Information relating to Circulars pertaining to the Probationary Officers having Loss of Pay & details of the procedure followed in such cases etc. was sought - CIC advised the United India Insurance Co. to suo motu disclose such information on website
O R D E R
The Appellant vide his RTI application sought information on 10 points relating to the Orders/ Circulars/ Rules/ Documents and every such material pertaining to the Probationary Officers having LOPs (Loss of Pay) in their case, details of the procedure/ protocol (including the defined time frame) followed in such cases for confirmation of their services, details of the procedures/ protocol followed in his case, etc.
The CPIO, vide its letter dated 02.05.2017 provided a point wise response to the Appellant. Dissatisfied by the response, the Appellant approached the FAA. The FAA, vide its order dated 02.06.2017 while finding no substance in the appeal, dismissed the same.
Facts emerging during the hearing:
The following were present:
Appellant: Mr. Amit Sopan Bhagat (AO) through VC
Respondent: Ms. Jenny Kerketta, CPIO / RM and Mr. Prem Sagar Barla, Sr. Div. Manager through VC;
The Appellant reiterated the contents of his RTI application and stated that the CPIO / FAA casually dealt with the subject matter and the information sought was not provided. In its reply, it was articulated by the Respondent that the information sought was in public domain on their website but the Commission observed that the reply was in contravention to the submissions of the Respondent. The Commission was in receipt of a written submission from the Respondent dated 06.08.2018, wherein while providing a point wise response on each of the queries raised in the RTI application, it was stated that the first 05 point of the application pertained to the Appellant himself, the next three points were in respect of information of third party and other officers and the remaining grounds were in respect of the procedure and mechanism of company in dealing with the case of employee. Since the first 05 points related to the Appellant himself, he had all the rights to ask for the information and the same could not be denied. With regard to point no. 06 to 08, it was stated that the same related to the personal information of a third party. With regard to the Third and Final Part, it was stated that the same related to the procedure and mechanism of the company in dealing with the case of employee which was laid down in the manual, the same being a public document and accessible information could not be asked for. With regard to the absence of the Appellant at the FAA stage, it was stated that his absence did not in any way preclude the Appellate Authority from making thorough scrutiny of records for deciding the appeal. Explaining that the information sought was either hypothetical or concerned other employees it was stated that there was no malafide intention or wrongful denial of information and available record was provided to the Appellant.
The Commission observed that a voluntary disclosure of all information that ought to be displayed in the public domain should be the rule and members of public who having to seek information should be an exception. An open government, which is the cherished objective of the RTI Act, can be realised only if all public offices comply with proactive disclosure norms. Section 4(2) It shall be a constant endeavour of every public authority to take steps in accordance with the requirements of clause (b) of sub-section (1) to provide as much information suo motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including internet, so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information. of the RTI Act mandates every public authority to provide as much information suomotu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including the Internet, so that the public need not resort to the use of RTI Act.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the matter of CBSE and Anr. Vs. Aditya Bandopadhyay and Ors 2011 (8) SCC 497 held as under:
“37. The right to information is a cherished right. Information and right to information are intended to be formidable tools in the hands of responsible citizens to fight corruption and to bring in transparency and accountability. The provisions of RTI Act should be enforced strictly and all efforts should be made to bring to light the necessary information under Clause (b) of Section 4(1) of the Act which relates to securing transparency and accountability in the working of public authorities and in discouraging corruption.”
The Commission also observes the Hon’ble Delhi High Court ruling in WP (C) 12714/2009 Delhi Development Authority v. Central Information Commission and Another (delivered on: 21.05.2010), wherein it was held as under:
“16.It also provides that the information should be easily accessible and to the extent possible should be in electronic format with the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be. The word disseminate has also been defined in the explanation to mean - making the information known or communicating the information to the public through notice boards, newspapers, public announcements, media broadcasts, the internet, etc. It is, therefore, clear from a plain reading of Section 4 of the RTI Act that the information, which a public authority is obliged to publish under the said section should be made available to the public and specifically through the internet. There is no denying that the petitioner is duty bound by virtue of the provisions of Section 4 of the RTI Act to publish the information indicated in Section 4(1)(b) Every public authority shall publish within one hundred and twenty days from the enactment of this Act,- (i) the particulars of its organisation, functions and duties; (ii) the powers and duties of its officers and employees; (iii) the procedure followed in the decision making process, including channels of supervision and accountability; (iv) the norms set by it for the discharge of its functions; (v) the rules, regulations, instructions, manuals and records, held by it or under its control or used by its employees for discharging its functions; (vi) a statement of the categories of documents that are held by it or under its control; (vii) the particulars of any arrangement that exists for consultation with, or representation by, the members of the public in relation to the formulation of its policy or implementation thereof; (viii) a statement of the boards, councils, committees and other bodies consisting of two or more persons constituted as its part or for the purpose of its advice, and as to whether meetings of those boards, councils, committees and other bodies are open to the public, or the minutes of such meetings are accessible for public; (ix) a directory of its officers and employees; (x) the monthly remuneration received by each of its officers and employees, including the system of compensation as provided in its regulations; (xi) the budget allocated to each of its agency, indicating the particulars of all plans, proposed expenditures and reports on disbursements made; (xii) the manner of execution of subsidy programmes, including the amounts allocated and the details of beneficiaries of such programmes; (xiii) particulars of recipients of concessions, permits or authorisations granted by it; (xiv) details in respect of the information, available to or held by it, reduced in an electronic form; (xv) the particulars of facilities available to citizens for obtaining information, including the working hours of a library or reading room, if maintained for public use; (xvi) the names, designations and other particulars of the Public Information Officers; (xvii) such other information as may be prescribed and thereafter update these publications every year; and 4(1)(c) Every public authority shall publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect public; on its website so that the public have minimum resort to the use of the RTI Act to obtain the information.”
Furthermore, High Court of Delhi in the decision of General Manager Finance Air India Ltd & Anr v. Virender Singh, LPA No. 205/2012, Decided On: 16.07.2012 had held as under:
“8. The RTI Act, as per its preamble was enacted to enable the citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. An informed citizenry and transparency of information have been spelled out as vital to democracy and to contain corruption and to hold Governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed. The said legislation is undoubtedly one of the most significant enactments of independent India and a landmark in governance. The spirit of the legislation is further evident from various provisions thereof which require public authorities to: A. Publish inter alia:
i) the procedure followed in the decision making process;
ii) the norms for the discharge of its functions;
iii) rules, regulations, instructions manuals and records used by its employees in discharging of its functions;
iv) the manner and execution of subsidy programmes including the amounts allocated and the details of beneficiaries of such programmes;
v) the particulars of recipients of concessions, permits or authorizations granted. [see Section 4(1) (b), (iii), (iv), (v); (xii) & (xiii)]. B. Suo moto provide to the public at regular intervals as much information as possible [see Section 4(2) It shall be a constant endeavour of every public authority to take steps in accordance with the requirements of clause (b) of sub-section (1) to provide as much information suo motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including internet, so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information. ].”
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 the Respondent to revisit the points of the RTI application and furnish a fresh, precise, cogent reply to the Appellant within a period of 15 days from the date of receipt of this order.
The Commission also advises the Respondent to suo motu disclose information relating to Orders/ Circulars/ Rules/ Documents and every such material pertaining to the Probationary Officers having LOPs (Loss of Pay) on their website in the larger public interest and for the ease and convenience of the stakeholders at large.
The Appeal stands disposed with the above direction.
Citation: Mr. Amit Sopan Bhagat v. United India Insurance Co. Ltd., in Second Appeal No.:- CIC/UIICL/A/2017/603436-BJ, Date of Decision: 14.08.2018