Compensation of Rs. 1.44 Lakhs to be paid by Department of Food and Supplies under RTI
The appellant referred to a list of nine ration card numbers along with the cardholder’s names and stated that in the new computer data entry, the computer is showing them as not valid ration cards. In this context, he filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with the Department of Food and Supplies seeking information like the details of the officials responsible for the wrong entries and the reasons for not entering the correct numbers in the computer. The Public Information Officer (PIO) informed him that the ration card numbers mentioned in the application are incorrect and requested him to provide the correct ration card numbers so that the required information can be given. The First Appellate Authority (FAA) stated that as per computer data base, each card number consists of at least eight digits. However in the instant case, the appellant has mentioned seven digits card numbers from Serial Number 1 to 8 and though the card no. at S.No.9 is correct, but the status of the said card is inactive as per computer data base. He advised the applicant to furnish correct numbers in respect of ration cards mentioned from Serial Number 1 to 8.
During the hearing before the Central Information Commission (CIC), the appellant submitted that all the cards belong to AAY category (a category meant for the poorest of the poor) and because of the error in computer data base, the cards have been shown as invalid. The cardholders who are poor and are barely able to make both ends meet had to suffer because of this error. The monthly subsidy allowed under this scheme was denied, since the cards were treated as invalid. The appellant also pointed out that the first digit of each of the card numbers is 0 which makes the number an eight digit number and such seven digit numbers of ration cards without the ‘0’ have been provided by the Public Authority themselves in response to RTI applications. The fact that each of the card holders had a valid card was highlighted during the hearing before the Commission and the cards too were produced before the Commissioner. The appellant further pointed out that no sympathetic action was taken by the PIO even after photocopies of all the AAY cards were sent requesting him to make the cards active. He also clarified that as per the policy of the Government, each AAY card holder is expected to get supplies subsidy of Rs. 1500/- per month which was denied to them from March 2012 when the cards became invalid till the date of hearing. The respondents admitted that wrong entries must have been made due to pressure of work and shortage of manpower and sympathized with the card holders. They also expressed their willingness to provide whatever help is required to set matters right.
View of CIC
The Commission directed the PIO to rectify the error in the computer with respect to the validity of the cards and ensure that the cards are now shown as ‘active’. The CIC held that the PIO has not applied his mind while responding to the RTI application thereby causing unnecessary harassment to the AAY card holders and also financial detriment to each one of them in terms of loss of subsidy of approximately Rs. 1500/- for 12 months. Under section 20 of the RTI Act, the Commission issued a show cause notice to the PIO to show cause as to why penalty should not be imposed upon him for not bothering to verify the information furnished by the programmer and providing the correct information to the appellant. Under 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, the Commission awarded a compensation to each of the 8 AAY card holders an amount of Rs. 1500/- per month for 12 months. The Commission also directed the PIO to consult with the FAA and other senior officials and ensure that appropriate software is designed and put in place that will allow suo motu display of complaints/ grievances of general public as also the status of these complaints/ grievances which will help in instilling confidence in the public.
Citation: Mr. Ashok Kumar v. Department of Food and Supplies in File No: CIC/AD/A/2012/002486
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2013/CIC/1066
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