Instructions issued to reply against RTI applications in Hindi or English or both - Rule 3 (1) of the Official Languages Rules states that Communication from a Central Government Office to any person in Region B may be either in Hindi or in English
O R D E R
1. The appellant filed an application under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) before the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO Department of Official Language, New Delhi seeking information on two points pertaining to the reply to the RTI application dated 22.06.2017, namely
(1) copy of relevant documents regarding providing reply to RTI application in Hindi only and
(2) instructions issued to reply against RTI applications in Hindi or English or both.
2. The appellant filed a second appeal before the Commission on the ground that the response was not provided in English language. The appellant therefore requested the Commission with a prayer to provide the information in English language and take action u/s 19 (1) and 20 (2) of the RTI Act, 2005.
3. The appellant was not present despite notice. The CPIO, Shri. Rameshbabu Aniyery, Director (Policy), Department of Official Language, New Delhi was present in person.
4. The respondent submitted his written submissions dated 22.07.2019 and the same has been taken on record.
5. The CPIO submitted that the then CPIO vide letter dated 31.08.2017 had inadvertently replied to the appellant that information was sent in Hindi language as per extant guidelines. It was clarified that the lapse occurred because the reply sent by the erstwhile CPIO was based on Rule 3 (1) of the Official Languages (Use for Official Purposes of the Union) Rules, 1976 (As amended in 1987) rather than Rule 3 (2) (b) which is the relevant rule which states that Communication from a Central Government Office to any person in a State or Union Territory of Region B may be either in Hindi or in English. The CPIO also submitted that the State of Maharashtra was included in the Region B as per Rule 2 (g) of the aforementioned Rules. During the hearing the CPIO also prayed to condone their lapse on the ground that being the representatives of the Department of Official Language they were encouraged and expected to promote use of Hindi language in official correspondences. The CPIO also conveyed that the bilingual (Hindi-English) version of the document is also now sent by the department to the appellant.
6. The Commission, after hearing the submission of the CPIO and perusing the records, observes that the response provided by the CPIO was not appropriate in reference to the queries raised in the RTI application and the legal position regarding use of Official Languages for Official Purposes as per Rules 2 (g) and 3 (2) (b) of the “Official Languages (Use for Official Purposes of the Union) Rules, 1976 (As amended in 1987)”.
7. However, it cannot be said that the CPIO had acted consciously and deliberately with a malafide intention to provide incorrect or misleading information to the complainant. Further, no penalty can be imposed for wrong judgment. Moreover, in a decision in the matter of Kripa Shanker v. Central Information Commission- judgment dated 18.09.2017 in W. P. (C) No. 8315/ 2017, the High Court of Delhi held that:
“….13… Indisputably, merely because the view taken by a PIO is not correct, it would not lead to an inference that he is liable to penalty. There may be cases where the PIO is of the view that the information sought is exempt from disclosure under Section 8 of the Act. If this view is subsequently found to be incorrect, it would not necessarily mean that he would be subjected to penalty. The question of imposition of penalty depends on whether the conduct of PIO is reasonable and whether there is any bonafide justification for denial of information; penalty is levied only if it is found that the information was denied without reasonable cause.”
In view of the above ratio, in the absence of any malafide intention, it would not be appropriate to initiate any action for imposition of penalty on the CPIO. The Commission however counsels the present and erstwhile CPIO to be more careful in future so that such lapses do not recur. The incumbent CPIO (Shri Rameshbabu Aniyery, Director (Policy), Department of Official Language, New Delhi) is directed to provide a copy of this decision to the erstwhile CPIO Shri Om Prakash CPIO, the then SO (Budget), Rajbhasha Division, M/o Home Affairs.
8. With the above observations, the appeal is disposed of.
9. Copy of the decision be provided free of cost to the parties.
Chief Information Commissioner
Citation: Prafulla D Khedekar v. CPIO, Department of Official Language in Second Appeal No. CIC/DPOOL/A/2018/113700, Date of decision 30.07.2019