CIC observed that despite imposition of penalty on the CPIO, she appeared clueless in respect of the nuances of the RTI Act and again appeared without proper explanation for non compliance of the order; A copy of the order was marked to Secretary UGC22 May, 2019
2. The appellant filed RTI application seeking information on plan posts; nonplan posts; policy of UGC for the positions sanctioned under the scheme for the establishment centre for the study of social exclusion and inclusive policy regarding their extension from one plan to another etc through six points. First appeal was filed on the ground that the information sought was not provided. CPIO gave point-wise information on 07.01.2016. The appellant filed the instant appeal before the Commission on the grounds that the information provided was misleading.
3. The appellant sought certain clarifications which PIO refused saying that no information was sought for. The Commission directs the respondent authority to provide clarifications sought in the form of FAQs along with answers, before 27.01.2017. Hence, disposed of. (M.Sridhar Acharyalu) Information Commissioner”
Adjunct Order : 16.01.2019
Appellant : Not present
Smt. Madhu Mehra Under Secretary and CPIO
Dr. G S Chauhan Joint Secretary, UGC.
The Deputy Registrar of this bench informed that the notice could not be delivered to the appellant till date as per the online tracking report of hearing notice.
The Commission had fixed the non compliance case for hearing in obedience of the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi order dated 21.12.2018 in WP(C) 13970/2018 & CM APPL. 54692/2018 in which the CIC was directed to take steps within two weeks from the receipt of the order. Accordingly, the case was fixed for hearing. However, the Commission is not inclined to pass any order without providing the appellant an opportunity to present his case.
The Deputy Registrar of this bench shall fix the next date of hearing in the second week of February, 2019 and ensure that notice of hearing is duly served to both the parties. The case is adjourned.
Adjunct Order : 13.02.2019
Appellant : Advocate Vinod Kumar Pandey (Representative)
Respondent : Dr. G S Chauhan Joint Secretary, UGC and
First Appellate Authority Meena Kumari Nirmal Section Officer and CPIO’s representative
The Appellate Authority submitted that they provided the requisite information on 07.02.2019. He also submitted that a reply was sent to the appellant on 21.03.2017 inviting the appellant to inspect the documents. Based on a perusal of the facts on record, the Commission observed that the CPIO Smt Madhu Mehra deliberately flouted the order of the Commission dated 02/01/2017. The letter dated 21.03.2017 was not in consonance with the directions given on 02.01.2017. Moreover, the CPIO remained absent in the hearing without any written permission to be absent nor any written explanation regarding non compliance of the order dated 02.01.2017. The First Appellate Authority remained present but he was unable to provide an explanation for the non compliance of the order prior to 07.02.2019.
In view of the above, a showcause notice is issued to Smt. Madhu Mehra to explain why penalty u/s 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. and (2) of the RTI Act should not be imposed on her for not complying with the order of the Commission dated 02.01.2017. She should remain present on the next date of hearing on 14.03.2019 at 01.00 pm without fail. The case is adjourned accordingly.
Final Order: 14.03.2019
The following were present: Appellant : Advocate Vinod Kumar Pandey (Representative)
Respondent : Smt. Madhu Mehra, Under Secretary & CPIO, Dr. G.S. Chauhan, Joint Secretary & First Appellate Authority, University Grant Commission, Submissions made by Appellant and Respondent during hearing:
Smt Madhu Mehra submitted that due to her poor health condition she was not able to attend the Commission’s hearing on 13.02.2019. On a query by the Commission, she could not explain why the order dated 02.01.2017 was not complied with by her on time. She further submitted that she is retiring from service on 31.03.2019 and in a similar case a penalty of Rs 25,000 has already been imposed on her vide order of the Commission dated 13.02.2019 in case no. CIC/SA/A/2015/002095/00003/VN which she has paid already. The representative of the appellant pressed for severe penalty on Smt Madhu Mehra, as she failed to comply with the order of the Commission.
The Commission observed that despite imposition of penalty on the CPIO in case no. CIC/SA/A/2015/002095/00003/VN on 13.02.2019 which was duly remitted by her office, she appeared clueless in respect of the nuances of the RTI Act and again appeared without proper explanation for non compliance of the order of the Commission dated 02.01.2017. The order of the Commission was as follows:
“3. The appellant sought certain clarifications which PIO refused saying that no information was sought for. The Commission directs the respondent authority to provide clarifications sought in the form of FAQs along with answers, before 27.01.2017. Hence, disposed of.”
The CPIO, Smt Madhu Mehra is on the verge of retirement but still did not understand the literal meaning of the order of the Commission, which is a matter of concern for the respondent authority. The First Appellate Authority, Shri G.S Chauhan addressed a letter dated 07.02.2019 to the Commission in which pointwise reply was provided in respect of the RTI application dated 10.11.2015 in compliance with the decision dated 02.01.2017.
A copy of this order is marked to Secretary UGC to take steps to educate the CPIOs and FAAs working in UGC to spread awareness regarding the scheme and object of the RTI Act. The Commission observes that Smt Madhu Mehra was already penalised for non compliance of Commissions’ order dated 25.02.2016 relating to RTI dated 26.08.2015 which belongs to that same period as this case. Therefore, imposing penalty on her for the same time period would literally amount to double jeopardy. The objectives of the Act is to ensure timely supply of relevant information to the appellant and imposing penalty twice on her would bring no reform, until and unless the UGC higher authorities take cognizance of the above observations and evolve a system to monitor each section of UGC, and improve the system of disposal of the RTI applications . The First Appellate Authority is hereby directed to send a copy of the reply dated 07.02.2019 to the appellant via speed post under intimation to the Commission.
The showcause proceeding and non compliance petition is disposed of accordingly.
Vanaja N. Sarna
Citation: Shiv Prakash Katiyar v. Central Public Information Officer, Under Secretary University Grant Commission in CIC/SA/A/2016/000308/00004/VN, Date of Decision: 02/01/2017, 16/01/2019, 13/02/2019, 14/03/2019