Information regarding the accounts of appellant’s grandfather with the Bank was sought - CIC: Appellant has to establish his status as legal heir to the satisfaction of the public authority - CIC: Provide the information on submission of proper documents
These files contain appeals in respect of the RTI applications dated 5.2.2014 and 9.1.2014 filed by the Appellant, seeking information regarding the accounts of his grandfather with the Respondent Bank. Not satisfied with the response of the Respondents, he has approached the CIC in second appeal in both the cases.
2. In the RTI application dated 5.2.2014 (File No. CIC/SH/A/2014/001225), the Appellant sought information under eight points regarding the accounts of his grandfather. The CPIO denied the information on 3.3.2014 under Section 8 (1) (e) of the RTI Act. In his order dated 2.5.2014, the FAA stated that the CPIO had sent a reply to the Appellant stating that the information sought was exempted from disclosure under Section 8 (1) (e) as information available under fiduciary capacity. He further stated that the information could be disclosed to legal heirs only in case of death of account holder on production of satisfactory proof that he is the legal heir of the deceased. The FAA stated that he was satisfied with the reply given by the CPIO. However, he advised the CPIO to provide the Appellant details of accounts / FDR of the deceased “subject to producing of necessary documents as proof” that the Appellant was the legal heir of the deceased.
3. The RTI application dated 9.1.2014 (File No. CIC/SH/A/2014/001826) sought information under eight points regarding the deposits of the deceased and some related issues. The CPIO responded on 13.2.2014 and denied the information concerning the deposits under Section 8 (1) (e). With regard to a query regarding a complaint dated 25.10.2013 made by the Appellant against the Branch Manager concerned, the CPIO stated that the reply of the Branch Manager was found satisfactory and no action was taken against him. In his order dated 15.4.2014, disposing of the first appeal dated 9.3.2014, the FAA stated that the CPIO had sent detailed reply to all the queries / issues raised by the Appellant. However, he advised the CPIO to provide the Appellant copies of the notings etc. vide which the complaint dated 25.10.2013 against the Branch Manager was disposed by the Respondents; as well as details of accounts / FDR in the name of the deceased subject to production of the photo identity proof of the Appellant.
4. The Appellant stated that vide a letter dated 16.8.2013, he along with other heirs of the deceased had intimated to the bank the death of the Appellant’s grandfather. He further submitted that the High Court of Delhi had passed an order on 24.2.2007, in which it was stated that upon the death of his grandfather, the successors would include the Appellant and his brothers. He stated that he had provided all these documents to the Branch Manager concerned who, however, did not provide him any information. According to the Appellant, the CPIO should have got in touch with him in response to the orders dated 2.5.2014 and 15.4.2014 of the FAA, informing him about the requirement of producing legal heir documents etc. to get the information. The Appellant also stated that the file notings, vide which his complaint against the Branch Manager was disposed of, were not provided in spite of the order of the FAA. He prayed for imposition of penalty on the CPIO under Section 20 of the RTI Act for his failure to provide the information in a timely manner.
5. The Respondents submitted that after the FAA had passed his orders, the Appellant never approached the CPIO with the necessary documents to establish his legal heir status / identity to get the information, which the FAA had ordered to be released. They further submitted that the CPIO had no information regarding the documents that the Appellant might have submitted to the Branch Manager concerned to get the information and that the Branch Manager in question has since retired from the service of the bank.
6. We have considered the records and the submissions made by both the parties before us. The Appellant stated that he had mentioned his status as legal heir in the complaint against the Branch Manager concerned. However, while the Appellant may have submitted some documents to the Branch Manager on the legal heir issue, it is seen from the records before us that there was no reference to the High Court decision, mentioned by the Appellant during the proceedings, either in his RTI applications or in his appeals to the FAA. Further, while the Appellant has stated that the CPIO should have got in touch with him to get the documents regarding legal heir status / identity proof, we note that he (the Appellant) could have also got in touch with the CPIO to provide the documents in question to get the information. From the submissions made before us, it is clear that the Appellant did not do so. In this context, we recall that in the case of Chief Information Commissioner & Anr. Vs. State of Manipur & Anr., the Supreme Court held that before an order of penalty provided under Section 20 is passed, the Commissioner must be satisfied that the conduct of the information officer was not bona fide. From the facts of the case, as mentioned above, it is not established that the CPIO denied information out of a malafide intent. Therefore, imposition of penalty is not warranted in this case.
7. Coming to the issue of provision of information to the Appellant, we note that the Appellant can get it only after establishing that he is a legal heir. The Commission is not competent to rule on the issue of his status as legal heir. He has to establish this fact to the satisfaction of the bank by producing the necessary documents. At the same time, it is important that the bank give him a clear answer on whether they recognise him as legal heir and, therefore, qualified to get the information sought by him. Therefore, we direct the First Appellate Authority of the bank to give a personal hearing to the Appellant so as to give him an opportunity to present documents to establish his status as legal heir and pass a speaking order on this issue. In the event of the Appellant establishing his claim as legal heir, the information concerning the deposits of his grandfather should be provided to him. The FAA is directed to complete action on our above directives within thirty days of the receipt of this order, under intimation to the Commission. The CPIO is directed to forward a copy of this order, immediately on its receipt, to the FAA, under intimation to the Commission and the Appellant. In the meanwhile, the CPIO should recheck the records of the public authority and provide to the Appellant, within fifteen days of the receipt of this order, copies of the file notings / correspondence vide which his complaint dated 25.10.2013 against the Branch Manager was disposed of. Such information, as is provided to the Appellant, should be provided free of cost.
8. With the above directions and observations, the two appeals are disposed of.
9. Copies of this order be given free of cost to the parties.
Citation: Shri Joginder Singh v. Bank of Baroda in File No. CIC/SH/A/2014/001225 File No. CIC/SH/A/2014/001826