Karnataka HC quashes SIC order imposing penalty of Rs 10,000 on the PIO
The Karnataka High Court has quashed the order of the Karnataka State Information Commission (SIC) imposing a penalty of Rs 10,000 on the public information officer (PIO) of the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike's (BBMP). Against the order by the SIC, the BBMP additional council secretary and PIO Mario Pires had filed a writ petition challenging the imposition of penalty and recovery of Rs 10,000 from his salary.
Earlier, A R S Kumar filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) on September 28, 2011 seeking certified copies regarding various committees formed by the BBMP with representation from elected corporators. The PIO forwarded the application on October 7, 2011, to all the standing committees, requesting for the information so that the same could be furnished to the applicant. The PIO claimed that the information was provided to the applicant on October 26, 2011 (two days ahead of the deadline) and the applicant was asked to pay a fee of Rs 2,400 at Rs 2 per page for 1,200 pages of information. The applicant Kumar, preferred to file a complaint before the SIC on October 31, 2011 which a notice to PIO on April 5, 2012. The PIO was asked to appear and explain why penalty under section 20(1) Where the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be, at the time of deciding any complaint or appeal is of the opinion that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, has, without any reasonable cause, refused to receive an application for information or has not furnished information within the time specified under sub-section (1) of section 7 or malafidely denied the request for information or knowingly given incorrect, incomplete or misleading information or destroyed information which was the subject of the request or obstructed in any manner in furnishing the information, it shall impose a penalty of two hundred and fifty rupees each day till application is received or information is furnished, so however, the total amount of such penalty shall not exceed twenty-five thousand rupees: Provided that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall be given a reasonable opportunity of being heard before any penalty is imposed on him: Provided further that the burden of proving that he acted reasonably and diligently shall be on the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be. of the Act should not be imposed on him. The SIC held that the notice dated October 26, 2011, was dispatched only on November 2, 2011, and hence charging of fee even though more than 30 days had lapsed since the application was filed was not proper. The SIC later imposed a penalty o Rs 10,000, recoverable from salary of the PIO in two instalments of Rs 5,000 each.
Hearing the petition, Justice A N Venugopala Gowda of the Karnataka High Court observed that the SIC’s order was "wholly unreasoned" and arbitrary, and quashed the order.