PIO forwarded the complainant’s RTI application under a bona fide belief that a reply in this regard would be provided by the Company - CIC: There was no conscious or deliberate attempt by the respondent to withhold or deny information to the complainant
O R D E R
1. A Show Cause Notice was issued to Shri Vikram Singh, the then Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), Company Law Board, Paryavaran Bhawan, Lodhi Road, New Delhi, in compliance of the Commission’s Order No. CIC/CMLWB/C/2017/116019 dated 10.05.2018 for not replying to the complainant’s RTI application dated 02.06.2016. The CPIO was directed to submit an explanation as to why action 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 should not be initiated against him.
2. The respondent Shri Vikram Singh, the then CPIO (presently posted as Dy. RoC, West Bengal), Company Law Board, Paryavaran Bhawan, Lodhi Road, New Delhi, was present in person.
3. The respondent submitted that the complainant had sought the progress made on her application (Dt. 04.03.2016) filed under Section 589(A) of the Companies Act 1956. Hence, on receipt of the complainant’s RTI application dated 02.06.2016, the same was forwarded to the company, M/s Jai Prakash Associates, Noida, directly requesting it to look into the matter and make payment to the compliant under intimation to the CPIO. A copy of the said letter dated 11.07.2016 was also sent to the complainant by speed post. Further, the company had vide letter dated 26.07.2016 informed the complainant regarding the status of repayment of the deposit made by her with the Company. Hence, information as per the available records, had been already furnished to the complainant. The respondent, however, admitted the lapse for not furnishing a direct reply under the RTI Act to the complainant. He further stated that he was under the mistaken assumption that since the complainant’s grievance was related to the Company, a reply in this regard shall be given by the Company itself. The respondent tendered his unconditional apology for this lapse and requested the Commission to condone the same. Moreover, there was no deliberate or malafide intent on his part to conceal or withhold any information from the complainant.
4. The Commission, after hearing the submissions of the respondent and perusing the records, finds the explanation of the CPIO plausible and observes that since the CPIO had forwarded the complainant’s RTI application under a bona fide belief that a reply in this regard would be provided by the Company, it cannot be said that there was any conscious or deliberate attempt on the part of the respondent to withhold or deny information to the complainant. Moreover, the information as sought by the complainant in her RTI application dated 02.06.2016 was furnished to her by the Company vide letter dated 26.07.2016. Thus, it cannot be said that information was malafidely withheld by the respondent. The Show Cause Notice issued to Shri Vikram Singh, the then CPIO, Company Law Board, Paryavaran Bhawan, Lodhi Road, New Delhi, is hereby dropped in this matter.
5. Nonetheless, the Commission notes that 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 sought for by the applicant. In this case, the CPIO did not discharge his responsibility properly. The Commission, therefore, counsels the CPIO to be more careful in future so that such lapses do not recur and that the provisions of the RTI Act are implemented in letter and spirit.
6. Copy of the decision be provided free of cost to the parties.
Citation: Nidhi Tayal v. CPIO, Company Law Board in Complaint No. CIC/CMLWB/C/2017/116019, Date 26.11.2018