Officers overburdened with regular work should not be appointed as PIO
In an earlier hearing of the same case, the Central Information Commission (CIC) had issued a show cause notice to the Public Information officer (PIO), Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) as he had furnished the information after a delay of nearly 2 months.
During the show cause notice hearing before Central Information Commission (CIC), the PIO submitted that the very same appellant had sought similar information in the past which was denied under the section 8(1)(j) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information: Provided that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person. of the RTI Act. While hearing the second appeal, the CIC had directed the PIO to follow the procedure as laid down in section 11(1) Where a Central Public Information Officer or a State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, intends to disclose any information or record, or part thereof on a request made under this Act, which relates to or has been supplied by a third party and has been treated as confidential by that third party, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall, within five days from the receipt of the request, give a written notice to such third party of the request and of the fact that the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, intends to disclose the information or record, or part thereof, and invite the third party to make a submission in writing or orally, regarding whether the information should be disclosed, and such submission of the third party shall be kept in view while taking a decision about disclosure of information: of the Right to Information (RTI) Act before deciding on the disclosure of the information and that the MEA had challenged some orders of the CIC for disclosure of similar information in the High Court which had granted a stay. The Commission noted that the PIO had initiated section 11 procedures just two days before the expiry of the stipulated period. The Commission observed that if there was a stay from the High Court on disclosure of personal information as being contended in some other cases, it shouldn’t have deterred the PIO from disclosing the desired information nor stopped him from initiating section 11 procedures. The CIC held that the PIO had every intention of disclosing the information still he chose to initiate the section 11 procedures very late and waited for long to disclose the information. The PIO submitted that he didn’t have time to attend to the RTI applications due to heavy work load which was the main reason for delay in response.
View of CIC
The Commission held that the PIO is guilty of delay in the case by not taking appropriate action to deal with the RTI request in time and imposed a penalty of Rs. 7,500/- at the rate of Rs. 250/- per day as per 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 RTI Act. The Commission also ruled that if the workload on the PIO is very heavy, the Ministry or the authorities concerned should evaluate the workload and make alternate arrangements. It is not necessary to appoint an officer, already overburdened with regular work, as the PIO. The CIC suggested the MEA to reconsider appointing such officers in the passport offices as PIO who have comparatively less workload.
Citation: Shri M Peer Mohammed v. Ministry of External Affairs in File No. CIC/SM/A/2012/000902
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2013/CIC/1206
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