Does Ministry of Health have a proper mechanism for dealing with RTI applications?
The appellant filed an application under with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare seeking information in relation to request of aid by Union Health Ministry to World Health Organization (WHO), such as, copy of request-letter sent to WHO with related file-notings regarding request for meeting expenses on such meeting/ conference etc., copy of reply from WHO mentioning the financial aid granted. He also wanted to know whether the Union Health Ministry had ever refused about 20 lakh (or some other quantity) of H IN I vaccine from WHO, the file-notings/ correspondence/ documents in this regard, whether Union Health Ministry had ever refused help from Bill Gates in respect of Health programmes in India and the copy of file-notings/ correspondence/ documents in this regard. The Public Information Officer (PIO) informed the appellant that part information would be provided on payment of Rs. 74/- for 37 pages. For rest of the queries he transferred the application to CDN-II for providing the information. The appellant filed an appeal stating that the part information should be provided free of cost and that the remaining information has not been provided. The First Appellate Authority (FAA) observed that since there was no delay on part of PIO, the question of providing of information free of cost does not arise. The FAA directed the CDN –II section to transfer the application to the PIO, IH section for providing remaining information to the appellant.
The respondent stated that though the RTI application was posted by speed post by the appellant on 14/09/2011 but the speed post delivery was made only on 21/09/2011 to the Ministry. He also submitted that with respect to remaining queries he had sent the RTI application to PIO CDN-II to provide the information. The holder of the information, PIO (IH Section) stated that the RTI application was never sent to him and that he learnt about the RTI application only when he received the FAA’s order through CDN-II and subsequently he has sent the information on 29/03/2012 to the appellant. He also stated that he sent the RTI application to PIO/US Child Health & Immunization, PIO(CCD & Malaria), PIO (RCH&MH) and PIO(NRHM), US(PH-II) and Director (EMR) DGHS for information regarding remaining queries.
The appellant submitted that he has received various letters from the departments informing him that they have no information. The appellant also pointed that within the Public Authority, there can be no transfer of RTI application and the PIO must obtain assistance under section 5(4) and provide the information. The Central Information Commission (CIC) observed that it is unfortunate that the speed post delivery within Delhi takes 07 days and held that the PIO’s demand for additional fees for part of the information was valid. The Commission noted that enormous amount of time and paper was wasted by the Ministry and yet it has been unable to provide the information to the appellant. Takng a note of the admission of the PIO that there is efficient system of working when questions are asked from Parliament, the Commission, under section 25(5) of the RTI Act, directed the Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to setup a proper process of replying to RTI queries to avoid wastage of enormous amount of public resources. The Commission directed the Ministry to ensure that the same efficiency which is displayed when answering to Members of Parliament is used when answering RTI queries. The Commission directed the PIO (CH & Immunization) to provide information on remaining queries to the appellant. Under section 20(1) Where the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be, at the time of deciding any complaint or appeal is of the opinion that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, has, without any reasonable cause, refused to receive an application for information or has not furnished information within the time specified under sub-section (1) of section 7 or malafidely denied the request for information or knowingly given incorrect, incomplete or misleading information or destroyed information which was the subject of the request or obstructed in any manner in furnishing the information, it shall impose a penalty of two hundred and fifty rupees each day till application is received or information is furnished, so however, the total amount of such penalty shall not exceed twenty-five thousand rupees: Provided that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall be given a reasonable opportunity of being heard before any penalty is imposed on him: Provided further that the burden of proving that he acted reasonably and diligently shall be on the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be. the Commission issued a show-cause notice to PIO CDN-II to give reasons as to why penalty should not be levied on him.
View of CIC
During the hearing of the show cause notice for imposition of penalty, the respondents stated that the information on remaining queries has been sent to the appellant. He also submitted copy of an office memorandum regarding streamlining of handling of the RTI requests in the Ministry. The Commission observed that six officers came for the hearing and from their deposition and the written submission given by them the Commission is unable to come to any conclusion about the person responsible for the delay and is not able to pin point responsibility on any one officer who can be held liable for not providing the information. The Commission held that this is a result of lack of proper system in the Ministry and expressed hope that the Secretary Ministry of Health and Family Welfare would take appropriate measures as suggested by the Commission to ensure that RTI applications are attended to in the manner as per the law.
Citation: Mr. Subhash Chandra Agrawal v. Ministry of Health & Family Welfare in Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2012/000712/18687Adjunct
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2012/CIC/585
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