A copy of the letter of Justice Khandeparkar addressed to the then Revenue Secretary - Appellant: the reply of PIO was not accompanied by enclosures - PIO: section asked to re-send the material - CIC: penalty of Rs. 1,500/- on the PIO Shri James Victor
A copy of the letter of Justice Khandeparkar addressed to the then Revenue Secretary - Appellant: the letter of the PIO was not accompanied by enclosures - PIO: the accompanying material was sent and he had asked his Section to re-send the material - CIC: I have reasons to believe that Shri Jain did not receive the enclosures to the CPIO’s letter and the contemporaneous correspondence supports this line of reasoning - while deciding the quantum of penalty, I cannot be the oblivious of fact that the PIO had various other administrative responsibilities and was not mandated to handle only RTI related work - Shri Jain had filed a spate of RTI applications for which Shri James Victor was the PIO - penalty of Rs. 1,500/- on the PIO
The essential facts of this matter have been encapsulated in paras 11 to 14 of this Commission’s order dated 23.7.2013 in File No. CIC/SS/A/2012/001846/LS and nine other files. These paras are reproduced below :-
“11. In the RTI application dated 31.8.2011, the appellant had sought the following information :-
“(A) Please provide copy of response received from Mr. Justice R.M.S. Khandeparkar to D.O. letter dated 9.6.2011 of the Revenue Secretary and also further correspondence.
(B) Please provide details of complaint received against Shri R.M.S. Khandeparkar from March 2011 till date and action taken thereon.
(C) Please provide inspection of all records, documents, files and note-sheets relating to information sought in clauses (A) to (B) above.”
12. The CPIO had offered inspection of limited documents on 20.10.2011 vide letter dated 4.10.2011.
13. The appellant submits that he took the inspection on the aforesaid date and thereafter had sent a letter dated 24.11.2011 requesting the CPIO to supply him a copy of the letter of Justice RMS Khandeparkar, the then President, CESTAT. It is the appellant’s contention that he has not received any response from the CPIO till date.
14. A bare perusal of the RTI application extracted above would indicate that the appellant is interested in essentially seeking a copy of the letter of Justice Khandeparkar addressed to the then Revenue Secretary.
From the above narration, it is clear that neither copy of the said letter was supplied to the appellant nor any reasons for non-supply were communicated. In view of the above, I am inclined to accept the contention of the appellant that it is a case of deemed denial of information and that inspection of allegedly irrelevant documents given to him does not amount to supply of information in terms of section 7(1) Subject to the proviso to sub-section (2) of section 5 or the proviso to subsection (3) of section 6, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, on receipt of a request under section 6 shall, as expeditiously as possible, and in any case within thirty days of the receipt of the request, either provide the information on payment of such fee as may be prescribed or reject the request for any of the reasons specified in sections 8 and 9: of the RTI Act. In the premises, notice may be issued to Shri Victor James, the then CPIO, to show cause why penal action should not be initiated against him for not taking any stand in regard to the supply or non-supply of copy of Justice Khandeparkar’s letter under reference. The notice is returnable in 03 weeks time.”
2. As scheduled, the matter is heard today dated 26.08.2013. The appellant and Shri Victor James, CPIO, are present. Shri James submits a written representation which is taken on record. It is Shri Jame’s contention that he had responded to the RTI application vide his letter dated 16.12.2011. Shri Jain admits having received this letter but only on 30.12.2011 i.e. after a gap of about 14 days. It is also Shri Jain’s say that the letter was not accompanied by enclosures and the result was that he received no information whatsoever and, thus, it is a case of deemed denial of information. He also submits that he had placed this fact on record through his letter dated 30.12.2011 addressed to the CPIO, clearly stating therein that the enclosure to the letter had not been received by him.
3. On a query from the Commission, Shri James submits that he had checked up with his Section and was informed that the accompanying material was sent to Shri Jain. Even so, he had asked his Section to re-send the material to Shri Jain.
4. According to Shri Jain, it is not a simple matter. The requisite information was denied to him willfully and purposely. Importantly, Shri Jain also submits that despite no objection having been issued by the Registrar, CESTAT, vide letter dated 21.10.2011 regarding the disclosure of the impugned information, the CPIO did not supply him any information, particularly, the DO letter of the then President, CESTAT, to Revenue Secretary.
5. In the facts and circumstances of the case, I find it difficult to disbelieve Shri Jain’s version. I have reasons to believe that Shri Jain did not receive the enclosures to the CPIO’s letter and the contemporaneous correspondence supports this line of reasoning. Shri James’s assertion that he had checked up the matter with his Section and was informed that the requisite material had been sent to Shri Jain does not seem to be convincing. His further plea that he had asked his Section to re-sent the material to Shri Jain also does not help him much in as much as Shri Jain never received the material in-question, particularly, the DO letter of the then President, CESTAT to the Revenue Secretary. In my opinion, it is a clear case of denial of information. It is a serious matter for which reasonable penalty needs to be imposed on Shri James Victor. However, while deciding the quantum of penalty, I cannot be the oblivious of fact that Shri James Victor was not mandated to handle only RTI related work. He had various other administrative responsibilities. I also cannot ignore the fact that Shri Jain had filed a spate of RTI applications for which Shri James Victor was the CPIO. These are the mitigating circumstances in favour of Shri James Victor. In the totality of circumstances, in my opinion, it would be fit and proper to impose penalty of Rs. 1,500/- on Shri James Victor, CPIO. Shri James Victor would remit an amount of Rs. 1,500/- by demand draft or a banker’s cheque in the name of the Pay & Accounts Officer, CAT, payable at New Delhi and send the same to Shri Pankaj K.P. Shreyaskar, Director and Joint Registrar of the Central Information Commission, 2nd Floor, August Kranti Bhawan, New Delhi.
Citation: R.K. Jain v. Department of Revenue in File No.CIC/SS/A/2012/001863