Compensation for delay of 14 months in providing evaluated answer-scripts by UGC – Respondent: legal opinion took time - backlog of RTI applications cleared in phases – CIC: delay was not deliberate - token compensation of Rs. 1000/- u/s 19(8)(b)
Compensation for delay of 14 months in providing evaluated answer-scripts by UGC – Respondent: legal opinion after newspapers reports that SC judgment followed by legal opinion regarding the issue of charging fee took time - backlog of RTI applications cleared in phases – CIC: delay in supply of information was not deliberate; it was systemic in nature - token compensation of Rs. 1000/- u/s 19(8)(b) In its decision, the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, has the power to require the public authority to compensate the complainant for any loss or other detriment suffered;
This is in continuation of this Commission proceedings dated 3.6.2013. As scheduled, the matter is heard today dated 8.7.2013. Appellant not present. UGC is represented by Shri A. K. Dogra, Jt. Secretary; Dr. Surinder Singh, Dy. Secretary and Ms. Sunita Malhotra, S. O. As directed, Dr. Akhilesh Gupta, Secretary, UGC, has submitted written representation dated 4.7.2013 which is taken on record.
2. The limited question for consideration before the Commission is whether compensation should be awarded to the appellant for delayed supply of information in terms of section 19(8)(b) In its decision, the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, has the power to require the public authority to compensate the complainant for any loss or other detriment suffered; of the RTI Act. It is noticed that the Supreme Court of India in judgment dated 9th August, 2011, in Aditya Bandopadhyay vs. Central Board of Secondary Education had held that copies of the evaluated answer scripts are liable to be disclosed to the examinees. The appellant herein was one such examinee. He had sought copies of his evaluated answer-scripts vide RTI application dated 22.1.2012. In other words, the order of the Supreme Court was in operation when the appellant requested for supply of answer-scripts. There was, however, inordinate delay of about 14 months in the supply of evaluated answer-scripts.
3. Shri Gupta has submitted that the Chairman, UGC, took the decision to supply copies of answer-scripts in July, 2010. He has meticulously enumerated the steps taken by the UGC to implement the said order and has requested for condonment of delay. The relevant paras of his representation are extracted below:- “UGC had not been providing copies of answer scripts to the candidates as a matter of policy. A decision was taken by the Chairman, UGC to provide copies of answer scripts to candidates in July, 2012. The NET Bureau sought legal opinion following newspapers reports that the Supreme Court had taken a decision to provide answer sheet of educational or professional examinations under the RTI Act. Confirmation of the same was received from the legal counsel of UGC vide his reply dated 23.10.2011. Subsequent to this, a file was moved by the NET Bureau of November, 2011 to seek legal opinion regarding the issue of charging fee for providing answer scripts as administrative expenses. Legal opinion regarding the issue of charging fee from the RTI applicants as administrative expenses for providing copies of answer scripts was again sought from the legal counsel of UGC. It was advised by the legal counsel of UGC that the decision of the Supreme Court had to be implemented in terms of section 7(3) of the RTI Act. On receiving the legal opinion, the Chairman, UGC took a policy decision on 15.7.2012 to provide the copies of answer scripts to the candidates as per the provisions of the RTI Act and the decision of the Supreme Court. Several candidates, meanwhile, had been requesting UGC under the RTI Act to provide them with copies of their answer scripts. Such requests were quite numerous. Simultaneously, fresh requests under the RTI Act for copies of answer scripts were also being received. They were being attended to instantaneously, while the backlog was also being cleared in phase-wise manner. As a result, the request of the applicant Shri Gaurav Kapoor could only be addressed in February, 2013 when the material desired by him was sent. Thus it may be noted that there has been no deliberate administrative delay in this case. After clearing its backlog following the policy decision, the NET Bureau has now been able to address similar requests under the RTI Act within the stipulated time frame.”
4. From the above narration, I am satisfied that delay in supply of information was not deliberate; it was systemic in nature. The UGC had to consult their legal advisors to work out the modalities of implementing the Supreme Court order, which, apparently caused the delay. It may, however, be noted as per Article 142 of the Constitution, the order passed by the Supreme Court is enforceable throughout the territory of India. The Supreme Court judgment in Aditya Bandopadhyay case is binding on all public authorities, including the UGC. Inordinate delay in the implementation of this judgment cannot be countenanced. Even so, taking a lenient view, I award a token compensation of Rs. 1000/- to the appellant. The Secretary, UGC, will remit this amount to the appellant through demand draft in 05 weeks time.
Central Information Commissioner
Citation: Gaurav Kapoor v. University Grants Commission in File No. CIC/RM/A/2012/000279