PIO responded to one of the applications online to which the appellant objected - CIC: It was not obligatory for the PIO to send a hard copy of the reply, entered on the RTI web portal - CIC: compensation can be awarded only while deciding an appeal
Appellant filed complaints to the Commission praying for disclosure of information & award of compensation - CIC: while considering a complaint made, the Commission cannot direct the concerned PIO to provide the information, such a power can only be exercised when a Second appeal is preferred; compensation can be awarded by the Commission only while deciding an appeal filed before it
The RTI applications were not responded to by the PIO within the timeframe stipulated so maximum penalty of Rs. 25,000/ imposed;
The PIO responded to one of the applications online to which the appellant objected - CIC: The details of RTI applications received through post should also be entered into the RTI MIS system, which also provide for online reply of RTI applications, though reply could be sent by regular post also - It was not obligatory for the PIO to send a hard copy of the reply, entered on the RTI web portal
1. These files contain complaints in respect of the RTI applications dated 5.12.2013, 13.1.2014 and 12.4.2013 filed by the Complainant, seeking information on various points. He has filed complaints in all the three cases to the Commission, stating that the information sought by him has not been provided and praying for imposition of penalty on the CPIO under Section 20 of the RTI Act and award of compensation to him (Complainant).
Hearing on 14.1.2015
2. The Complainant prayed, inter alia, that direction be given to the Respondents to provide the information sought by him. In the above context, we note the following observation of the High Court of Delhi in J. K. Mittal Vs. Central Information Commission & Anr. [W.P.(C) No. 6755/2012]:
“... there can be no dispute that while considering a complaint made under Section 18 of the Act, the Commission cannot direct the concerned CPIO to provide the information which the complainant had sought from him. Such a power can only be exercised when a Second Appeal in terms of Subsection (3) of Section 19 is preferred before the Commissioner.”
3. With regard to the RTI application dated 5.12.2013 (File No. CIC/SH/C/2014/900143), seeking information on seven points, the Respondents submitted that a reply to it was uploaded on their website on 25.4.2014. The Complainant, however, submitted that while the website of the Respondents shows disposal of the RTI application on 25.4.2014, the information has not been received by him.
4. In regard to the RTI application dated 13.1.2014 (File No. CIC/SH/C/2014/900144), seeking information on twenty two points, the Respondents submitted that their reply was uploaded on their website on 7.3.2014. The Complainant, however, stated that information has not been received by him.
5. Regarding the RTI application dated 12.4.2013 (File No. CIC/SH/C/2014/900155), seeking information on five points, the Respondents submitted that this application was not received by them. They came to know of it upon receiving the Commission’s notice for today’s hearing and a response is being sent to the Complainant. In response to our query, the Complainant stated that he was not in a position to produce the postal records regarding dispatch of the above RTI application by him / its receipt by the Respondents.
6. Having taken into account the records and the submissions made by both the parties before us, we note that the RTI applications dated 5.12.2013 and 13.1.2014 were not responded to by the CPIO within the timeframe stipulated in the RTI Act. Therefore, we direct Ms. Mary B. Barla, Director and CPIO to appear before us on 30th March, 2015 at 10.00 a.m. at Room No.305, 2nd Floor, B Wing, August Kranti Bhawan, New Delhi110066 to show cause why she should not be penalised in terms of the provisions of sub Section 1 of Section 20 of the RTI Act for her failure to respond to the above mentioned RTI applications within the timeframe stipulated in the said Act. Her written submissions, if any, should reach the Commission by 23rd March 2015. Ms. Mary B. Barla is further directed to bring along with her any other officer(s), who were required to act on the above RTI applications, but failed to do so. She should also bring along the files on which these applications were dealt with.
Hearing on 15.4.2015
7. The matter came up again today. In our interim order dated 14.1.2015, we had decided to pursue the cases relating to the RTI applications dated 5.12.2013 and 13.1.2014 (Files No. CIC/SH/C/2014/900143 and CIC/SH/C/2014/900144) only.
8. With regard to the RTI application dated 5.12.2013 (File No. CIC/SH/C/2014/900143), the Appellant wrote to the Commission on 20.1.2015, stating that he has been provided only the blank copies of the questionnaires sought by him, rather than the filled up copies. In the above context, it is seen that even though the RTI application did not explicitly ask for filled up copies of questionnaires, the applicant’s intent to that effect was clear by implication because there was no reason for him to seek merely the blank copies of the questionnaires. However, as already stated in our interim order dated 14.1.2015, since this matter concerns a complaint filed under Section 18 of the RTI Act, we would not go into the aspect of provision of information at this stage.
9. With regard to the delay in responding to the RTI application dated 5.12.2013, the Respondents have submitted a note dated 23.3.2015 recorded by Shri Santanu Mitra, Director in response to the note dated 12.3.2015 from Ms. Mary B. Barla, Director and Nodal CPIO. Based on these notes and the submissions made before us by Ms. Mary B. Barla and Shri Santanu Mitra, the following position emerges regarding the action taken on the RTI application dated 5.12.2013:The application was received online by the Nodal CPIO on 6.12.2013. According to Ms. Mary B. Barla, it was forwarded online, through the RTI portal, on 9.12.2013 to Shri Santanu Mitra, who was Director (GA/OM & C). According to Shri Mitra, he was not a designated CPIO on 9.12.2013 and had no access to the online RTI portal. He was designated CPIO only on 8.1.2014 vide order No. D29013/ 3/2012RT dated 8.1.2014 and even at that stage, he was given no information regarding the online portal or the manner of accessing it. Therefore, he had no knowledge regarding receipt of the RTI application dated 5.12.2013, until a hard copy was sent to him by the Nodal CPIO on 2.4.2014. Since only point 1 of the RTI application regarding appendix 56, concerning the questionnaire on O&M, pertained to his department, he sent information concerning the same to the RTI Cell under the Nodal CPIO on 23.4.2014. Ms. Mary B. Barla, Nodal CPIO stated that the above information regarding point No. 1 was uploaded on the RTI portal on 25.4.2014. She further submitted that the complete information, on the remaining points of the RTI application, was sent to the Complainant only on 14.1.2015. Ms. Mary B. Barla, Nodal CPIO had no explanation regarding why the application was not followed up with Shri Mitra after it was sent to him through the RTI portal on 9.12.2013. She did not make any submission to contradict the claim of Shri Mitra that he did not have access to the online RTI portal. She stated that the matter was followed up on phone with the Section of Shri Mitra, but provided no proof concerning such follow up. She also stated that since no reply was received from Shri Mitra, a hard copy of the application was sent to him on 2.4.2014. It is seen that Shri Mitra responded well within the stipulated time on 23.4.2014 and provided information regarding point No. 1, which pertained to his charge. While, according to the claim of Ms. Mary B. Barla, this partial information was uploaded on the RTI portal on 25.4.2014, she had no explanation on why the complete information was not provided till as late as 14.1.2015. Clearly Ms. Mary B. Barla, Nodal CPIO is responsible for the delay in responding to the RTI application in this case and has failed to provide explanation for the delay. Taking into account the fact that the delay in providing information was well beyond 100 days and by virtue of the powers vested in us under Section 20 (1) of the RTI Act, we impose maximum penalty of Rs. 25,000/ on Ms. Mary B. Barla, Nodal CPIO. We direct the Respondents to deduct the above amount from the monthly salary of Ms. Mary B. Barla, Nodal CPIO in five equal instalments of Rs. 5000/ each, beginning with the salary for the month of May, 2015. The amounts so deducted be remitted to the Deputy Registrar, Central Information Commission, Room No. 305, August Kranti Bhawan, Bhikaji Cama place, New Delhi110066 by way of demand draft drawn in favour of the Pay & Accounts Officer, Central Administrative Tribunal, New Delhi.
10. Regarding the RTI application dated 13.1.2014 (File No. CIC/SH/C/2014/900144), Ms. Mary B. Barla, Nodal CPIO stated that since the RTI application was received online, a response was given on 7.3.2014 on the RTI portal and it was elaborated upon on 18.3.2015. In the above context, we note that in OM No. 1/1/2013IR dated 22.4.2013, regarding launch of RTI web portal for online filing of RTI applications, the Department of Personnel & Training stated, inter alia, the following:“This system would work as RTI MIS also. The details of RTI applications received through post should also be entered into this system. The system would also provide for online reply of RTI applications, though reply could be sent by regular post also”
From the above, it is seen that it was not obligatory for the CPIO to send a hard copy of the reply, entered on the RTI web portal, to the Complainant.
11. In view of the foregoing, we do not consider it necessary to enquire further into the complaint on File No. CIC/SH/C/2014/900144.
12. With regard to the Complainant’s request for compensation, we note the following observation made by the High Court of Delhi in Union of India vs. P. K. Srivastava [LPA 195/2011]:“
It is quite evident from a perusal of the above referred provisions contained in Section 19 of the Act that compensation to the complainant for any loss or other detriment suffered by him can be awarded by the Commission only while deciding an appeal filed before it. Similar power can also be exercised by the State Information Commission, while passing an order in appeal preferred before it. The aforesaid Section does not provide for grant of compensation merely on the basis of a complaint made to the Commission, without an appeal having been preferred to it.”
Since the matter before us is a complaint under Section 18 of the RTI Act, we will not go into the aspect of compensation.
13. With the directions contained in paragraph 9 and the above observations, the three complaints are disposed of.
14. Copies of this order be given free of cost to the parties. The Registry is directed to forward a copy of this order by name, besides the usual recipients, to the Pay & Accounts Officer of NITI AAYOG.
Citation: Shri Maniram Sharma v. Niti Aayog in File No. CIC/SH/C/2014/900143, File No. CIC/SH/C/2014/900144 File No. CIC/SH/C/2014/900155