IPO of Rs. 100/- towards application fee and for cost of documents in advance was returned by the PIO - CIC: advance payment of further fee not as per law - transfer of parts of RTI application within the same public authority u/s 6(3) upheld – no penalty
IPO of Rs. 100/- with RTI application towards application fee and for cost of documents in advance was returned by the PIO without furnishing any information - CIC: PIO is not bound to accept the additional fee/cost of providing information in advance - transfer of parts of RTI application within the same public authority u/s 6(3) instead of providing the information by seeking assistance of the officer(s) holding the information u/s 5(4) upheld - appellant has been making a large number of appeals/complaints against the respondent public authority seeking voluminous information - PIO did not act out of any malice or with intent to deny the information sought by the appellant - no penalty
1- CGMT, BSNL Ambala Office file no. Staff/EG-2/Civil/Genl (from where letter of dispatch no.105 DT 16/01/2012 has been issued, regarding handling over/taking over notes) refers. In this regard following information may please be informed/supplied (as attested true copies):-
1. Copy of notes (All) on above and other connected files (alongwith understandable details i.e. copies of side margin/referred documents in the notes) may please be informed/supplied.
2. Inspection of all above concerned files may please be allowed to be inspected at Rohtak.
2- In connection with issue as contained in case file at Sr. no.1 above, following further information concerning the same issue may also be please be informed/supplied
2.1 Copy of notes on files & disposal by o/o SE(C) BSNL Rohtak/CE(C) BSNL Ambala Cantt/CGMT BSNL Ambala Cantt/ any other concerned office, as regard Sh. H. K. bansal letter dated 14/06/2007 (As was handed over by H.K.Bansal to Sh. Ved Prakash the then SDE(P&A) O/o SE(C) BSNL on 14/06/2007 itself.
2.2 Copy of inventory as made by the committee (constituted by CE(C) BSNL Ambala Cantt.) for the purpose of breaking open Almirah (kept in office chamber of SE(C) BSNL Rohtak) that took place sometimes on 18/03/2009 (CE(C) BSNL Ambala Cantt letter no. 1-1-CE-C-BSNL-HRZAB/ 1909-10 dt. 23/05/2009 refers).
2.3 Copy of notes (all) on file to show as to who approved constitution of referred committee (vide para 2.2 above), alongwith copy of applicable instruction & delegation of powers for according such an approval may please be informed/supplied.
2.4 Copy of showcause notice of intentions of breading open Almirah, issued if any, to Sh. H. K. Bansal (& or for asking him to be present at the time of such breaking opening of Almirah) may please be informed/supplied.
2.5 copy of notes (all) on file(s) where my letter no. HKB/PF/Misc(5)/16 Dt.17/11/2010 (regarding mention about my intimation about SMS vide my earlier letter dt. 17/08/2009) as addressed to Pr. G. M.(BW) BSNL C.O. with copy to CVO BSNL C.O./Dy. GM(Vig.) has been dealt may please be informed/supplied. It may however be added that BSNL C.O. vide letter dt. 12/01/2011 asked for detailed comments from Sh. A. K. Mittal the then CE(C) BSNL Ambala Cantt even.
2.6 Copy of complete notes (all) on files where above issue has been dealt in O/o BSNL CO[BW/Vig. Branch], O/o CGMT BSNL Ambala [Admn. & Vig.], O/o CE(C) BSNL Ambala Cantt., O/o SSA GMTD BSNL Rohtak & O/o SE(C) BSNL Rohtak may please be supplied.
2.7 In respect of GM HR, BSNL Ambala Cantt enclosures with above referred letter dt. 16/04/2012 attested true copies of following referred documents/letters may also be informed supplied.
(I) CE(C) letter no. 1-1-CE-C-BSNL-HRZ/2556-57 dt. 14/07/09 even no.2839 dt. 06/08/09 & even no. 41 dt. 05/01/2010.
(ii) SE(C) BSNL Rohtak letter no.SE(C) BSNL/Rtk/Estt(3)/79/09/142 dt. 03/09/09.
(iii) AD Vig II letter no. .VO/Misc/Civil & Elect/IV/Part/25 Dt,17/07/2009.
(iv) AO(Cash) Rohtak letter no. AP-2/Genl/Corr/Pay Br/28 dt. 05/09/09.
(v) Copy of correct & complete (Front & back sides) of Paid invoice as well as only passed invoice sent for payment (no. 640 dt. 31/03/2006) alongwith copy of forwarding letter/note with copy of referred stock register’s relevant page (both of SE & EE office)
(vi) in respect of sub para(V) above the writer’s detail who written & on which date the remarks viz “Cheque should not be handed over ……………for inspection of the item.”
(vii) Date of receipt of Lap Top by Purchaser/Date of its inspection/date of issue alongwith copy of acknowledgement.)
(viii) Similar to sub para(Vii) above similar details in respect or purchase invoices as maintained by EE/SE office concerned.
Grounds for the Second Appeal: The PIO has not given complete and satisfactory information. Relevant Facts emerging during Hearing held on 10/05/2013: The following were present
Appellant: Mr. H. K. Bansal through VC
Respondent: Mr. Baldev Singh CPIO’s representative through VC M: 09416010705 The appellant stated that he has filed this matter as a complaint under Section 18 of the RTI Act and hence it should be heard accordingly. He stated that he had submitted an IPO of Rs.100/- with his RTI applications dated 31/01/2012 but the same was returned by the CPIO without furnishing any information. Thereafter, he wrote a letter to the CPIO stating that they can deduct the fee of Rs.10/- from the money refundable to him against his other RTI applications but this was also not done. He then sent a fresh IPO of Rs.10/- on 11/06/2012 which was returned stating that the instrument is time barred whereas it was very much within the validity period and on appeal the FAA upheld his stand. The CPIO on receipt of the FAA’s order instead of providing the information by seeking assistance of the officer(s) holding the information under Section 5(4) of the RTI Act wrongly transferred parts of his RTI application within the same public authority under Section 6(3) of the RTI Act. Finally, the information provided to him was deficient and when Page 2 of 10 he pointed out the deficiencies, the CPIO demanded a fee of Rs.66/- for furnishing photocopies in violation of Section 7(6) of the RTI Act. The appellant stated that he has filed three complaints viz. dated 27/11/2012, 24/04/2012 & 27/08/2012 on the above issues and all should be combined and disposed of in a single order. The CPIO stated that he is not prepared for the other two matters and the hearing should be adjourned to enable him to make detailed written submissions outlining his stand on the appellant’s various contentions. On going through the records it is found that the petitioner’s letter dated 27/08/2012 has been registered as a complaint no. CIC/BS/C/2012/000470, however, the letter dated 27/11/2012 is a mere reminder to the aforesaid complaint dated 27/08/2012.
Interim Decision notice dated 10/05/2013: After hearing the parties it is decided to combine both the matters as mentioned above and grant adjournment to enable the CPIO to furnish his written submissions detailing his stand on the issues at hand, so that full facts are brought on record. Accordingly, the CPIO should furnish his written submissions to the Commission (endorsing a copy to the appellant) by 31/05/2013. The hearing is adjourned for 13/06/2013 at 04.00 PM.
Relevant Facts emerging during Hearing on 13/06/2013: The following were present
Appellant: Mr. H. K. Bansal through VC T: 01262-255550 M: 9466723033
Respondent: Mr. Baldev Singh CPIO’s representative through VC M: 09416010705 The Commission is in receipt of submissions dated 29/05/2013 from the CPIO mentioning the relevant issues and explanation thereof. The appellant has also sent his counter arguments vide letter dated 07/06/2013 contesting the CPIO’s submissions. The relevant portions of the arguments placed before us by both the parties are reproduced below:-
Issue(a)- That the appellant had submitted an IPO of Rs. 100/- with his RTI application dated 31/01/2012 but the same was returned by the CPIO without furnishing any information.
Submission from the CPIO- An IPO No. 15-H 4590647 dated 08/05/2009 for Rs. 100/- was received with the RTI application dated 31/01/2012 from Appellant towards application fee and for cost of documents in advance to be supplied to him. The said IPO was returned to the applicant vide letter No. Staff/RTI/HR/11-12/282/H.K.Bansal/2 dated 07/02/2012 with a request to send the application fee of Rs. 10/- only in the form of IPO/DD/Cash receipt and was also informed that cost of information to be supplied to him shall be intimated after processing his application and calculating the actual pages of information to be supplied to him as per provisions u/s 7(3) of the RTI Act. Against the said letter applicant made 1st appeal dated 23/02/2012 to FAA and CPIO’s action was held up by the FAA vide his order dated 13/03/2012to avoid objections/appeal or refund as was done by the Applicant in his earlier RTI case when such payment was accepted by the CPIO in advance. After that Applicant made his complaint dated 24/04/2012 to CIC in this case. It is also submitted that in an earlier RTI case of dated 10.10.2011 of the Applicant, such advance payment of Rs. 100/- was accepted but when information supplied, applicant made complaint/appeal regarding over –charging and not following the procedure as was required under Rule 7(3)(a) of the RTI Act where calculations & details of information were required to be intimated when asking for the cost. Keeping in view the earlier experience with the applicant, procedure as prescribed under the RTI Act was followed in this asking applicant to pay Page 3 of 10 only application fee with the application and the fee of information to be supplied to him shall be intimated as per provisions u/s 7(3) of the RTI Act.
Arguments from the appellant- This CPIO [besides even in other cases & CPIO’s of controlling Deptt DOT etc.] had accepted future likely payment along with Application fees and there is no prohibition to such acceptance in RTI Act [also no law of land prohibits receipt of Payments if made in advance], the stand of CPIO & FAA in this regard may please be held to be not correct. Further my objection was about Over-Charging for supply of further information, the same will be required to be supplied free of cost-U/S -7(6) of RTI Act as the prescribed time limit of 30/35 days is related to date of actual supply of documents to be counted from the date of RTI request and not from the date of demand of cost which fact may please be kept in view. Hence decision of future cost adjustment is not in conformity with RTI Act provisions. Therefore the refund of balance amount [keeping in view the value of IPO submitted as Rs. 100.00 (not Rs. 50.00] may be got made on priority please. Thus this ground cannot be taken as an excuse for not accepting payments, if made in advance [Such objection can even be raised in cases where after accepting payments after words, if the supply of information is delayed beyond prescribed limits of 30/35 days--Please refer S-7(1) read with Proviso to S-5(2) of RTI Act-2005]. Issue(b )- That he wrote a letter to the CPIO stating that they can deduct the fee of Rs. 10/- from the money refundable to him against his other RTI application but this was also not done.
Submission from the CPIO- A letter dated 25.4.2012 was received from Appellant stating that as more than Rs. 10.00 is due to be refunded in respect of his RTI request dated 10.10.2011 so Rs. 10.00 out of refundable amount may please be considered as application fee in respect of RTI application fee. In this regard a letter No. Staff/RTI/HR/11-12/282/H.K.Bansal/15 dated 5.5.2012 (copy enclosed A-3) was sent to applicant informing that since no application fee of Rs. 10/- in the proper instrumentation has been received from him as requested in earlier letters dated 7.2.2012, FAA decision 7.2.2012 and letter dated 17.4.2012 (copy enclosed A-4), application without prescribed fee is an invalid application. Regarding refund of balance amount in other RTI case of dated 10.10.2011, his attention was drawn to this office letter No. Staff/RTI/HR/11- 12/184/H.K.Bansall/20 dated 28.3.2012 (copy enclosed A-5) intimating that decision regarding adjustment/refund of balance advance payment received from him has already been given by the FAA under Point I & II of his decision dated 16.1.2012 (copy also enclosed A-6). As per said decision, refund shall be considered only after receipt of his clear request that applicant do not want any inspection or more information under that case as inspections of files was sought by the applicant in many points in that application. No clear request for refund in that has been received from the applicant and Appellant has made a complaint to CIC in the said case also. It is also submitted that each RTI application/case is dealt, processed & decided/closed independently on case to case basis. It is not possible to keep amount in debit/credit form of an Applicant for adjustment against other RTI cases as amount received is deposited with the Accounts Section and only refund orders can be issued to Account Section for making the refund of access amount if any in any particular case. To issue such unnecessary refund orders is also cumbersome and undue pressure on the CPIO/Public authority in the case of advance payments if accepted. Moreover there are no provisions under the RTI Act 2005 for making advance payments voluntarily by the information seekers and then claiming refunds etc.
Argument from the appellant- When the Application fees are already in credit with the CPIO, how an RTI Application can be styled as an invalid Application is not understood? In sub para [a] above this very CPIO is objecting for receiving of payment in advance on one hand and Page 4 of 10 here he is taking shelter for retaining payment by not refunding for future likely eventualities [likely inspections & likely demand of information in future]. This stand of CPIO confirms adoption of double standards by him to the reasons best known to him only. Also there is no provision anywhere for refund of excess credits after obtaining undertaking about future supply of information. Moreover in any case if such future eventuality arises, it will mostly be after 30/35 days and in that eventuality, information would be required to be supplied free of cost. For the stated “Accounting Problem”, if any, CPIO is free to approach DOP&Trg [nodal ministry controlling the RTI Act] for issuing suitable solutions / instructions. However this CPIO cannot use this problem as a tool to harass the information seeker and in result add to deliberate delays in the supply of information please.
Issue(c)-Then he sent a fresh IPO of Rs. 10/- on 11.6.2012 which was returned stating that the instrument is time barred whereas it was very much within the validity period and on appeal the FAA upheld his stand.
Submission from the CPIO- Vide letter dated 11.6.2012, applicant submitted an IPO No. 00F-444991 of dated 26.5.2011 of Rs. 10/- referring to this office letter dated 05.05.2012 (A-3)for supply of information as per his request dated 31.1.2012. This IPO was purchased on 26.5.2011 and as its validity after payment of second commission expired on 31.5.2012 in view of the position mentioned in letter dated 17.4.2012 (A-4), same was not accepted as application fee and was returned to applicant vide this office letter No. Staff/RTI/HR/11-12/282/H.K.Bansal/18 dated 27.6.2012 (copy enclosed, A-7). As mentioned in A-4,regarding validity of IPOs information was gathered from the NET and as per information was available on Maharashtra Postal Circle website, downloaded on 12.4.2012 (copy enclosed A-8), “A postal order is current for six months from the last date of the month of issue. It can be paid during the next six months on payment of a second commission in the shape of postage stamp(s) affixed on the reverse of the order. Beyond that, it is forfeited.” GPO Ambala counter people when contacted in this regard personally also informed orally that IPOs are valid for one year only but were unable to supply any guideline in this regard. In reference to letter dated 27.6.2012 (A-7), Applicant filed an appeal dated 4.7.2012 with the FAA. FAA vide its order dated 18.7.2012 (copy enclosed, A-9), ordered that in view of position explained by the Appellant in his appeal regarding validity of IPOs, the matter may be taken up with Chief PMG Haryana Postal Circle for clarification and the said IPO of Rs. 10/- may be accepted as application fee of application dated 31.1.2012 and the information sought by the Applicant vide his application dated 31.1.2012 may be furnished to the applicant as per provisions under the RTI Act within four weeks and additional fee, if any on account of information to be supplied be collected from the applicant as per provisions under the Act. The case regarding validity of IPOs was taken up with Chief PMG Ambala vide letter No. staff/RTI/HR/11- 12/282/H.K.Bansal/22 dated 23.7.2012 (copy enclosed A-10) but no reply has been received from the said office. However in the meantime a copy of letter No. 15-6/88-PO dated 25.9.95 of D.G Post New Delhi was received from Sr. Supdt of Post Offices Rohtak Dn. Rohtak vide their letter No. CR/RTI-Misc/12-13/ dated 17.7.12 pertaining to amending validity period of IPOs as two years without commission and another 1 year with 2nd commission. This fact shall be taken care of in future please
Argument from the appellant- As regards validity aspect of IPO of Rs 10.00 is concerned, admittedly CPIO was wrong in considering the IPO in question as “time barred”. Against this act of CPIO, he was informed about position of Rules regarding validity of an IPO on 25.04.12. Despite this fact, styling IPO of Rs 10.00 as time barred is highhandedness and a harassing tendency of Page 5 of 10 this CPIO, hence in addition to taking this into consideration for Penal Action U/S 20 of RTI Act; this COMPLAINANT/Senior Citizen also deserves to be compensated please.
Issue(d)- The CPIO on receipt of FAA’s order dtd 18.7.2012 instead of providing the information by seeking assistance of the officer(s) holding the information under Section 5(4) of the RTI Act wrongly transferred parts of his RTI application within the same public authority under Section 6(3) of the RTI Act.
Submission from the CPIO- It is submitted that in Haryana Telecom Circle of BSNL, 13 separate CPIOs & FAAs/APIOs in each SSA/Civil/Electrical-Units being the Administrative offices are nominated under the provisions of Section 5(1) of the RTI Act for supplying information to citizens relating to their jurisdiction. As per orders dated 18.7.2012 (A-9) of FAA, the RTI application dated 31.1.2012 of the Appellant was processed. The Para No. 2.1 to 2.6 & 2.7 (V to VIII) of the application were transferred u/s 6(3) of the RTI Act to the concerned nominated CPIOs in Civil Wing/unit i.e. Shri Tikam Singh SE(Civil)-Cum-CPIO, Civil Zone Rohtak and Sh. S.K. Bhardwaj SE(Civil)-Cum-CPIO Civil Zone Ambala, vide this office letters dated 23.7.2012 with copy to the Applicant, for furnishing the information direct to the applicant as per provisions under the RTI Act as information sought under these paras was held by the said CPIOs. As such application of Section 5(4) was not applicable in this case as seprate CPIO & FAA are nominated under the RTI act for providing information to the applicants. However concerned CPIO can invoke section 5(4) for seeking assistance of any other officer in his SSA/Unit/jurisdiction as the case may be. Regarding information relating to this office (Para 1.1, 1.2 & part 2.6 7 2.7), the application was processed and an information of 33 pages was there to supply to applicant relating to these paras. Accordingly applicant was asked vide this office letter No. Staff/RTI/HR/11-12/282-46/H.K.Bansal/25 dated 4.8.2012 to deposit the fee of Rs. 66/- being the cost/fee of 33 pages @ Rs. 2/- per page in view of the decision of FAA (A-9).
Argument from the appellant- The R.T.I Act nowhere authorizes a CPIO to split & transfer the Application with in the same Public Authority. Due to illegal splitting, response is also received in piece meal & hence Appeals may also have to be made in piece meal only. To avoid this illegality & harassment to information seeker, all deemed CPIOs needs to supply information through CPIO and not to correspond direct with information seeker. In fact deemed CPIOs should have restrained them self from corresponding with me direct & should have rendered assistance to CPIO U/S 5(4) of RTI Act-2005.
Issue(e)-The information provided to him was deficient and when he pointed out the deficiencies, the CPIO demanded a fee of Rs. 66/- for furnishing photocopies in violation of Section 7(6) of the RTI Act.
Submission from the CPIO- It is wrong allegation. A fee of 33 pages (Rs. 66/-) was awaited from the Appellant. When a copy of complaint dated 27.8.2012 made to CIC was received in this ofice from the Applicant on 10.9.2012 mentioning that information sought under Paras 1.1.,1.2 & 2.7 (ii to vii)- relating to this office, is still awaited, the applicant was informed vide this office letter No. Staff/RTI/HR/12-13/282/H.K.Bansal/27 dated 13.9.2012 that a fee of Rs. 66/- being the cost of 33 pages of information to be supplied to him against these points as sought vide letter dated 4.8.2012 is still awaited and he was again requested to send the requested fee so that information sought under these paras may be furnished to him as per orders dated 18.7.2012 of the Ist Appellate Authority. Instead of making the payment of fee of 33 pages (Rs.66/-), the Page 6 of 10 appellant made another complaint dated 27.11.2012 to CIC. However as a gesture of cooperation, said informtion of 33 pages relating to this office was supplied to the Applicant free of cost vide this office letter No. Staff/RTI/HR/11-12/282/H.K.Bansal/30 dated 13.12.2012 under registered cover as per request in his complaint. In respect of deficiencies point out in the complaints dated 27.8.2012 and 27.11.2012 regarding information supplied by other CPIOs i.e. SE (Civil) Rohtak & SE (Civil) Ambala applicant could have made Ist Appeal to concerned nominated FAA i.e. C.E (Civil) BSNL Haryana Zone Ambala.
Argument from the appellant- As for supply of 33 pages and demand of Rs 66.00 on 04.08.2012 is concerned, it is misleading to say that amount was demanded from me on 04.08.12. In fact I received demand vide letter Dt 13.09.12 for the first time for which the CIC is also requested to invoke its authority U/S 18(3) The Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, shall, while inquiring into any matter under this section, have the same powers as are vested in a civil court while trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908), in respect of the following matters, namely:- (a) summoning and enforcing the attendance of persons and compel them to give oral or written evidence on oath and to produce the documents or things; (b) requiring the discovery and inspection of documents; (c) receiving evidence on affidavit; (d) requisitioning any public record or copies thereof from any court or office; (e) issuing summons for examination of witnesses or documents; and (f) any other matter which may be prescribed. of RTI Act to ascertain truth about timely dispatch/delivery [besides authority of signatory as CAPIO is not competent for the purpose U/S-7 of RTI Act] of referred letter DT 04.08.2012. In fact in this case after receipt of Application by CAPIO on 01.02.2012, information after 35 days i.e. after 08.03.12 was to be supplied free of cost U/S-7(6) of RTI Act and as such demand DT 04.08.2012 is not justified even. For these manipulations and delayed supply of information in the name of goodwill “gesture & co-operation” Penal action U/S-20 of RTI Act is requested/prayed for please. Decision
Notice announced on 16/07/2013: The Commission heard the matter and has gone through the written submissions filed by both the parties. The appellant raised various issues, in which one of his grievance is that he had submitted an IPO of Rs. 100/- with his RTI application dated 31/01/2012 but the same was returned by the CPIO stating that there is no provision to accept the cost of information in advance and had requested him to deposit the RTI fee of Rs.10/- only as per the RTI Rules. Another issue raised by the appellant is that he had requested the CPIO to deduct the RTI fee of Rs.10/- from the excess money refundable to him deposited with his earlier RTI application, which was also not accepted by the respondent. Rule 3 of Right to Information Rules, 2012 provides that: “Application Fee- An application under sub-section (1) of Section 6 of the Act shall be accompanied by a fee of rupees ten and shall ordinarily not contain more than five hundred words, excluding annexures, containing address of the Central Public Information Officer and that of the applicant:” On a plain reading of Rule 3 it appears that the RTI application should be accompanied by a fee of rupees 10/- only and the CPIO is not bound to accept the additional fee/cost of providing information in advance. There appears some weight in the CPIO’s contention that practically it is difficult to keep amount in debit/credit form of an applicant for adjustment against other RTI cases as amount received is deposited with the Accounts Section and only refund orders can be issued to Account Section for making the refund of access amount, if any, in any particular case. To issue such unnecessary refund orders is also cumbersome and would put undue pressure and costs on the CPIO/Public authority in the case of advance payments, if accepted. The other grievance of the appellant is that the CPIO instead of providing the information by seeking assistance of the officer(s) holding the information under Section 5(4) of the RTI Act wrongly transferred parts of his RTI application within the same public authority under Section 6(3) of the RTI Act. In this context, it will be apt to quote the observations of the Commission in an Page 7 of 10 earlier matter (Shri Prakash Bhalaji Bafna & Shri Ravish Agarwal V/s Income Tax Department) F.no CIC/AT/A/2008/00135 & 00136 dated 19/06/2008:-
“5. The Commission agrees that when such officers holding the information are within the jurisdiction assigned to a CPIO, then the CPIO should collect the information from such officers under the provisions of Section 5(4) of the RTI Act and provide it to the applicants. However, in case the officers holding the information are not within the jurisdiction of a CPIO, then he (CPIO) should take recourse to the provision under section 6(3) of the RTI Act and transfer the matter to that CPIO under whose jurisdiction those officers work. This would be fully in line with the scheme of the RTI Act.”
Furthermore regarding the appellant’s contention that all deemed CPIOs needs to supply information through the CPIO and not to correspond direct with information seeker, it will be apt to quote the extract of the decision dated 26/8/2009 of a coordinate bench of this Commission F. no. CIC/AT/A/2009/000138 (Ms. Meher N. Sanjana V/s Mumbai Port Trust):-
“17. It has been the experience of the Commission that very often information-requesters knowing full well that the information they were requesting was held at multiple sources, purposefully direct the query at a single CPIO expecting that such CPIO would collect and collate all the requested information from its sources and transmit it to the appellant. It would be reasonable to expect that if the requested information is held at one or two sources other than the CPIO, the latter can even obtain this information and pass it on to the requester. But, when such information is held at a large number of sources, such expectation shall be putting unfeasible burden on the CPIO and creating room for complaints about delays and deficiency in information supplied. Each time such points are made CPIO will have to refer that to the holder of the information. It is, therefore, a lot more convenient if the holder of the information, who being deemed CPIO himself, undertakes the responsibility of processing that part of the application relating to him and providing information to the appellant independently for that part. I do not think this could cause any inconvenience to the applicant. In fact, it simplifies the system and makes the lines of communication straighter and uncluttered.”
The above said observations are squarely applicable to the issue raised by the appellant and this bench fully concurs with the views of the coordinate bench. Regarding the issue of returning the IPO of Rs.10/- on 11/06/2012 to the appellant by the CPIO stating that the instrument is time barred, the CPIO clarified that the error occurred due to the information available at that time on the website of the Maharashtra Postal Circle which says
“A postal order is current for six months from the last date of the month of issue. It can be paid during the next six months on payment of a second commission in the shape of postage stamp(s) affixed on the reverse of the order. Beyond that, it is forfeited.”
However later on the issue was taken up with CPMG Ambala and it has been confirmed vide letter dated 17/07/2012 from the SSPO Rohtak that the validity period of the IPO is two years without commission and another one year with second commission. From the above it is obvious that there was a reasonable basis (viz. the information available on postal website) for the CPIO to conclude that the postal order was time barred and the error has been corrected later on, hence, it cannot be construed as willful/deliberate denial of information on his part under the RTI Act. Page 8 of 10 It is seen that the remaining issue of demanding fee of Rs.66/- for providing 33 copies of information after the mandated period of 30 days is not much relevant now as the said copies have been supplied to the appellant free of cost vide letter dated 13/12/2012. As regards penal proceedings, the aspect of levy of penalty on the CPIO is governed by Section 20 of the RTI Act.
The crux of the said provision is that the CPIO should have obstructed the supply of the information with intent or should have acted consciously and deliberately in a manner so as to block the provision of the information. In this case, it cannot be said that the CPIO acted out of any malice or with intent to deny the information sought by the appellant. Imposition of penalty on the CPIO, therefore, would not be justified. It is also seen from the records that the appellant has been making a large number of appeals/complaints against the respondent public authority seeking voluminous information held by various CPIOs on all and sundry issues. Hence, before parting with this matter it will be apt to quote the law propounded by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Civil Appeal No. 6454 of 2011 (Civil Board of Secondary Education & Anr. vs. Aditya Bandopadhyay & Ors.). The relevant portion of para 37 is extracted below:-
“Indiscriminate and impractical demands or directions under RTI Act for disclosure of all and sundry information (unrelated to transparency and accountability in the functioning of public authorities and eradication of corruption) would be counter-productive as it will adversely affect the efficiency of the administration and result in the executive getting bogged down with the nonproductive work of collecting and furnishing information. The Act should not be allowed to be misused or abused, to become a tool to obstruct the national development and integration, or to destroy the peace, tranquility and harmony among its citizens. Nor should it be converted into a tool of oppression or intimidation of honest officials striving to do their duty. The nation does not want a scenario where 75% of the staff of public authorities spends 75% of their time in collecting and furnishing information to applicants instead of discharging their regular duties. The threat of penalties under the RTI Act and the pressure of the authorities under the RTI Act should not lead to employees of a public authorities prioritizing `information furnishing', at the cost of their normal and regular duties.”
We hope that the appellant will take a careful note of the above observations and refrain from seeking unnecessary information under the RTI Act. Any request for information that does not fulfill the above test, would amount to misuse of the process of law. The appeal/complaint is disposed of accordingly with the above observations.
Citation: Mr. H. K. Bansal Kanta v. BSNL in File No. CIC/BS/A/2012/000579+CIC/BS/C/2012/000470/2997