Information regarding the file noting & correspondence in respect of letters written by Director, NVBDCP to the Dy Director etc was sought - CIC: The Joint Secretary, Min of Health & Family Welfare to coordinate & ensure that a suitable reply is sent
The Appellant vide his RTI application sought information on 06 points regarding the file noting and all correspondence in respect of letter dated 29.07.2013 and 06.07.2015 written by Director, National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, New Delhi to the Deputy Director (Admin.), PH (CDL) Section; file noting and all correspondence relating to MACP given to Senior Research Officer (Group A Non-Medical) of PF monitoring scheme of National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, New Delhi, etc.
Dissatisfied due to non- receipt of any response from the CPIO, the Appellant approached the FAA. The reply of the CPIO/ order of the FAA, if any, is not on the record of the Commission.
Facts emerging during the hearing:
The following were present:
Appellant: Dr. Teekam Das Khatri through VC;
Respondent: Dr. Sukhvir Singh, CPIO / Jt. Dir. and Mr. Sanjeev Malhotra, AO;
The Appellant reiterated the contents of the RTI application and stated that the information was sought from the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare rather than NVBDC. Although he had received the information from NVBDC but he remained dissatisfied as his queries were addressed to the Ministry only. The Respondent stated that the CPIO / FAA from NVBDC had responded on 19.05.2017 /20.09.2017 respectively on transfer of RTI applications from DGHS. It was informed that Mr. Vikash Sheel was the concerned Joint Secretary looking after this subject matter. The Commission felt that correct and timely response was the essence of the RTI mechanism enacted to ensure transparency and accountability in the working of Public Authorities.
In this context, the Commission referred to the decision of the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in Mujibur Rehman vs Central Information Commission (W.P. (C) 3845/2007)(Dated 28 April, 2009) wherein it had been held as under:
“14.......The court cannot be unmindful of the circumstances under which the Act was framed, and brought into force. It seeks to foster an "openness culture" among state agencies, and a wider section of "public authorities" whose actions have a significant or lasting impact on the people and their lives. Information seekers are to be furnished what they ask for, unless the Act prohibits disclosure; they are not to be driven away through sheer inaction or filibustering tactics of the public authorities or their officers. It is to ensure these ends that time limits have been prescribed, in absolute terms, as well as penalty provisions. These are meant to ensure a culture of information disclosure so necessary for a robust and functioning democracy.”
Furthermore, the Hon’ble Delhi High Court decision in J P Aggarwal v. Union of India (WP (C) no. 7232/2009 it has held that:
“The PIO is expected to apply his / her mind, duly analyse the material before him / her and then either disclose the information sought or give grounds for non-disclosure.”
A reference was drawn to the decision of the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in the case of J.P Agrawal v. Union of India-2013(287) ELT25(Del.) wherein it was held as under:
7.“it is the PIO to whom the application is submitted and it is who is responsible for ensuring that the information as sought is provided to the applicant within the statutory requirements of the Act. Section 5(4) is simply to strengthen the authority of the PIO within the department; if the PIO finds a default by those from whom he has sought information. The PIO is expected to recommend a remedial action to be taken”. The RTI Act makes the PIO the pivot for enforcing the implementation of the Act.”
Furthermore, in OM No. 20/10/23/2007-IR dated 09.07.2009, while elaborating on the duties and responsibilities of the FAA, it was stated that:
“3. Deciding appeals under the RTI Act is a quasi judicial function. It is, therefore, necessary that the appellate authority should see that the justice is not only done but it should also appear to have been done. In order to do so, the order passed by the appellate authority should be a speaking order giving justification for the decision arrived at.”
Furthermore, the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in the matter of R.K. Jain vs Union of India, LPA No. 369/2018, dated 29.08.2018, held as under:
“9………………………….. That apart, the CPIO being custodian of the information or the documents sought for, is primarily responsible under the scheme of the RTI Act to supply the information and in case of default or dereliction on his part, the penal action is to be invoked against him only.”
The Commission observed that there is complete negligence and laxity in the public authority in dealing with the RTI applications. It is abundantly clear that such matters are being ignored and set aside without application of mind which reflects disrespect towards the RTI Act, 2005 itself. The Commission expressed its displeasure on the casual and callous approach adopted by the Respondent in responding to the RTI application. It was felt that the conduct of respondent was against the spirit of the RTI Act, 2005 which was enacted to ensure greater transparency and effective access to the information.
Keeping in view the facts of the case and the submissions made by both the parties, the Commission directs Mr. Vikash Sheel, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare to coordinate with NVBDC and ensure that a suitable reply is sent to the Applicant within a period of 30 days from the date of receipt of this order. The Appeals stand disposed with the above direction.
Citation: Dr. Teekam Das Khatri v. CPIO, National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and CPIO Directorate General of Health Services in Second Appeal No.(s):- CIC/NVBDC/A/2017/603701-BJ+ CIC/DTGHS/A/2017/602716-BJ, Date of Decision: 14.03.2019