Selection of Bharat Ratna awardees - PIO responded only after the directions of CIC & demanded photocopying charges for providing information - CIC: if the response is beyond 30 days of receipt of RTI petition, information should be provided free of cost
1. Shri Subhash Chandra Agrawal, hereinafter called the appellant has filed the present appeal dated 27.9.2012 before the Commission against the respondent Ministry of Home Affairs, New Delhi seeking photocopying charges consisting of Rs. 104/-, in response to his RTI application dated 17.12.2011, which are waived u/s 7(6) of the RTI if the response is beyond 30 days of receipt of RTI petition. The appellant was present whereas the respondent were represented by Ms. Shyamla Mohan, Director (A&V), Shri Pradeep Kumar Pandey, Under Secretary, Shri G.S. Awana, PIO/PHQ, Shri P.M. Kaushik, ACP and Smt. S. Sudha, CPIO (DP), MHA.
2. The appellant through his RTI application dated 17.12.2011 sought information on the following eleven queries based on news-clipping ‘Sachin, Dhyanchand can now be given Bharat Ratna (TOI: 16.12.2011)
(1) Is it true that Union Home Ministry and/or some other public authority had made recommendations to PMO for making selection of Bharat Ratna awardees broadbased to include also deserving sports-persons and other for nation’s highest civilian honour;
(2) If yes, copy of recommendation of MHA and/or others to PMO together with complete related correspondence/file-notings/documents etc. on making such recommendation as referred in query (1) above. Please also enclose copies of representations received at MHA in this regard;
(3) Was there any protest/objection lodged on honouring Shri MG Ramachandran with Bharat Ratna; (4) If yes, provide copies of objections/protests etc. received on honouring Shri MG Ramachandran with Bharat Ratna;
(5) Is it true that Dr. Rabi Narain Bastia was honoured with Padma Shree award in the year 2007;
(6) Complete bio-data of Dr. Rabi Narain Bastia mentioning also name of person/authority/body etc. recommending his name for Padma Shree Award;
(7) Is it true that Dr. Rabi Narain Basstia is related with Reliance Group;
(8) Is it true that name of Dr. Rabi Narain Bastia was recommended by Shri VK Sibal, former Director General Hydrocarbon;
(9) Is it true that Shri V.K. Sibal is presently under CBI scanner for showing undue favours to Reliance Group;
(10) Any other related information; and
(11) File-notings on movement of this RTI petition as well.
3. Aggrieved with non-receipt of any response from the CPIO, the appellant filed complaint before the Commission on 28.5.2012. The Commission vide its order No. CIC/SS/C/2012/000427 dated 2.8.2012 directed the CPIO to provide requisite information to the appellant within two weeks. In compliance with the directions of the Commission the CPIO vide letter No. 24/19/2012-Public dated 23.8.2012 replied to the appellant as follows:
(1) Yes, on requests from various quarters MHA had sent the proposal to amend the eligibility criteria for Bharat Ratna Award to PMO;
(2) Requisite file noting and correspondence comprise of 50 pages. The CPIO requested the appellant to submit a fee of Rs. 100/- towards photocopying charges of 50 pages;
(3 & 4) In terms of extant practice, the Prime Minister makes the recommendations for Bharat Ratna Award to the President and the names of the Bharat Ratna award are announced by the President’s Secretariat after obtaining the approval of President. The Prime Minister is free to consult or obtain advice from any one he chooses. Accordingly all references for Bharat Ratna awards are forwarded to PMO for their consideration. Details of complaint against Shri M.G. Ramachandran, if any, may be available with PMO. A copy of the application is being transferred to PMO for providing information; (5) Yes;
(6) Bio-data/Achievement of Shri Basstia comprise 1 page. The CPIO requested the appellant to submit Rs. 2 towards photocopying charges of one page of information; As per the record retention schedule approved by Public Section recommendation in respect of Padma Awards are kept in record for one year only;
(7 & 8) In view of point 6 above, does not arise;
(9) No information is available with the CPIO;
(10) Nil; and
(11) Relevant file noting comprises of 1 page. The appellant was requested to remit Rs. 2/- towards photocopying charges.
4. Aggrieved with the response of the CPIO, the appellant file first appeal before the FAA on 28.8.2012. The FAA vide his order No. 24/19/2012-Public dated 3.10.2012 held that the demand of fees for the supply of the information is genuine as the original application was not received by the CPIO. It was routed through CIC vide order No,. CIC/SS/C/2012/000427 dated 2.8.2012 with the instruction “if the information is already provided to the appellant then furnish copy to the appellant within one week and if not replied then provide information to the appellant within two weeks” and it was provided by the CPIO within the instructed timeline. Hence the stand of the CPIO was correct. For query No. 9 of the application, a copy of the application was being forwarded to the CPIO, CBI for necessary action.
5. The appellant during the hearing states that the CPIO has only responded to the RTI application vide letter dated 23.8.2012 only on receipt of Commission’s direction, therefore he requests that the documents should be provided free of cost to him.
6. The Commission observes that the CPIO has responded to the appellant only on receipt of aforementioned directions from the Commission. The appellant has produced photocopy of Speed Post dated 17.12.2011 through which he forwarded the RTI application dated 17.12.2011 to the CPIO, MHA, the presumption therefore is that the RTI application must have reached them. The Commission hereby directs the CPIO to provide photocopies of requested documents to the appellant free of cost within seven days of receipt of this order.
Citation: Shri Subhash Chandra Agrawal v. Ministry of Home Affairs in Case No. CIC/SS/A/2012/003566