PIO allowed inspection of the records for 15 minutes only with the condition that the entry to the building for inspection shall be at the discretion of the security agencies - FAA directed proper access to records - CIC: No further action is required
1. Shri R.K. Jain, filed an application under Right to Information Act, 2005 on 26.08.2013 with the CPIO, Department of Revenue seeking the following information:
A) Provide inspection of the file from which the Notification No.19/2012CE (N.T.), dated 19.3.2012 was issued and amended from time to time.
B) Provide inspection of the file from which the Notification No.49/2012C.E.(N.T.), dated 24.12.2008 was issued and amended from time to time.
C) Provide inspection of the file from which the Notification No.672003C.E.(N.T.), dated 12.9.2003 was issued and amended from time to time.
D) Provide inspection of the file from which the Notification No.5/2011C. E.(N.T.), dated 1.3.20111 was issued and amended from time to time.
E) Provide inspection of the file from which the Notification No.8/2007C. E.(N.T.), dated 1.3.2007 was issued and amended from time to time.
2. The CPIO, in respect of point (C), vide order dated 8.10.2013 allowed inspection of file No.4/7/2003CX. I from which Notification No.67/2003C. E.(N.T.) dated 12.09.2013 was issued. The complainant filed an appeal dated 15.10.2013 before the FAA on the ground that the CPIO had allowed the inspection of the records in question for 15 minutes only and that too with the condition that the entry to the building for the purpose of inspection shall be at the discretion of the security agencies. The FAA vide its order dated 17.12.2913 directed the CPIO to provide access to the records to the appellant in such a manner that the purpose of the application is fulfilled. A complaint was filed before the Commission on 1.11.2013 on the grounds that the CPIO has been persistently causing obstruction to supply of the information to the complainant despite the orders of the FAA.
3. The Complainant Shri R.K. Jain and Shri Pankaj Jain, CPIO, and Under Secretary, Department of Revenue were present in person.
4. The Complainant submitted written submission along with additional documents during the hearing, a copy of which has also been served on Shri Pankaj Jain, CPIO. The Respondent also filed a written submission a copy of which has also been served on Shri R.K. Jain. The complainant also stated that two more complaint filed by him may also be considered along with the present as these complaints pertain to the same RTI application. The CPIO also conveyed his concurrence for the same.
5. The complainant further stated that he is a senior citizen and there is total delay of 119 days in providing the information and the CPIO right from the initial stage has deliberately and malafidely been obstructing the information without any reasonable cause. He first provided only fifteen minutes for inspection of the file while under RTI Rules the complainant was entitled to one hour inspection free of any charge. The order of the CPIO in this respect was set aside by the FAA by order date 30.10.2013. The CPIO vide his letter dated 23.10.2013 (dispatched on 24.10.2013) fixed 28.10.2013 as date for inspection. But the complainant received the said letter in the evening 28.10.2013. On appeal to FAA this order was set aside by order dated 17.12.2013 and the CPIO was advised to give another date with mutual convenience. In the mean time on 08.11.2013 the complainant took the inspection on 08.11.2013 but the CPIO made available incomplete record in as much as only part of the file without note sheet was made available. The complainant vide inspection note 553 date 08.11.2013 requested the CPIO to make available the balance records i.e the main file and part one with note sheets of part two. The complainant also recorded that file has not been paginated and requested for making good the discrepancies and deficiencies. The complainant further stated that the CPIO gave another date for inspection on 22.11.2013 claiming that inspection of part two of file is complete while it was not so. The complainant lodged a protest letter dated 18.11.2013. The CPIO subsequently agreed to provide inspection of note sheets of part two of the file in question by his letter dated 25.11.2013 and fixed 10:15 am on 09.12.2013. The Complainant vide his letter dated 29.11.2013 requested for change of time from 10:15 am to 2:30 pm – 4:30 pm on the ground that he is having one inspection in north Block at 2:30 pm and hearing of appeal at 3:00 pm. The complainant stated that the CPIO neither passed any order on the said request nor rejected the same. Accordingly the complainant appeared before the CPIO at 3:30pm on 09.12.2013 though the CPIO was available on seat but declined to provide record for inspection. Thereafter, the complainant by his letter dated 04.01.2014 and 06.01.2014 requested for supply of the copies of the balance record and was compelled to give up his right of inspection because of the non cooperative and obstructive attitude of the CPIO the copies of information was finally provided under letter dated 24.01.2014 of the CPIO. The Complainant specifically refuted the claim of the CPIO that he failed to appear for inspection 18.10.2013, 28.10.2013, 22.11.2013 and 09.12.2013. The inspection for 18.10.2013 and 28.10.2013 were set aside by the FAA. In the circumstance the complainant prays initiation of penalty proceeding. And also prays for token compensation of Rs. 1500/on the ground stated in complaint and written submission.
6. The Respondent also filed a written submission. Shri Pankaj Jain, CPIO, stated that the applicant had sought inspection of five files out which only one pertained to the charge of CPIO. The applicant had not sought photocopies but asked only inspection of the file. The CPIO made effort to get file located which was more than ten year old. Hence, the CPIO complied with the provision of the RTI Act. After passing this order on 08.10.2013 any time taken by the applicant is beyond the control of CPIO as it is the applicant who has to visit the office of the CPIO. The duty of the CPIO in this regard is to fix date and time and inform the applicant in advance in case due to any reason the applicant is not able to attain the office of CPIO on the date and time fixed by CPIO then he can make a request. It may kindly be observed that in this particular case the extension was never denied by the CPIO and it also a matter of record on five and six occasion the date and time fixed by CPIO and due intimation was given well in advance the applicant on one pretext or another did not appeared for the inspection. On some occasion the complaint was in correspondence with CPIO and at the same time he had filed appeal with FAA and also complaint with CIC. For instance the applicant was given time for inspection on 28.10.2013 on the sole request of the applicant. However without knowledge a first appeal had also been filed by the applicant on 15.10.2013 and FAA had passed an order on 30.10.2013. Even before the CPIO could act on the order of FAA the applicant on the next day of the order of FAA made a complaint to the CIC. On merits the CPIO did not dispute the right of the applicant to get the information. The only point of contention is the duration and convenience of the applicant to inspect the documents. Regarding the point of pagination raised by the applicant it is submitted that the said file is ten year old. On part 2 of the file no pagination was done at the material time. The CPIO considered inappropriate to put page marking because it may lead to complication in the official records. As far as the main file is concerned the same is soft bound and the pages are not in sequential order. It was not proper for the CPIO to repagination the records as the same would lead mismatch in process referencing.
7. The Commission heard the submission of the both parties and peruses the record. The CPIO had responded on 08.10.2013 to the RTI application filed on 26.08.2013 and had allowed inspection of the file. It is evident from the submission of both parties that due to communication gap there was a delay in the inspection of the file by the complainant. The CPIO did make efforts to comply with the order of the FAA to provide information to the complainant. The complainant has admitted that he has been provided the requisite information though there has been a delay. The Public Information officers are entrusted with the responsibility of providing information to the citizen under the RTI Act. It is expected that the CPIO on receipt of a request shall as expeditiously as possible provide the information. In this case, had the CPIO rendered all reasonable assistance to the complainant the delay in providing information could have been provided. In view of the above, no further action is required in the matter.
8. The complaint is disposed of accordingly. Copy of decision be given free of cost to the parties.
Citation: Shri R.K. Jain v. Under Secretary, (CXI), Department of Revenue in Appeal No.CIC/DS/C/2013/00625/SB