Non availability of old records can be claimed only if destructed
Vide three separate RTI applications, the appellant sought information regarding his alleged irregularities in Gratuity, frauds etc. The Public Information Officer (PIO) forwarded the application to Labour Enforcement Officer (LEO), Central, who investigated the case and the RTI application was disposed off. The First Appellate Authority (FAA) referred to the report submitted by LEO which found that the application was vague and ambiguous and enclosed a copy of the above said report to the appellant.
During the hearing, the appellant stated that there was gross non-compliance by Standard Chartered Bank with the provisions of Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 in respect of his gratuity entitlement. The Labour Enforcement Officer (Central), who had submitted a report, stated that since the appellant’s matter was more than 18 years old and the relevant records/documents were not readily available. However, Standard Chartered Bank gave a written reply that the provident fund and gratuity payment of the appellant would have been released.
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The Central Information Commission (CIC) stated that the case was 18 years old and possibly attracts doctrine of latches, but under the RTI Act no such time period is prescribed for receiving information from the public authority. The Commission observed that section 2(f) “information” means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force; of the RTI Act states that information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force is ‘Information’. The Commission further noted that the Deputy Chief Labour Commissioner is the concerned public authority which can access information from Standard Chartered Bank under Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972. The Commission directed the PIO of Labour department to clearly inform the appellant whether the information is available or the relevant record pertaining to the gratuity of the appellant have been weeded out.
There is no time bar for obtaining information under the RTI Act and the Doctrine of Laches is not applicable. The doctrine consists of the following elements:
1. Unreasonable lapse of time.
2. Neglect to assert a right or claim.
3. To the detriment of another.
If these three elements are met, then the Doctrine of Laches will act as a bar in court.
Citation: Mr. Saileswar Chakrabarti v. Ministry of Labour & Employment in Decision No. CIC/SM/A/2012/000038+000039+000041/BS /0090
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2012/CIC/398
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