Complainant sought copy of Government Circular regarding rebate given in the interest rate of education loan as per budget speech - PIO advised to contact the HRD Ministry directly without transferring application u/s 6(3) of RTI Act - CIC: No penalty
O R D E R
1. The appellant filed an application under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) before the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), Punjab National Bank, Divisional Office, Inspection & Audit Department, Bharatpur, Rajasthan, seeking information on three points pertaining to the rebate given in the interest rate of education loan, including, inter-alia,
(i) copy of the circular/order as per the budget speech 2014-15 of Finance Minister, Government of India,
(ii) clarification on the status of his son/daughter’s education loan a/c and
(iii) a copy of the guidelines of the bank related to Non Performing Assets.
2. The appellant filed a second appeal before the Commission on the grounds that the information sought on point no. 1 of the RTI application has not been provided to him. The appellant requested the Commission to direct the CPIO to furnish the information sought for and to impose penalty on the CPIO.
3. The appellant Shri Vishambhar Dayal and the respondent Shri Gopi Chandra Gupta, Chief Manager, Punjab National Bank, Divisional Office, Inspection & Audit Department, Bharatpur, Rajasthan attended the hearing through video conferencing.
4. The appellant submitted that in response to point no. 1 of his RTI application i.e. the copy of Government Circular/order relating to rebate given in the interest rate of education loan as per the budget speech 2014-15 of Finance Minister, Government of India, the respondent advised him to contact Ministry of HRD, Govt. of India directly. He stated that the CPIO should have transferred the RTI application to the CPIO concerned u/s 6(3) of the RTI Act. He added that the information sought on point nos. 2 and 3 of the RTI application was provided late by the CPIO. Hence, penal provisions under the RTI Act should be invoked against the CPIO.
5. The respondent submitted that the appellant vide point no. 1 of the RTI application has sought a copy of a circular issued by the Govt. of India which has not been received in the office directly. The appellant was, therefore, advised to contact the Ministry of HRD, Govt. of India. The appellant was also informed that the information related to the guidelines issued by the bank could be provided to him. The respondent stated that the RTI application was filed by the appellant on 18.05.2015 and a reply had been furnished to him within the stipulated time period vide letter dated 16.06.2015, and additional information was provided on 29.06.2015.
6. The Commission, after hearing the submissions of both the parties and perusing the records, observes that in response to point no. 1 of the RTI application the CPIO instead of transferring the RTI application to the Ministry concerned, informed the appellant that the circular issued by the Govt. of India has not been received in the office directly and advised the appellant to obtain the same from the Ministry of HRD, Govt. of India. The CPIO is, therefore, counselled to be more careful in future, so that such lapses do not recur. The Commission also notes that the RTI application was responded by the CPIO within the stipulated time period.
7. The Commission, with regard to the appellant’s request that action be taken against the CPIO, observes that in W. P. (C) No. 8315/ 2017, Kripa Shanker vs. Central Information Commission, Hon’ble Delhi High Court vide order dated 18.09.2017 held that:
“….13… Indisputably, merely because the view taken by a PIO is not correct, it would not lead to an inference that he is liable to penalty. There may be cases where the PIO is of the view that the information sought is exempt from disclosure under Section 8 of the Act. If this view is subsequently found to be incorrect, it would not necessarily mean that he would be subjected to penalty. The question of imposition of penalty depends on whether the conduct of PIO is reasonable and whether there is any bonafide justification for denial of information; penalty is levied only if it is found that the information was denied without reasonable cause.”
In view of the above, no further action is required on the prayer of the complainant for taking action against the CPIO/FAA concerned under the RTI Act.
8. With the above observations, the appeal is disposed of.
9. Copy of the decision be provided free of cost to the parties.
Citation: Vishambhar Dayal v. Punjab National Bank in Decision No. CIC/PNBNK/A/2017/102248, dated 16.02.2018