Proof of having facilitated an inspection in terms of an inspection report or minutes of the inspection - CIC: The record holder APIO is deemed as the PIO for further proceedings in the matter; APIO to file an appropriate affidavit before CIC
Grounds for the Complaint:
Complainant alleges non-compliance of Commission’s order in CIC/RM/A/2014/903874/SD dated 06.09.2016 stating that he was not provided inspection of records.
Relevant Facts emerging during Hearing:
The following were present:-
Complainant: Not present.
(1) : Capt. J.K. Choudhary, Command Recruiting Officer & Rep. of CPIO, HQ Western Naval Command, Mumbai present through VC. 2 Respondent
(2) : Lt Cdr Shivam Srivastav, Judge Advocate & APIO, INS Angre, Mumbai present through VC.
Respondent (2) submitted that inspection of relevant files relating to Indian Navy Sailors Institute, Sagar was provided to the Complainant on 21.10.2016 and that he was not able to readily recall the name of the sailor who had been detailed for facilitating the files for inspection. He further submitted that the Complainant selected the five relevant pages, copy of which was provided accordingly and a compliance report was sent on the same date to the Commission. He furthermore submitted that since this was one of the first cases of providing inspection, minutes of the inspection were not prepared and no report of the inspection exists.
It was also brought on record that the Complainant is a habitual RTI Applicant and further agreed to send a rejoinder for perusal of the Commission.
Commission notes that prior to the hearing, CPIO, WNC sent in his written submissions on the subject. It has been stated therein that for compliance of the Commission’s order, APIO INS Angre was requested to provide the information as well as to fix up the inspection. That compliance report was sent to the Commission vide letter(s) dated 21.10.2016 of INS Angre as well as letter dated 03.11.2016 of CPIO, WNC.
Complainant has strongly asserted in his Complaint that when he visited the office for inspection, the PIO instead of meeting him sent his subordinates with 5 pages of photocopies and that when he inquired from the PIO about the inspection he was told that there were no such records for inspection.
Upon Commission’s instance APIO clarified that Complainant was only informed that no further records are available and that whatever was available was shown to him. Commission further observes from the proceedings of the hearing that the Respondents were not appropriately prepared with their submissions and could not mention basic details of the inspection that is said to have been conducted by INS Angre. Further, since the Complainant did not avail the opportunity of pleading his case or contesting the Respondent(s) submissions, it was ascertained by the registry attached to this bench whether or not the notice of hearing was received by the Complainant. It has been found from the tracking details of despatch that the Complainant did not receive it as the remarks state “Item Delivery Attempted Unclaimed”. However, Commission is taking cognizance of the written averments made in his complaint. Respondents were accordingly directed to send their detailed written submission incorporating details of the inspection provided in terms of who facilitated the inspection, available data on the number of files/documents that were offered for inspection and any other relevant supporting documents.
Commission received these submission via email subsequent to the hearing wherein it has been mentioned that on 21.10.2016 between 1100-1230 hrs Complainant had visited INS Angre for the inspection and that two civilians of the unit namely Bharat Singh Panwar and Vilas More were present, who had facilitated the inspection of documents and that consequent to the inspection, Complainant was provided requisite documents pertaining to the instant matter as requested by him. It is again insisted that Complainant’s contention that no inspection was carried out is false, baseless and devoid of any merit.
In view of the serious averments of the Complainant and submission of the APIO which is not backed by any documentary proof i.e proof of having facilitated an inspection in terms of an inspection report or minutes of the inspection or undertaking of the Complainant, Commission is not in a position to ascertain the merits of allegation of either of the parties.
However, Commission is baffled by the statement of the APIO that since this was one of the first inspections that was being provided at their end; no record of it was prepared. This is particularly unnerving in as much as Section 2(j)(i) of the RTI Act explicitly provides for inspection of documents and even though there is no such procedure laid down as to how the inspection should be conducted under RTI Act except the rules which exist for governing payment of fees for inspection, but being a government functionary, the sanctity of stipulations for movement of file(s) and document(s) need not be explained by the Commission as record-keeping is intrinsic to the functioning of each public authority. It was incumbent on the APIO to follow basic office procedures while facilitating the inspection of records held under him to the Complainant 4 to avoid the present circumstances. It is in this context, Commission is inclined to allow the averments of the Complainant to sustain.
In the facts of the matter, Commission finds it appropriate to deem the record holder APIO as the PIO for further proceedings in the matter. Commission directs the APIO (deemed PIO) to file an appropriate affidavit to the effect that inspection of records pertaining to the information sought in the RTI application was provided to the Appellant on 21.10.2016 between 1100-1230 hrs and was facilitated by the two civilian employees named in the rejoinder sent to the Commission. It should also include an undertaking as per APIO’s clarification during hearing that the Appellant was only told that no further records were available on the subject with them except for what has been inspected by him. The denial of Complainant’s allegation (i.e he was handed over 5 pages of documents without providing inspection and being told that there are no records for inspection) shall be also stated in the affidavit by the APIO.
The affidavit should be sent to the Commission by the APIO (deemed PIO) within 15 days from the date of receipt of this order with a copy duly endorsed to the Complainant. CPIO, WNC should ensure service of this decision to the concerned APIO, INS Angre for timely compliance.
The Complaint is disposed off accordingly.
(Divya Prakash Sinha)
Citation: Dinesh Kumar Kaushik v. Western Naval Command in File No. CIC/INAVY/C/2017/184264/SD, Date of Decision: 15/09/2017