Information cannot be denied merely because disciplinary proceedings are pending
The appellant filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) seeking information relating to a disciplinary proceeding instituted against him along with the details of the authority which had sanctioned the institution of the disciplinary proceedings. He also wanted the orders issued in the course of enquiry along with the file notings. The Public Information Officer (PIO) denied the information under section 8(1)(h) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders; of the RTI Act stating that it would impede the process of investigation.
Proceedings During the hearing the before Central Information Commission (CIC), the appellant submitted that the PIO could not have denied the information without showing how it was exempt under the said provision. The appellant also argued that the particular exemption provision did not apply to disciplinary proceedings against civil servants. He stated that neither the PIO nor the First Appellate Authority (FAA) had passed speaking order. The respondent submitted that all the information sought concerned the disciplinary proceedings still pending and that was the reason why it was considered that the disclosure of such information might adversely affect the proceedings underway.
View of CIC
The Commission held that while denying any information, the PIO should explain in detail how a particular exemption provision is attracted to the information under question. It is not enough to invoke an exemption provision and deny the information. The CIC further stated that not every single file noting recorded by the competent authority while approving the institution of the disciplinary proceedings or the appointment of the enquiry officer or while rejecting the representation made by the appellant would attract the above exemption provision. The information can be denied only if the competent authority in the organisation thinks that the disclosure would make the disciplinary proceedings difficult or impossible.
The Commission directed the PIO to revisit the RTI requests and list out that information which he can disclose without affecting adversely the process of the disciplinary proceedings. The CIC held that the file noting in which the competent authority had approved of instituting disciplinary proceedings or the appointment of the enquiry and presenting officers or decided to reject the representation of the appellant can probably be disclosed without affecting the pending disciplinary proceedings. The Commission also observed that some of the documents are to be disclosed to the charge-sheeted officer routinely under the rules governing the disciplinary proceedings and directed the PIO to verify the relevant records including the file noting relating to the various items of information sought. In case, the PIO decides not to disclose any of this information, he must pass a speaking order explaining in some detail why a particular exemption provision is being invoked to withhold the information.
Citation: Mr. Rakesh Kumar v. Ministry of External Affairsin File No.CIC/SM/A/2012/001779
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2013/CIC/1350
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