Information about nonpayment of subsistence allowance to suspended employee - factually incorrect statement by the PIO that a particular deemed PIO was the holder of information - CIC: notice to PIO for imposing penalty u/s 20(1) for delay
The present appeal, filed by Shri P. C. Ramakrishnaiah against Coal Mines Provident Fund Organisation (CMPFO), was taken up for hearing on 22.08.2013 when the Respondents were present through Shri Umesh Prasad Kamal, Joint Commissioner and Shri S.K. Sinha, Regional Commissioner. The Appellant was, however, not present.
Facts of the case:
2. The matter related to the present RTI application dated 06.11.2010 of the Appellant earlier came up for hearing before the Commission on 30.11.2011 when the Commission had passed the following order:
“2. The appellant filed an RTI request dated 6.11.2010 seeking information on three queries relating to suspended16 lady employees of CMPFO –
“(1) Article 21 of Constitution of India guaranteed Right to Life. It is the responsibility of Government of India to ensure implementation by Government authorities. Ministry of Coal failed to implement the Article leading to destruction of Right to life in the case of 16 lady employees who were suspended from 31.5.2008 by Shri A.N. Bhattarcharjee, Commissioner for 29 months. Suspended employees represented repeatedly to various authorities of Ministry of Coal, Prime Minister and President of India for protecting their lives, their families and dependants. Please specify what action was taken by Ministry of Coal on representations of suspended lady employees;
(2) What action was taken by Ministry of Coal against Shri A.N. Bhattacharjee, Commissioner, CMPFO for violation of Article 21 of Constitution of India in the matter of nonpayment of subsistence allowance; and
(3) Ministry of Law & Justice requested Ministry of Coal vide its letter dated 26.5.2010 to give a reply to the representationist under intimation to Ministry of Law & Justice may be provided”. The CPIO vide letter No. 20/50/2009PRIW. III dated 27.12.2010 informed the appellant on Point No. 1 and 2 that without the names and designations of the lady officers and copy of their representations on which information was required, no information can be provided. On Point No. 3 the CPIO informed the appellant that it has not been possible to trace such letter dated 26.5.2010 in the PRIWIII Section mainly dealing with CMPFO matters.
3. In the meantime, the appellant preferred first appeal dated 13.12.2010 before FAA for nonreceipt of information. The FAA vide letter No. A60011/ 01/2011Coord dated March, 2011 decided appellant’s first appeal and observed that the CPIO vide letter dated 27.12.2010 has already replied to the appellant.
4. Shri A.N. Bhattacharjee, Commissioner, CMPFO vide letter No. CMPFO/120DivII/ RTI/HQ/Vig dated 25.11.2011 submitted his written submissions before the Commission pertaining to the abovesaid case, which have been perused by the Commission.
5. Having heard the respondent, the Commission observes that as far as Ministry of Coal is concerned, the requisite information, permissible under the RTI Act has been provided by respondent to the appellant. Since the subject matter is related to the CMPFO, the CPIO, Ministry of Coal is directed to transfer the RTI application to CPIO, CMPFO, Dhanbad u/s 6(3) of the RTI Act on Point No. 1 and 2 within one week of the receipt of this order.”
3. In compliance with the above direction of the Commission, the CPIO, M/o Coal, New Delhi (Shri Y.P. Dhingra) vide his letter dated 03.01.2012 transferred the Appellant’s RTI application to the Commissioner of Coal Mines Provident Fund Organisation, Dhanbad.
4. The CPIO, CMPFO, Dhanbad (Shri A.C. Bouri), on receipt of the above RTI application, sent an interim reply dated 01.02.2012 to the Appellant stating as follows: “the Information Holding Officer is away from CMPF, HQs office, Dhanbad for urgent official business. As soon as the Information Holding Officer will be available at HQs office, Dhanbad, the required information will be sent to you immediately.”
5. Thereafter the present CPIO, CMPFO, Dhanbad (Shri S.K. Sinha) vide his letter dated 22.05.2012 forwarded the reply dated 17/19.04.2012, received from the holder of information, to the Appellant by which the Holder of the Information sent a copy of letter dated 25.11.2011 written by Commissioner, CMPFO to the Commission (copy not enclosed)
6. The Appellant thereafter filed an appeal dated 28.05.2012 before the Appellate Authority complaining that the CPIO/Holder of Information has not provided the requisite information.
7. The Appellate Authority decided this appeal vide his order dated 05.09.2012 holding that the reply given by the CPIO is adequate.
8. Aggrieved by the order of the Appellate Authority, the Appellant filed the present appeal before the Commission.
9. Having heard the submissions of the Respondents and perused the records, the Commission notes that the Holder of the Information i.e. Deemed CPIO (as defined in Section 5(5) of the RTI Act) has grossly delayed in providing the requisite information to the Appellant after the Commission’s order dated 13.12.2011. The Appellate Authority has also routinely endorsed the reply given by the CPIO/Holder of Information without verifying the fact whether the reply being provided to the Appellant actually meets the disclosure requirement or not. Even during the hearing, both the Appellate Authority and the CPIO are not able to produce the information which was said to be enclosed with the letter dated 19.04.2012 of the Assistant Commissioner II.
10. Apart from the above, the Commission also notes that the present CPIO, Shri S.K. Sinha in his written submission dated 13.08.2013 before the Commission has described Shri A.C. Bouri, Assistant Commissioner II as “information holding officer”, whereas he (Shri A.C. Bouri) had actually acted as CPIO in the present case and, this fact is evident from the letter dated 01.02.2012 written by Shri A.C. Bouri as CPIO to the Appellant wherein he had stated:
“the Information Holding Officer is away from CMPF, HQs office, Dhanbad for urgent official business. As soon as the Information Holding Officer will be available at HQs office, Dhanbad, the required information will be sent to you immediately.”
From the text of this letter written by Shri A.C. Bouri, whom the CPIO is calling “information holding officer”, it is very much clear that Shri A.C. Bouri was not the holder of the information in the present case. The statement of the CPIO made in his written submission is thus factually incorrect. The holder of the information in the instant case ought to be the officer other than Shri A.C. Bouri in view of the letter dated 01.02.2012 written by Shri A.C. Bouri. 11. In view of the above, the Commission hereby now directs as follows:
a) The present CPIO, Shri S.K. Sinha shall provide the pointwise information to the Appellant corresponding to the Appellant’s RTI application dated 06.11.2010 within 2 weeks of receipt of this order
b) The Holder of the Information/deemed CPIO, as referred to in the letter dated 01.02.2012 of the then CPIO, Shri A.C.Bouri shall show cause to the Commission why penalty u/s 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. of the RTI Act should not be imposed upon him for prima facie knowingly delaying the supply of information to the Appellant. Returnable within 3 weeks of receipt of this order
c) The Appellate Authority, Shri Umesh Prasad Kamal is directed to serve this order to the Holder of Information/deemed CPIO for compliance. He shall also ensure that his (deemed CPIO) reply to show cause notice reaches the Commission with the time limit set herein above.
Citation: Shri P. C. Ramakrishnaiah v. Coal Mines Provident Fund Organization in Case No.CIC/SS/A/2012/003483