PIO explained that the dealing assistant failed to put up the RTI file & the FAA’s order for which disciplinary action has been initiated; requested to be pardoned for delay - CIC: Explanation is untenable; maximum penalty of Rs. 25000/- imposed on PIO
The appellant has sought the following information:-
1. The date of receipt of Directorate letter no. 4-4/2008-PCC dated 01/02/2012 along with OM No. 49011/31/2008-Estt dated 23/01/2012 circulated under CO Patna letter no. Estt./Rlg/CL/2004 dated 09/02/2012. A photocopy of the letter is enclosed for ready reference.
2. The list with name of TS casual labourers allowed payment of grade pay at enhanced rate of Rs. 1800/- with effect from 01/01/2006 and number of TS casual labourers awaiting payment of arrear till now as a result of implementation of Directorate letter referred to above.
3. The reasoning for non implementing the order in case of some TS casual labourers who have not been allowed benefit to such enhanced grade pay. Who will shoulder the responsibility for non implementation of Directorate letter?
4. Details of non matriculate TS Casual Labourers not imparted prescribed training till date and debarred from enhanced grade pay.
Grounds for the Second Appeal: The CPIO has not provided the desired information.
Relevant Facts emerging during Hearing held on 04/06/2015: The following were present
Appellant: Mr. Manoj Kumar through VC
Respondent: Mr. V D Singh CPIO’s representative Muzaffarpur & Mr. Rajesh Kumar CPIO’s representative Siwan through VC The appellant stated that inspite of the FAA’s order dated 07/02/2014 and AD(I)’s direction dated 10/03/2014 the respondent did not supply any information and it was only when the notice for this hearing was received that the reply was given vide letter dated 27/05/2015. He further stated that he is not satisfied with the reply and would like to inspect the relevant records to verify whether the complete and correct information has been supplied. He insisted that penal proceeding should be initiated against the CPIO for non-compliance of FAA and AD(I)’s order.
Interim Decision notice dated 04/06/2015:
The CPIO is directed to permit the appellant to inspect the relevant records relating to his RTI application dated 27/11/2013 and also allow him to take photocopies/extracts therefrom, free of cost, upto 20 pages within 15 days from the date of receipt of this order. By not furnishing the information timely the concerned CPIO Shri S N Prasad, has rendered himself liable for imposition of penalty in terms of the provisions of 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. However, before imposing any such penalty, we would like to give an opportunity to Shri Prasad to explain whether he had any reasonable cause for not providing the information to the appellant. Accordingly, we direct Shri S N Prasad to submit his written explanation as aforesaid to the CPMG Patna on or before 25/06/2015. The CPMG Patna should forward the explanation of Shri S N Prasad along with his comments to the Commission on or before 03/07/2015 by post and also by e-mail at email@example.com . We further direct Shri S N Prasad CPIO Siwan to appear before the Commission through videoconferencing on 14/07/2015 at 03.00 PM along with his written explanation as aforesaid. Shri Prasad should carefully note that in case he fails to appear/provide any satisfactory reply the Commission will proceed to impose penalty on him.
Relevant Facts emerging during Hearing on 14/07/2015: The following were present
Appellant: Mr. Manoj Kumar through VC
The CPIO Mr. S.N. Prasad vide his written explanation dated 23/06/2015 has stated that the RTI application was received on 02/12/2013 and was acted upon by addressing letter dated 04/12/2013 to the Postmaster Siwan and Gopalganj for supplying the information. He has informed that the Postmaster Siwan replied on 16/12/2013 but no reply was received from the Postmaster Gopalganj and the dealing assistant failed to put up the file before him. He has further stated that the FAA’s order dated 07/02/2014 and AD(I)’s direction dated 10/03/2014 was also not brought to his notice by the dealing assistant and the file was kept pending for which disciplinary action has been initiated against him as well as against the Postmaster Gopalganj for his failure to supply the information. He has submitted that immediately on receipt of notice from the Commission the RTI queries were replied vide letter dated 27/05/2015 and the appellant has also been permitted to inspect the relevant records. The CPIO has pleaded that since disciplinary action has been initiated against the delinquent staff he may be pardoned for the delay. The appellant disputed the CPIO’s claim stating that he has not been allowed to inspect the records till date. He also alleged that there are serious irregularities at Siwan due to which the respondents are trying to suppress the information and are not showing him the records. The CPIO, despite being put on notice, is not present for contesting the appellant’s submissions.
The CPIO’s explanation that the dealing assistant failed to put up the file and also the FAA’s order dated 07/02/2014 and the AD(I)’s direction dated 10/03/2014 is totally untenable. The CPIO cannot escape his responsibility to provide information by simply stating that the dealing assistant failed to put up the file before him. Further, communication/directions received from superior authorities are required to be complied by the person to whom they are addressed and no processing is necessary by any subordinate staff. The Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in a similar matter decided on 12/09/2014[WP(C) No. 6088/2014- Ministry of Railways vs. Girish Mittal] while confirming the penalty imposed by the CIC, has held as under:
“15………………………………In the present case, undisputedly, certain information which was not provided to the respondent would be available with the Railway Board and the CPIO was required to furnish the same. He cannot escape his responsibility to provide the information by simply stating that the queries were forwarded to other officials. Undeniably, the directions of CIC were not complied with.”
In the matter at hand the CPIO cannot brush aside his responsibility of providing information by simply stating that the Postmaster Gopalganj did not reply and the dealing assistant failed to put up the file before him. Shri S N Prasad the CPIO has also totally ignored the directions of the FAA and the AD(I). The RTI application was received on 02/12/2013 and the reply was provided after delay of almost 1½ years vide letter dated 27/05/2015. The CPIO by not providing the information timely and also not complying with the FAA’s order dated 07/02/2014 and AD(I)’s directions dated 10/03/2014 has failed to discharge his obligations under the RTI Act. The Commission finds this a fit case for imposing the maximum penalty of Rs. 25000/- on the CPIO for his failure to furnish correct and timely information to the appellant.
Accordingly, the FAA/Director Postal Services, Northern Region, Muzaffarpur is directed to ensure that the amount of Rs. 25000/- is deducted from the salary of Mr. S N Prasad and remitted by demand draft in the name of the Pay & Accounts Officer, CAT, payable at New Delhi and send the same to Shri S.P. Beck Joint Secretary & Addl. Registrar, Central Information Commission, 2nd Floor, August Kranti Bhawan, New Delhi- 110066. The FAA/Director Postal Services, Northern Region, Muzaffarpur is further directed to ensure that the appellant is permitted to inspect the relevant records relating to his RTI application dated 27/11/2013 and also allowed to take photocopies/extracts therefrom, free of cost, upto 20 pages within 15 days from the date of receipt of this order. The matter is disposed of accordingly.
Citation: Mr. Manoj Kumar v. Department of Post in File No. CIC/BS/A/2014/001284/8087-Penalty