Complainant questioned his dismissal by the bank & filed around 130 RTI applications about the same issues - Respondent: all the available records have been shown / provided to the Complainant - CIC: It is a misuse of the RTI facility; complaint dismissed
The Complainant was present at the NIC Studio, Meerut. Due to a technical problem, he was heard through audioconferencing.
On behalf of the Respondents, the following were present:
1.Shri Sudhakar Kushwaha, Senior Manager was present at the NIC Studio, Agra.
2. Shri Pawan Jetley, Senior Manager was present in person.
Information Commissioner : Shri Sharat Sabharwal
These files contain complaints in respect of the RTI applications dated 8.12.2013 (File No. CIC/SH/C/2014/000130), 24.7.2014 (File No. CIC/SH/C/2014/000519), 10.3.2014 (File No. CIC/SH/C/2014/000257), 22.8.2014 (File No. CIC/SH/C/2014/000520) and 23.5.2014 (File No. CIC/SH/C/2014/000349) filed by the Complainant seeking information in the context of disciplinary proceedings against him and the punishment imposed on him. Not satisfied with the response of the Respondents, he has filed complaints in all the five cases to the CIC.
2. The Complainant submitted that the Respondents have not been providing the information sought by him in his RTI applications. In response to our query, he stated that he has filed around 130 RTI applications. He further submitted that the Respondents either state that the information has already been provided or provide information, which is different from the information sought by him.
3. In response to our query, it was stated during the hearing that the Complainant was dismissed from the service of the bank in 2006. Subsequently, pursuant to an order of the High Court, the Respondents passed a fresh dismissal order in 2013.
4. The Respondents submitted that a good deal of information has been provided to the Complainant in response to his various RTI applications. They referred to our order No. CIC/VS/C/2013/000430/SH, CIC/SH/C/2014/000024, CIC/SH/A/2014/000011, CIC/SH/A/2014/000184, CIC/SH/C/2014/000025, CIC/SH/A/2014/000244 and CIC/SH/A/2014/000195 dated 30.5.2014, in which we directed the CPIO to facilitate an inspection of all the relevant records, regarding the departmental proceedings, by the Complainant and, after such inspection, give him photocopies of up to 200 pages of the inspected records, desired by him, free of cost. The Respondents submitted that the inspection took place on 2.7.2014 and all the relevant records available with the Respondents were shown to the Complainant. After the inspection, the Complainant recorded that he had duly inspected the records for approximately eight hours from 11.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m. without any pressure or hindrance and to his full satisfaction and taken copies of 904 pages, out of which 200 pages were given to him free of cost and the remaining on payment of the prescribed charges. In response to our query, the Complainant acknowledged having recorded a certificate to the above effect after the inspection. He, however, reiterated his request for provision of the complete information sought by him.
5. We have examined the records and the submissions made by both the parties before us. We note that in his RTI application dated 8.12.2013, the Complainant sought certain additional records concerning the disciplinary proceedings. The Respondents reiterated during the hearing that all the available records have been shown / provided to the Complainant and no further information is available with them. In the RTI application dated 24.7.2014, the Complainant has sought a photocopy of the letter or authority on the basis of which, the AGM, Agra passed the punishment order dated 27.5.2013 against him. The Respondents submitted that this order was passed by the AGM pursuant an order of the High Court and the CPIO is not in a position to offer any further explanation.
6. The RTI application dated 10.3.2014 seeks information in the context of a contempt petition and writ petition filed by the Complainant in the Allahabad High Court. The information sought is: photocopies of replies submitted by the Respondents to the High Court in the above cases and the dates on which the replies were submitted and photocopies of instructions of the Legal Department, Vigilance Department and various other offices of the Respondents regarding filing of the above replies. The CPIO stated in his reply dated 26.3.2014 that since the matter was subjudice, the information sought by the Complainant was exempted from disclosure. In the above context, we note that the matter concerning another RTI application, seeking certified copy of a petition filed by the Respondents in that case in the Supreme Court and the related documents, was considered and disposed of by us in our order No. CIC/SH/A/2014/000215 dated 27.5.2014. In that order, we noted, inter alia, the following observation made by the Commission in its order No. CIC/SM/A/2011/900950 dated 18.4.2012:
“In many decisions in the past, we have held that since the High Courts and the Supreme Court of India have devised their own rules and procedures for disclosing certified copies of judicial records including judgments of the Courts, the citizens must get the copies of such records only under those rules and procedures and not under the Right to Information (RTI )Act. The provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act cannot override the disclosure provisions contained in these orders and rules since there is nothing inconsistent in them. Therefore, in this case also, the Appellant has to get the copies of the judicial records by adopting the procedure laid down under the Order XII Rule 3 of the Appellate Side Rules of the High Court.”
Further, with regard to the Complainant’s request regarding copies of the legal opinion and internal correspondence of the Respondents regarding filing of replies in response to his petitions, we note that in its order No. CIC/AT/C/2008/00025 dated 27.7.2009 in Milap Choraria vs. Central Board of Direct Taxes, the Commission considered a matter in which the RTI applicant wanted to inspect the internal correspondence of the Respondents regarding a Caveat filed by the Commissioner of Income Tax in response to a notice under Section 80 of the Code of Civil Procedure served by the RTI applicant. In the above order, the Commission made the following observation:
“If the interpretation of the RTI law by the appellant is to be accepted, it would mean that even when the Government is litigating vis-a-vis another person, that person will have the right to access all information about how the Government is seeking to defend its position in the legal proceeding without having any corresponding right to access similar information of the opposite party. On the scale of equity, this will appear to be biased against the public authority.”
In view of the orders and observations mentioned above, we see no ground to interfere with the decision of the Respondents to deny the information in response to the RTI application dated 10.3.2014.
7. In the RTI application dated 22.8.2014, the Complainant has enquired whether any action was taken regarding nonavailability of a letter written by him to the Respondents. He claimed that the Respondents have deliberately misplaced the above mentioned letter. The Respondents, however, reiterated that all the available information has been shown / provided to the Complainant. Regarding the RTI application dated 23.5.2014, Shri Pawan Jetley from the Regional Office, New Delhi submitted that the Complainant wanted photocopies of various documents concerning the disciplinary proceedings against him. He has been informed a number of times that the relevant record is with the Regional Office in Agra and has been shown to him.
8. From the above, it is clear that the Complainant questions his dismissal by the bank, a grievance which he has and continues to pursue in the High Court. At the same time, he has filed around 130 RTI applications by his own admission, enquiring time and again about the same issues. The Respondents have stated repeatedly that all the available records have been shown / provided to the Complainant and that they have no further records available with them. As stated in paragraph 4 above, the Complainant also inspected all the relevant records on 2.7.2014 and took copies of as many as 904 pages. Despite this, two of the applications before us today were filed after the above inspection on 2.7.2014 i.e. on 24.7.2014 and 22.8.2014. The Complainant should realise that he has to seek redressal of his grievance through competent courts. Filing of multiple RTI applications, in spite of the Respondents having provided him a good deal of information, only adds to the burden of the public authority, diverting its resources from its day to day work, without adding any value to the information already available with the Complainant. This is clearly a misuse of the RTI facility. In the above context, we recall the following observation of the Supreme Court in its judgment dated 9.8.2011 in Central Board of Secondary Education & Anr. Vs. Aditya Bandopadhyay & Ors.”
“Indiscriminate and impractical demands or directions under RTI Act for disclosure of all and sundry information (unrelated to transparency and accountability in the functioning of public authorities and eradication of corruption) would be counterproductive as it will adversely affect the efficiency of the administration and result in the executive getting bogged down with the nonproductive work of collecting and furnishing information. The Act should not be allowed to be misused or abused, to become a tool to obstruct the national development and integration, or to destroy the peace, tranquillity and harmony among its citizens. Nor should it be converted into a tool of oppression or intimidation of honest officials striving to do their duty. The nation does not want a scenario where 75% of the staff of public authorities spends 75% of their time in collecting and furnishing information to applicants instead of discharging their regular duties. The threat of penalties under the RTI Act and the pressure of the authorities under the RTI Act should not lead to employees of public authorities prioritising `information furnishing', at the cost of their normal and regular duties."
Further, in its judgment dated 5.2.2014 in Shail Sahni vs. Sanjeev Kumar and Ors. [W.P. (C) 845/2014], the High Court of Delhi has observed:
“This court is also of the view that misuse of the RTI Act has to be appropriately dealt with, otherwise the public would lose faith and confidence in this “sunshine Act”. A beneficent Statute, when made a tool for mischief and abuse must be checked in accordance with law.”
9. In view of the above, we see no merit in the five complaints before us. Accordingly, these are dismissed.
10. Copies of this order be given free of cost to the parties.
Citation: Shri Anurag Kumar v. Bank of Baroda in File No. CIC/SH/C/2014/000130 File No. CIC/SH/C/2014/000519 File No. CIC/SH/C/2014/000257 File No. CIC/SH/C/2014/000520 File No. CIC/SH/C/2014/000349