Information regarding rules & nodal agencies looking after registering complaints to check hygiene standards at hotels/restaurants and taking action was sought - CIC: Replies not to be abbreviated; display such information on the official website
The appellant sought information regarding act/statute constituted by authority/ministry, nodal agencies looking after affairs/taking action, process of registering complaints, etc. in case where no guidelines have been made to check hygiene standards for hotels/restaurants, etc.
Relevant facts emerging during hearing:
The appellant is present along with respondents from the concerned depts., except from North Delhi Municipal Corporation, despite written notice. The appellant filed an RTI application dt. NIL in the O/o CMO, seeking the above information. The RTI application was transferred to PIOs, East Delhi Municipal Corporation, North Delhi Municipal Corporation, South Delhi Municipal Corporation, New Delhi Municipal Council and Dept. of Food Safety vide letter dt. 22.08.2013 for providing information directly to the appellant. SPIO/AO, Dept. of Food Safety, PIOs, (PH)/Addl. MHO, East DMC, (PH)/NGZ, South DMC, provided point-wise information to the appellant on 09.09.2013, 11.09.2013 & 19.09.2013, respectively. APIO/(Public Health), North DMC informed the appellant on 23.09.2013 that no such record is available in the dept. and transferred the RTI application to Director, PFA. PIO(Health), New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) on 24.09.2013 gave point-wise information to the appellant. PIO/DHO/WZ, South DMC vide letter dt. 25.09.2013 informed the appellant that the matter of guidelines/circulars for checking hygiene standards for hotels, restaurants of food items is a policy matter which is decided only by higher authorities. The appellant, not satisfied with the replies, filed first appeal before the O/o Chief Minister. The FAA/CMO stated that the PIO, CMO transferred the RTI application to the concerned public authorities, since the dept. is not the custodian of information requested by the appellant. The appellant stated that information has been sought in the light of the Commission’s orders, regarding basic rules/guidelines, in public interest. The respondent from the Dept. of Food Safety stated that the rules/guidelines are updated on the website from time to time. The respondent from CMO stated that the information does not pertain to their dept. and that is why the RTI application was transferred to the concerned authorities. The respondent from the North DMC stated that the RTI application was not received in their Dept. The respondent from NDMC stated that the reply provided to the appellant is proper and that efforts have been made to keep a check on licensing of hotels/restaurants in the light of existing rules and guidelines. The respondent from East DMC stated that the licenses are issued only when the application for the same is proper, otherwise, it is rejected. Further, such hotel/restaurants are sealed. He further stated that such information is available on their official website. The appellant stated that he wishes to know which officer/designation of which authority to approach in case the public has a grievance. He stated that the toll free helpline numbers given on the public authorities’ website do not work. He expressed disappointment over the system in place and urged that a centralised system should be there so that a common man knows whom to approach, in case of grievances.
After hearing the parties and on perusal of documents, the Commission finds that the replies provided to the appellant could have been elaborate enough to explain him regarding act/statute constituted by authority/ministry, nodal agencies looking after affairs/taking action, process of registering complaints, etc. in case where no guidelines have been made to check hygiene standards for hotels/restaurants, etc. The replies already provided to the appellant were abbreviated. Therefore, the Commission directs PIOs, East/North/South DMCs, NDMC and Dept. of Food Safety to provide revised replies to the appellant within three weeks of receipt of this order, along with copies of relevant rules/guidelines/circulars, free of cost for the first 15 pgs, after which the requisite fee may be charged for further copies. The information shall be sent to the appellant under intimation to the Commission. The Commission finds that the respondent from the North DMC was unprepared and was not aware of the facts of the case. The RTI application was replied to by North DMC vide letter dt. 23.09.2013. The respondent is, therefore, cautioned not to make misleading statements and be aware of the facts and circumstances of the case, when appearing before the Commission, in future.
The Commission also directs Commissioners, East/North/South DMCs, Dept. of Food Safety and Chairman, NDMC to display such information on their official website for the benefit of the public regarding the nodal officer to be approached for filing complaints regarding hygiene standards in hotels/restaurants. Also, the helpline numbers should be started again for public convenience. The appeal is disposed of accordingly.
Citation: Shri Santosh Kumar Kappu v. Delhi Municipal Corporation in F.No.CIC/YA/A/2014/000353