act, 2005, in an Appeal proceeding, the onus to prove that a denial of a request was justified shall be on the CPIO. Neither the Respondent present during the hearing nor the CPIO responding to the RTI application, could justify their position as to how the disclosure of information would be in contravention to any of the provisions enshrined under Section 8 of the RTI Act, 2005.
While observing that in order to deny information under any of the exemption mentioned under Section 8 (1) of the RTI Act, 2005, the Respondent is required to provide justification or establish the reason why such exemption was claimed, the Commission referred to the decision of the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in the matter of Dy. Commissioner of Police v. D.K. Sharma, WP (C) No. 12428 of 2009 dated 15.12.2010, wherein it was held as under:
“6. This Court is inclined to concur with the view expressed by the CIC that in order to deny the information under the RTI Act the authority concerned would have to show a justification with reference to one of the specific clauses under Section 8 (1) of the RTI Act. In the instant case, the Petitioner has been unable to discharge that burden. The mere fact that a criminal case is pending may not by itself be sufficient unless there is a specific power to deny disclosure of the information concerning such case.”
Moreover, as per the provisions of Section 7 (8) (i) of the RTI Act, 2005, where a request for disclosure of information is rejected, the CPIO shall communicate the reasons for such rejection.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the matter of Bihar Public Service Commission v. Saiyed Hussain Abbas Rizwi: (2012) 13 SCC 61 while explaining the term “Public Interest” held:
“22. The expression "public interest" has to be understood in its true connotation so as to give complete meaning to the relevant provisions of the Act. The expression "public interest" must be viewed in its strict sense with all its exceptions so as to justify denial of a statutory exemption in terms of the Act. In its common parlance, the expression "public interest", like "public purpose", is not capable of any precise definition. It does not have a rigid meaning, is elastic and takes its colour from the statute in which it occurs, the concept varying with time and state of society and its needs (State of Bihar v. Kameshwar Singh([AIR 1952 SC 252]). It also means the general welfare of the public that warrants recognition and protection; something in which the public as a whole has a stake [Black's Law Dictionary (8th Edn.)].”
The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the matter of Ashok Kumar Pandey vs The State of West Bengal (decided on 18 November, 2003Writ Petition (crl.) 199 of 2003) had made reference to the following texts for defining the meaning of “public interest’, which is stated as under:
“Strouds Judicial Dictionary, Volume 4 (IV Edition),'Public Interest' is defined thus: "Public Interest (1) a matter of public or general interest does not mean that which is interesting as gratifying curiosity or a love of information or amusement but that in which a class of the community have a pecuniary interest, or some interest by which their legal rights or liabilities are affected." In Black's Law Dictionary (Sixth Edition), "public interest" is defined as follows: Public Interest something in which the public, or some interest by which their legal rights or liabilities are affected. It does not mean anything the particular localities, which may be affected by the matters in question. Interest shared by national government....”
In Mardia Chemical Limited v. Union of India (2004) 4 SCC 311, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India while considering the validity of SARFAESI Act and recovery of non-performing assets by banks and financial institutions in India, recognised the significance of Public Interest and had held as under :
“.............Public interest has always been considered to be above the private interest. Interest of an individual may, to some extent, be affected but it cannot have the potential of taking over the public interest having an impact in the socio-economic drive of the country...........”
The DoP&T vide its OM No.4/9/2008-IR dated 24.06.2008 on the Subject “Courteous behavior with the persons seeking information under the RTI Act, 2005” had stated as under:
“The Central Information Commission has brought to the notice of this Department that officers of some of the public authorities do not behave properly with the persons who seek information under the RTI Act. The undersigned is directed to say that the responsibility of a public authority and its public information officers (PlO) is not confined to furnish information but also to provide necessary help to the information seeker, wherever necessary. While providing information or rendering help to a person, it is important to be courteous to the information seeker and to respect his dignity.”
The Commission observed that a voluntary disclosure of all information that ought to be displayed in the public domain should be the rule and members of public who having to seek information should be an exception. An open government, which is the cherished objective of the RTI Act, can be realised only if all public offices comply with proactive disclosure norms. Section 4(2) It shall be a constant endeavour of every public authority to take steps in accordance with the requirements of clause (b) of sub-section (1) to provide as much information suo motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including internet, so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information. of the RTI Act mandates every public authority to provide as much information suomotu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including the Internet, so that the public need not resort to the use of RTI Act. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the matter of CBSE and Anr. Vs. Aditya Bandopadhyay and Ors 2011 (8) SCC 497 held as under:
“37. The right to information is a cherished right. Information and right to information are intended to be formidable tools in the hands of responsible citizens to fight corruption and to bring in transparency and accountability. The provisions of RTI Act should be enforced strictly and all efforts should be made to bring to light the necessary information under Clause (b) of Section 4(1) of the Act which relates to securing transparency and accountability in the working of public authorities and in discouraging corruption.”
The Commission also observes the Hon’ble Delhi High Court ruling in WP (C) 12714/2009 Delhi Development Authority v. Central Information Commission and Another (delivered on: 21.05.2010), wherein it was held as under:
“16.It also provides that the information should be easily accessible and to the extent possible should be in electronic format with the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be. The word disseminate has also been defined in the explanation to mean - making the information known or communicating the information to the public through notice boards, newspapers, public announcements, media broadcasts, the internet, etc. It is, therefore, clear from a plain reading of Section 4 of the RTI Act that the information, which a public authority is obliged to publish under the said section should be made available to the public and specifically through the internet. There is no denying that the petitioner is duty bound by virtue of the provisions of Section 4 of the RTI Act to publish the information indicated in Section 4(1)(b) Every public authority shall publish within one hundred and twenty days from the enactment of this Act,- (i) the particulars of its organisation, functions and duties; (ii) the powers and duties of its officers and employees; (iii) the procedure followed in the decision making process, including channels of supervision and accountability; (iv) the norms set by it for the discharge of its functions; (v) the rules, regulations, instructions, manuals and records, held by it or under its control or used by its employees for discharging its functions; (vi) a statement of the categories of documents that are held by it or under its control; (vii) the particulars of any arrangement that exists for consultation with, or representation by, the members of the public in relation to the formulation of its policy or implementation thereof; (viii) a statement of the boards, councils, committees and other bodies consisting of two or more persons constituted as its part or for the purpose of its advice, and as to whether meetings of those boards, councils, committees and other bodies are open to the public, or the minutes of such meetings are accessible for public; (ix) a directory of its officers and employees; (x) the monthly remuneration received by each of its officers and employees, including the system of compensation as provided in its regulations; (xi) the budget allocated to each of its agency, indicating the particulars of all plans, proposed expenditures and reports on disbursements made; (xii) the manner of execution of subsidy programmes, including the amounts allocated and the details of beneficiaries of such programmes; (xiii) particulars of recipients of concessions, permits or authorisations granted by it; (xiv) details in respect of the information, available to or held by it, reduced in an electronic form; (xv) the particulars of facilities available to citizens for obtaining information, including the working hours of a library or reading room, if maintained for public use; (xvi) the names, designations and other particulars of the Public Information Officers; (xvii) such other information as may be prescribed and thereafter update these publications every year; and 4(1)(c) Every public authority shall publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect public; on its website so that the public have minimum resort to the use of the RTI Act to obtain the information.”
Furthermore, High Court of Delhi in the decision of General Manager Finance Air India Ltd & Anr v. Virender Singh, LPA No. 205/2012, Decided On: 16.07.2012 had held as under:
“8. The RTI Act, as per its preamble was enacted to enable the citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. An informed citizenry and transparency of information have been spelled out as vital to democracy and to contain corruption and to hold Governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed. The said legislation is undoubtedly one of the most significant enactments of independent India and a landmark in governance. The spirit of the legislation is further evident from various provisions thereof which require public authorities to:
A. Publish inter alia:
i) the procedure followed in the decision making process;
ii) the norms for the discharge of its functions;
iii) rules, regulations, instructions manuals and records used by its employees in discharging of its functions;
iv) the manner and execution of subsidy programmes including the amounts allocated and the details of beneficiaries of such programmes;
v) the particulars of recipients of concessions, permits or authorizations granted. [see Section 4(1) (b), (iii), (iv), (v); (xii) & (xiii)]. B. Suo moto provide to the public at regular intervals as much information as possible [see Section 4(2) It shall be a constant endeavour of every public authority to take steps in accordance with the requirements of clause (b) of sub-section (1) to provide as much information suo motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including internet, so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information. ].”
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.
Keeping in view the facts of the case and the submissions made by both the parties and considering the nature of queries raised by the Appellant, the Commission directs the Respondent to re-examine each of the points of the application and furnish information to the Appellant in a precise, cogent and comprehensible manner within a period of 15 days from the date of receipt of this order.
The Appeal stands disposed accordingly.
Citation: Mr. Rakesh Kumar v. Under Secretary (Regulation), National Council for Teacher Education in Second Appeal No.:- CIC/NCTED/A/2017/135651-BJ, Date of Decision: 14.08.2018