Is presenting a garland made of currency notes to a public functionary legal?
The appellant referred to a news item published in the leading newspaper depicting a former Chief Minister being presented with a garland made of Rs.1000 currency notes. Through his RTI application filed with the Ministry of Finance, he wanted to know several details arising out of this such as whether presenting a garland made of currency notes to a public functionary is legal or not, the possible action which the Government and its agencies might have taken if the act of presenting a garland made of currency notes was found to be irregular/ illegal etc. The Ministry of Finance returned the envelope containing the RTI application on the ground that they did not have any Public Information Officer (PIO). The appellant then approached the Central Information Commission (CIC), who directed the Ministry to respond to the appellant with the appropriate information. The PIO representing the Department of Economic Affairs commented on some of the appellant’s queries and observed that rest of the queries was related to the Department of Revenue and the Ministry of Home Affairs. The PIO advised the appellant to approach the respective PIO in the two public authorities to obtain the desired information. The First Appellate Authority (FAA) held that within the meaning of section 6(3) of the Right to Information Act, the PIO was not obliged to transfer the RTI application to other public authorities.
View of the CIC
The Central Information Commission (CIC)observed that many of the queries raised by the appellant do not necessarily lead to any identifiable information on record. However, since this news had drawn a lot of public attention at the relevant time and had implications about the conduct of important public authorities, a more categorical reply should have been given to the appellant. The Commission directed the Finance Secretary to appoint a PIO for the Ministry or nominate one of the existing PIOs to act as the PIO for the Finance Ministry also. The Commission further directed the PIO to forward to the appellant a copy of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) press note/ guideline on the subject to which he himself had referred in his reply. The Commission also stated that it was not very clear as to which public authority in the Government of India would be concerned with the remaining queries, and that the PIO of Economic Affairs cannot be blamed for having suggested the names of the Department of Revenue and the Ministry of Home Affairs which also are not concerned in the instant matter.
Garlanding a public dignitary by a garland made of currency notes is not uncommon. Would the possible action which can be taken be in public domain to prevent such demonstration of money which also leads to damage to the currency?
Citation: Mr. Subhash Chandra Agarwal v. Department of Economic Affairs in File No.CIC/SM/A/2011/001380
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2012/CIC/874
Click here to view original RTI order of Court / Information Commission