Information regarding grant given to Universities by the Central Government - CIC instructed the Secretary, MHRD to depute an officer not below the rank of a JS to examine the RTI application & provide a suitable response - Show cause notice for penalty
O R D E R
The Appellant vide his RTI application sought information on 2 points regarding grant given to Universities situated in Moradabad District by the Central Government in the years 2000-2016 and issues related thereto. The CPIO vide letter dated 22.03.2016 transferred the RTI application to the concerned office u/s 6(3) of the RTI Act. Dissatisfied with the of CPIO’s reply, the Appellant approached the FAA. The FAA’s order, if any, is not on record of the commission.
Facts emerging during the hearing:
The following were present:
Appellant: Mr. Pawan Agrawal through VC;
Respondent: Absent; The Respondent remained absent during the hearing, despite prior intimation.
The Appellant reiterated the contents of his RTI application and stated that no satisfactory response was provided to him subsequent to the transfer of his application to the Secretary, Dept. of Higher Education, New Delhi. Similarly, his First Appeal addressed to the FAA, D/o Higher Education also remained unaddressed, till date. On perusal of the available documents, the Commission observed that no substantive reply was provided to the Appellant which was a violation of the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005. In the absence of Respondent, the Commission was unable to ascertain the factual position in the matter. The Commission referred to the judgement 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.”
Thus, 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.
The Respondent (D/o Higher Education, MHRD) was not present to contest the submissions of the Appellant or to substantiate their claims further.
Keeping in view the facts of the case and the submissions made by both the parties, the Commission instructs the Secretary, D/o Higher Education, MHRD, New Delhi to depute an officer not below the rank of a Joint Secretary to examine the RTI application and provide a suitable response to the Appellant in accordance with the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005 within a period of 30 days from the date of receipt of this order. Moreover, taking into consideration that no information/ substantive reply had been provided by the Respondent in the matter, which is a grave violation of the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005, the Commission also instructs the Secretary, D/o Higher Education, MHRD, New Delhi to call for an explanation from the concerned officer to showcause as to why action should not be taken under the provisions of the Act for this misconduct and negligence and forward the same to the Commission within a period of 30 days from the date of receipt of this order.
The Appeal stands disposed with the above direction.
Citation: Mr. Pawan Agrawal v. MHRD, Department of Higher Education in Second Appeal No. CIC/PMOIN/A/2017/314422/MOHRD-BJ, Date of Decision: 03.08.2018