There was palpable ignorance & lethargy exhibited by the public authority officials in creating greater awareness in respect of the matters like the present RTI application - CIC: Upload FAQs regarding the duties, responsibilities & the functions of NAAC
O R D E R
The Appellant vide his RTI application sought information on 05 points regarding whether there was any NAAC Accredited University in Tamil Nadu named “Manonmanian Sundarnar University”, if yes, details of accreditations of the university i.e., UGC, JAS-ANJ, IAF, ISO, AICTE, DEC, NAAC and also duration of the accreditation, whether the university had power to appoint any study centre, to certify, enrol and admit to student in Gujarat and issues related thereto. The CPIO vide its letter dated 21.06.2016 returned the DD on the ground that it was drawn in favour of CPIO, NAAC, Bangalore but it should have been in favour of “The Director, NAAC, Bangalore”.
Dissatisfied by the response of the CPIO, the Appellant approached the FAA. The order of the FAA, if any, is not available on the record of the Commission.
Facts emerging during the hearing:
The following were present:
Appellant: Mr. Murani Nilesh Mansurali through VC;
Respondent: Mr. Pramod Sharma, Advocate, NAAC in person;
The Appellant reiterated the contents of his RTI application and stated that complete and satisfactory information had not been received by him. He highlighted the issue of misuse of NAAC logo by the said university and submitted that it was arbitrarily being misused by several such bodies thereby duping a large number of students by such fraudulent means. It was pointed out that the NAAC website does not contain issues relevant to the larger public interest as that raised by him in his RTI application. Furthermore, he desired that action should be initiated against the officials of such universities for malafidely misusing the logo of NAAC. Responding to the issues raised by the Appellant, the Respondent informed the Commission that with regard to point 3 (1), a suitable reply had been furnished to the Appellant. For other points, since the matter related to the university, they could not provide any further details. On being queried if the said RTI application was forwarded under Section 6 (3) of the RTI Act 2005 to the said university, the Respondent feigned ignorance and volunteered to initiate further necessary action expeditiously. On being questioned about the FAQs being uploaded on the NAAC website in respect of the public interest matters being raised by the citizens about the duties, responsibilities and the functions of NAAC, the Respondent remained unprepared to address any of these issues.
The Commission however, observed that the Appellant had raised very pertinent issues pertaining to the larger public good and that in the area of education there was necessity of providing greater clarity on the roles and functions of such accreditation agencies and remedial measures taken to prevent its misuse. The Commission observed that a voluntary disclosure of all information that ought to be displayed in the public domain should be the rule and members of public who having to seek information should be an exception. An open government, which is the cherished objective of the RTI Act, can be realised only if all public offices comply with proactive disclosure norms. Section 4(2) It shall be a constant endeavour of every public authority to take steps in accordance with the requirements of clause (b) of sub-section (1) to provide as much information suo motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including internet, so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information. of the RTI Act mandates every public authority to provide as much information suo-motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including the Internet, so that the public need not resort to the use of RTI Act. The Commission also observes the Hon’ble Delhi High Court ruling in WP (C) 12714/2009 Delhi Development Authority v. Central Information Commission and Another (delivered on: 21.05.2010), wherein it was held as under:
“16.It also provides that the information should be easily accessible and to the extent possible should be in electronic format with the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be. The word disseminate has also been defined in the explanation to mean - making the information known or communicating the information to the public through notice boards, newspapers, public announcements, media broadcasts, the internet, etc. It is, therefore, clear from a plain reading of Section 4 of the RTI Act that the information, which a public authority is obliged to publish under the said section should be made available to the public and specifically through the internet. There is no denying that the petitioner is duty bound by virtue of the provisions of Section 4 of the RTI Act to publish the information indicated in Section 4(1)(b) Every public authority shall publish within one hundred and twenty days from the enactment of this Act,- (i) the particulars of its organisation, functions and duties; (ii) the powers and duties of its officers and employees; (iii) the procedure followed in the decision making process, including channels of supervision and accountability; (iv) the norms set by it for the discharge of its functions; (v) the rules, regulations, instructions, manuals and records, held by it or under its control or used by its employees for discharging its functions; (vi) a statement of the categories of documents that are held by it or under its control; (vii) the particulars of any arrangement that exists for consultation with, or representation by, the members of the public in relation to the formulation of its policy or implementation thereof; (viii) a statement of the boards, councils, committees and other bodies consisting of two or more persons constituted as its part or for the purpose of its advice, and as to whether meetings of those boards, councils, committees and other bodies are open to the public, or the minutes of such meetings are accessible for public; (ix) a directory of its officers and employees; (x) the monthly remuneration received by each of its officers and employees, including the system of compensation as provided in its regulations; (xi) the budget allocated to each of its agency, indicating the particulars of all plans, proposed expenditures and reports on disbursements made; (xii) the manner of execution of subsidy programmes, including the amounts allocated and the details of beneficiaries of such programmes; (xiii) particulars of recipients of concessions, permits or authorisations granted by it; (xiv) details in respect of the information, available to or held by it, reduced in an electronic form; (xv) the particulars of facilities available to citizens for obtaining information, including the working hours of a library or reading room, if maintained for public use; (xvi) the names, designations and other particulars of the Public Information Officers; (xvii) such other information as may be prescribed and thereafter update these publications every year; and 4(1)(c) Every public authority shall publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect public; on its website so that the public have minimum resort to the use of the RTI Act to obtain the information.”
Furthermore, High Court of Delhi in the decision of General Manager Finance Air India Ltd & Anr v. Virender Singh, LPA No. 205/2012, Decided On: 16.07.2012 had held as under:
“8. The RTI Act, as per its preamble was enacted to enable the citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. An informed citizenry and transparency of information have been spelled out as vital to democracy and to contain corruption and to hold Governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed. The said legislation is undoubtedly one of the most significant enactments of independent India and a landmark in governance. The spirit of the legislation is further evident from various provisions thereof which require public authorities to:
A. Publish inter alia: i) the procedure followed in the decision making process; ii) the norms for the discharge of its functions; iii) rules, regulations, instructions manuals and records used by its employees in discharging of its functions; iv) the manner and execution of subsidy programmes including the amounts allocated and the details of beneficiaries of such programmes; v) the particulars of recipients of concessions, permits or authorizations granted. [see Section 4(1) (b), (iii), (iv), (v); (xii) & (xiii)].
B. Suo moto provide to the public at regular intervals as much information as possible [see Section 4(2) It shall be a constant endeavour of every public authority to take steps in accordance with the requirements of clause (b) of sub-section (1) to provide as much information suo motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including internet, so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information. ].”
As observed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the decision of R.B.I. and Ors. V. Jayantilal N. Mistry and Ors, Transferred Case (Civil) No. 91 of 2015 (Arising out of Transfer Petition (Civil) No. 707 of 2012 decided on 16.12.2015
“The ideal of ‘Government by the people’ makes it necessary that people have access to information on matters of public concern. The free flow of information about affairs of Government paves way for debate in public policy and fosters accountability in Government. It creates a condition for ‘open governance’ which is a foundation of democracy.”
The Commission observed that several pertinent issues relating to duties, responsibilities and the functions of NAAC were raised by the Appellant which ought to be uploaded on its website in the form of FAQs for ready reference of the public at large. The Commission also observed that there is complete negligence and laxity in the public authority in dealing with the RTI applications. It is abundantly clear that such matters are being ignored and set aside without application of mind which reflects disrespect towards the RTI Act, 2005 itself. The Commission expressed its displeasure on the casual and callous approach adopted by the respondent in responding to the RTI application. It was felt that the conduct of respondent was against the spirit of the RTI Act, 2005 Page 4 of 4 which was enacted to ensure greater transparency and effective access to the information.
Keeping in view the facts of the case and the submissions made by both the parties, the Commission noted that there was palpable ignorance and lethargy exhibited by the public authority officials in creating greater awareness and sensitization of the larger public in respect of the matters of relevance like the present RTI application so that necessary remedial action could be initiated forthwith by the concerned authorities.
The Commission therefore advises the Director, NAAC to initiate action to upload FAQs regarding the duties, responsibilities and the functions of NAAC with a focus on the queries raised in the RTI application and similar such issues.
The Commission also directs the Respondent (CPIO) to transfer the RTI application on points 2, 3, 4 and 5 to the concerned University u/s 6 (3) of the RTI Act, 2005 within a period of 05 days from the date of receipt of this order.
Moreover, the Commission also instructs the Respondent Public Authority to convene periodic conferences/seminars to sensitize, familiarize and educate the concerned officials about the relevant provisions of the RTI Act, 2005 for effective discharge of its duties and responsibilities.
The Appeal stands disposed with the above direction.
Citation: Mr. Murani Nilesh Mansurali v. National Assessment and Accreditation Council in Appeal No.:-CIC/MOHRD/A/2017/194549-BJ, Date of Decision : 16.02.2018