Penalty of 10,500/- imposed for delay on account of shortage of staff and workload
The appellant filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) seeking information about a partnership deed of two persons with a particular firm along with the copy of tender and agreement. He also sought several other details regarding the firm and their members. The Public Information Officer (PIO) provided point wise reply as per the information available with the public authority.
During the hearing before the Central Information Commission (CIC), the appellant stated that he has not been provided correct and complete information in response to his RTI application. He also contended that the reply from the PIO was received after almost two & half months and fees of Rs. 22/- had been wrongly demanded for providing certain documents in violation of section 7(6) of the RTI Act. He further alleged that because of gross irregularities in the award of tenders by the respondents, the PIOs did not furnish the complete and correct information. He requested that an inspection of the records may be allowed and he should be permitted to take photocopies/ extracts there from. The PIO agreed to allow inspection of records but pointed that the files are under the control of GM BSNL Deoria whose assistance is also necessary in the matter.
View of CIC
The Commission directed the PIO, Deoria to allow the appellant to inspect the relevant records relating to his RTI application and to take photocopies free of cost up to 50 pages. The Commission also directed that the sum of Rs. 32/- (Rs. 22/- wrongly charged for providing photocopy plus Rs.10/- money order cost) should be refunded to the appellant. 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 RTI Act the CIC issued a show cause notice to the PIO holding that the concerned PIO has rendered himself liable for imposition of penalty by not furnishing the complete and correct information.
During the hearing of the show cause, the PIO stated that complete information has been furnished and the appellant has also inspected the relevant records. The PIO further explained that the delay in furnishing of reply was on account of acute staff shortage, pressure of work and that the information had to be collected from various sections. On being asked by the Commission, the PIO was unable to explain why an interim reply covering partial information could not be sent to the appellant within the mandated time of 30 days. The Commission observed that no reasonable grounds has been offered by the PIO for not providing timely information and imposed a penalty of Rs.10,500/- on the PIO on account of a delay of 42 days in providing the information to the appellant.
Citation: Mr. Nirmal Kumar v. BSNL in File no: CIC/LS/A/2011/002896/BS/0737-Penalty
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2012/CIC/774
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