Information pertaining to eligibility of foreign nationals of Indian descent holding OCI Card to inherit property in India was sought - CIC expressed its displeasure to the CPIO for not adhering to the timeline prescribed under the RTI Act; PIO counseled
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), Ministry of Law and Justice, New Delhi seeking information/ clarification on four points pertaining to eligibility of foreign nationals of Indian descent holding OCI Card to inherit property in India; if so, restrictions on sale of such property, etc.
2. The appellant filed a second appeal before the Commission on the ground that no reply was provided by the CPIO/ FAA. The appellant therefore requested the Commission with a prayer to provide the information sought in the RTI application.
3. The appellant was not present despite notice. The CPIO Shri S.K. Chitkara, Director, Ministry of Law and Justice, Legislative Department New Delhi was present in person.
4. The appellant submitted his written submissions (received by the Commission on 30.07.2019) and the same has been taken on record. The respondent also submitted his written submissions dated 29.07.2019 and the same has been taken on record.
5. The appellant in his written submission stated that he would not be able to attend the hearing. He also requested the Commission to send further correspondence on the subject matter to his email id mentioned in his written submission.
6. The CPIO submitted that the RTI application filed by the appellant dated 03.01.2018 was responded by the CPIO on 15.03.2018 wherein it was mentioned that the issues raised in point nos. 1 to 3 of the RTI application were in the nature of queries and hence did not fall within the purview of the definition of information as per Section 2 (f) of the RTI Act, 2005. As regards point no. 4, the appellant was informed that no such order was available with them. During the hearing the respondent admitted that point no. 04 of the RTI application was erroneously not transferred to the concerned Public Authority i.e., M/o External Affairs since they were not aware about the authority concerned with the subject matter of the RTI application. The respondent also submitted that the First Appeal was decided by the FAA and Jt. Secretary and Legislative Department vide order dated 06.04.2018.
7. The Commission, after hearing the submission of the CPIO and perusing the records, observes that an appropriate response was provided on points one to three of the RTI application although after the period stipulated under the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005. Therefore, the Commission expresses its displeasure to the CPIO for not adhering to the timeline prescribed under the RTI Act, 2005. However, the Commission takes a lenient view in the matter and counsels the CPIO to be more careful in future so that such lapses do not recur. As regards point no. 4 of the RTI application, the Commission observes that the appellant had sought copies of relevant Government orders/ instructions which fell within the purview of the definition of the term “information” as per Section 2 (f) of the RTI Act, 2005. Hence either the information should have been provided by the CPIO or the point could have been transferred to the concerned Public Authority under Section 6(3) of the RTI Act, 2005. However, the respondent instead of transferring of application merely stated that no information is available with him. The CPIO is, therefore, counselled to be more careful in future, so that such lapses do not recur. The Commission also directs the CPIO to transfer the RTI application on point no. 04 along with a copy of the Commission’s decision to the public authority concerned (M/o External Affairs) within a period of two weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order under intimation to the appellant.
8. With the above observations, the appeal is disposed of.
9. Copy of the decision be provided free of cost to the parties.
Chief Information Commissioner
Citation: D V Chibber v. PIO, Ministry of Law and Justice in Second Appeal No. CIC/MOLAJ/A/2018/120182, Date of decision 31.07.2019