Information was provided late to the applicant and fee was demanded even after the lapse of 30 days - CIC: No penalty as the PIO did not have the information readily available with him; compensation of Rs 10,000/- provided u/s 19 (8) (b) to the applicant
These files contain appeals in respect of the RTI applications dated 28.11.2013 and 24.3.2014, filed by the Appellant, seeking information on various issues. 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 28.11.2013 (File No. CIC/SH/A/2014/000694), the Appellant sought information regarding the action taken by the Respondents on his letters dated 15/18.9.2013 and 25.9.2013, regarding his pay fixation and determination of his pension / payment of arrears and his promotion. The Appellant stated that the RTI application was received by the Respondents on 3.12.2013. However, vide the CPIO’s letter dated 8.1.2014, he was asked to deposit Rs. 66/- to obtain the information. He stated that since the CPIO had failed to reply within the mandated period of thirty days, the information should have been provided to him free of cost. Nonetheless, he paid an amount of Rs. 70/as photocopying charges, but the information has still not been provided to him. The Respondents stated that the amount of photocopying charges was received by them on 23.4.2014 and the information was sent to the Appellant vide their letter dated 29.4.2014. A copy of this letter has been shown to us and bears a stamp regarding its dispatch on 30.4.2014. The Appellant, however, stated that this letter has not been received by him and prayed that the Commission check the dispatch record of the Respondents, as he believes that they have been deliberately denying the information sought by him. He also prayed that the amount of Rs. 70/, deposited by him as photocopying charges, be refunded along with interest, as the information should have been provided to him free of cost. Having considered the records and the submissions made by both the parties before us, we are of the view that since the CPIO failed to respond to the RTI application within thirty days of its receipt on 3.12.2013, the information should have been provided to the Appellant free of cost. In view of the foregoing, the CPIO is directed to take the following action, within seven days of the receipt of this order, under intimation to the Commission:
(a) Forward to the Appellant, by registered post, the information running into 33 pages (which, according to the Respondents, was forwarded vide their letter dated 29.4.2014).
(b) Refund to the Appellant an amount of Rs. 100/- (Rs. One hundred only) on account of the fact that he was made to pay photocopying charges, even though the same were not due.
(c) Forward to the Appellant, with a copy to the Commission, certified photocopy(ies) of the relevant page of the dispatch register and postal receipt, if any, regarding the dispatch of the letter dated 29.4.2014.
3. The RTI application dated 24.3.2014 (File No. CIC/SH/A/2014/001540) sought certified copies of all the pages of the service book of the Appellant as well as of all pages of his personal file. The Respondents stated that the CPIO wrote to the Appellant on 6.5.2014 and mentioned the number of pages available in respect of the service book and the personal files, which ran into a figure of 2118 and asked him to go through the particulars and obtain the documents required by him by paying the prescribed photocopying charges. The Appellant stated that since the RTI application was responded to in a period longer than the mandated thirty days, the information should have been provided free of cost. He further submitted that since he had asked for copies of all the pages in his service book and personal files, the CPIO could have sent the entire information to him. The Respondents submitted that the Appellant was in the service of the public authority from 1961 to 1997. In view of the foregoing, it took them some time to collect such records, as were available. Since the available information ran into 2118 pages, he was asked to identify the documents needed by him. The Appellant stated that the pages in respect of the service book run into 123 and at least this information could have been sent to him by the CPIO. In response to our query, the Respondents submitted that they would be in a position to make the personal files of the Appellant available at their Bikaner office, where the Appellant resides, so that he could inspect the same there to identify the documents required by him. Having considered the submissions of both the parties, we direct the CPIO to forward to the Appellant certified copies of 123 pages of the service book, within seven days of the receipt of this order, under intimation to the Commission. The information should be provided free of cost. The CPIO is further directed to facilitate inspection by the Appellant of his personal files in the Bikaner office of the Respondents and after such inspection, provide him photocopies of the inspected documents, desired by him, free of cost. The CPIO is directed to complete action in this case within thirty days of the receipt of this order, under intimation to the Commission.
4. The Appellant stated that the FAA did not dispose of his first appeals. The Respondents claimed that the FAA had passed his orders on the appeals of the Appellant, but were unable to confirm as to when these orders were passed.
5. In his written submissions dated 2.5.2015 to the Commission and in the course of the hearing, the Appellant also prayed for imposition of penalty on the CPIO and the FAA and disciplinary action against both of them. He also prayed for award of compensation of Rs. 2 lakhs to him “for torture and mental agony and financial losses the applicant is suffering for the last more than two years” on account of negligence on the part of the Respondents to dispose of his applications in a timely manner. In the above context, we note that there is no provision in the RTI Act for imposition of penalty on / disciplinary action against FAA. However, we direct the FAA to ensure that all the appeals filed to him on RTI matters in future are disposed of strictly in keeping with the provisions of the RTI Act and within the timeframe stipulated therein. As regards the issue of imposition of penalty on / disciplinary action against the CPIO, we note that a good deal of old information concerning the service record of the Appellant (from 1961 to 1997) was sought. Collection of such information could result in some delay, as appears to have happened in the instant case. However, the delay was not too long. The application dated 28.11.2013 (received on 3.12.2013) was responded to on 8.1.2014 and the application dated 24.3.2014 was responded to on 6.5.2014. Further, in our view, this is not a case where the CPIO had the information readily available with him, but failed to provide it within the stipulated timeframe.
Accordingly, we do not regard it a fit case for consideration of imposition of penalty on / disciplinary action against the CPIO. As stated above, the Appellant has also prayed for a compensation of Rs. 2 lakhs. It is not clear as to how he has arrived at this figure. It is seen that in one of his RTI applications, he had sought information in the context of certain claims regarding his pay fixation, payment of arrears and promotion etc. He may have based the amount of compensation, for which he has prayed, on his claims in the above areas. The Commission, however, is not competent to go into the issue of admissibility of the claims that the Appellant has in mind. Unless these claims are accepted as admissible by a competent authority, the amount of compensation cannot be based on the same. However, it is clear that since the information was not provided in the mandated period of thirty days, the Respondents should have provided it free of cost. Instead, they asked the Appellant to deposit photocopying charges, which resulted in provision of the information getting delayed. This necessitated an effort on the part of the Appellant to follow up the matter at the level of the Commission. It is not possible to quantify such effort. However, in view of the foregoing and by virtue of the power vested in us vide clause (b) of subsection (8) of Section 19 of the RTI Act, we direct the Respondents to pay a token compensation of Rs.10,000/- ( Rs. Ten thousand only) to the Appellant. The CPIO is directed to ensure that this amount if paid to the Appellant, within fifteen days of the receipt of this order, under intimation to the Commission.
6. With the directions and observations contained in the preceding paragraphs, the two appeals are disposed of.
7. Copies of this order be given free of cost to the parties.
Citation: Shri Harish Chandra v. Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine & Storage in File No. CIC/SH/A/2014/000694 File No. CIC/SH/A/2014/001540