CIC: Delay appears to be inadvertent as it is not a case of non- response but the PIO exercised his judgment and it would not be appropriate to take penal action for an error in understanding the provisions of the RTI Act; Penalty proceedings dropped
1. The issues under consideration arising out of the second appeal dated 13.06.2016 include non-receipt of the information sought by the appellant through the RTI application dated 14.03.2016 and first appeal dated 20.04.2016:-
2. Succinctly facts of the case are that the appellant filed an application dated 14.03.2016 under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) before the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), Indian Overseas Bank, Tamil Nadu, seeking information on ten points regarding his education loan, Agri Gold loan and related information. The CPIO vide letter dated 22.04.2016 replied to the appellant. Aggrieved with the same, the appellant filed first appeal dated 20.04.2016. The First Appellate Authority (FAA) did not pass any order. Aggrieved by that, the appellant filed a second appeal dated 13.06.2016 before the Commission which is under consideration.
3. The appellant has filed the instant appeal dated 13.06.2016inter alia on the grounds that reply given by the CPIO was not satisfactory. The appellant requested the Commission to direct the CPIO to provide the complete information and take necessary action as per Section 20 (1) of the RTI Act.
4. The CPIO replied vide letter dated 22.04.2016 gave point-wise reply to the RTI application. The FAA did not pass any order.
Hearing on 11.12.2017
5. The appellant Shri T. Murugesan and the respondent Ms. Shashikala, Sr. Manager, Indian Overseas Bank, Regional Office, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu attended the hearing through video conference.
Interim order dated 11.12.2017
5.1 The Commission has passed the following observations and directions on 11.12.2017:
“6. The Commission, after hearing the submissions of both the parties and perusing the records, observes that the information sought pertains to the reason as to why Indian Overseas Bank sanctioned educational loan only for the first semester and rejected the loan for the rest of the five semesters. The Commission further observes on point nos. 2 and 4 of the RTI application, the appellant had sought information pertaining to GOs and circulars regarding educational loan and Agri Gold Loan. However, complete and correct information has not been provided to the appellant. In view of this, the Commission directs the respondent to provide circulars relating to grant of educational loan and Agri Gold Loan as sought by the appellant vide point nos. 1, 2, 4 and 5 of the RTI application to him within a period of four weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order.
7. The Commission further notes with regard to point nos. 6 and 7 of the RTI application, that CCTV footage has not been preserved by the respondent though the RTI application had been filed within a week of the incident mentioned in the RTI application. The Commission, therefore, directs the Registry of this Bench to issue a Show Cause Notice to the CPIO, Indian Overseas Bank, Regional Office, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu for explaining as to why action under Section 20(1) Where the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be, at the time of deciding any complaint or appeal is of the opinion that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, has, without any reasonable cause, refused to receive an application for information or has not furnished information within the time specified under sub-section (1) of section 7 or malafidely denied the request for information or knowingly given incorrect, incomplete or misleading information or destroyed information which was the subject of the request or obstructed in any manner in furnishing the information, it shall impose a penalty of two hundred and fifty rupees each day till application is received or information is furnished, so however, the total amount of such penalty shall not exceed twenty-five thousand rupees: Provided that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall be given a reasonable opportunity of being heard before any penalty is imposed on him: Provided further that the burden of proving that he acted reasonably and diligently shall be on the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be. of the RTI Act should not be initiated against him.”
Hearing on 10.03.2022
5. The appellant remained absent and on behalf of the respondent Ms. K Sangeeta, Chief Regional Manager and Shri D Sandeep, Chief Manager, Indian Overseas Bank, Thanjavur, attended the hearing through video conference.
5.1. The respondent while defending their case inter alia submitted that as per the directions of the Commission, they had provided revised point-wise information on point nos. 1, 2, 4 and 5 of the RTI application to the appellant vide letter dated 18.01.2018. They further submitted that only the CCTV footage sought by the appellant could not be provided as it could not be retrieved. They also informed that CCTV footage was to be provided only to the police or the investing agencies therefore the then CPIO had denied the CCTV footage to the appellant. They stated that they had complied with the order of the Commission without any delay. They contended that point-wise reply was given to the appellant from time to time without any mala fide therefore they requested the Commission to take a lenient view and drop the penalty proceedings.
6. The Commission after adverting to the facts and circumstances of the case, hearing the respondent and perusal of records, observed that the respondent have complied with the directions of the Commission passed on 11.12.2017. The respondent have submitted detailed explanations and in compliance of the Commission’s order dated 11.12.2017, they have provided the revised point-wise information on point nos. 1, 2, 4 & 5 of the RTI application. Against point nos. 6 and 7 of the RTI application, the appellant sought CCTV footage of the particular transactions which could not be retrieved hence the same could not be given. The delay caused in the matter appears to be inadvertent as it is not a case of non- response but the CPIO exercised his judgment and it would not be appropriate to take penal action against him for an error in understanding the provisions of the RTI Act. The explanations submitted by the respondent were reasonable. In absence of any mala fide, there appears to be no appropriate reason for taking penal action against the CPIO. Therefore, the show cause notice issued to the CPIO, Indian Overseas Bank, Regional Office, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, is hereby dropped.
Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed.
Copy of the decision be provided free of cost to the parties.
Citation: T Murukesan v. Indian Overseas Bank in Second Appeal No.CIC/SH/A/2016/001564, Date of Decision: 31.03.2022