Information about grant of 3rd financial up-gradation under MACP Scheme was not provided claiming that the service records were not traceable - The CIC expressed its displeasure & directed the Pr. Director (Pers) C&AG, New Delhi to furnish information15 Apr, 2020
O R D E R
The Appellant vide her RTI application sought information in reference to MACP benefits as per C&AG Circular Order No. 23 Staff Wing/2016 No. 39 Staff (Entt-I) 184-2014 dated 20.06.2016, etc. The CPIO, vide its letter dated 29.05.2018, provided a suitable response to the Appellant. Dissatisfied by the response of the CPIO, the Appellant approached the FAA. The FAA, vide its order dated 31.07.2018, upheld the response of the CPIO and further stated that service records of the Appellant was not traceable in the office even after taking extensive efforts for searching the same and that the details had been called for from HQs Office vide office letter dated 22.05.2018. Hence, Grant of 3rd financial up-gradation under MACP Scheme could be considered only after the receipt of reply from the HQs Office.
Facts emerging during the hearing:
The following were present:
Appellant: Ms. R. Rukmani through VC;
Respondent: Mr. R. Jambunathan, PIO through VC;
The Appellant reiterated the contents of the RTI application and stated that the information sought by her regarding refusal to grant MACP benefit to her and her non-promotion had not been furnished even after a lapse of more than two years. The Respondent reiterated the reply of the CPIO / FAA as also its written submission and attributed the delay to C&AG Office at New Delhi which had not responded, so far. The Commission was in receipt of a written submission from the Respondent dated 19.03.2020 wherein while reiterating the chronological sequence of the event, it was submitted that there was no unreasonable or undue delay in furnishing the reply by the PIO/AA.
The Commission felt that correct and timely response is the essence of the RTI mechanism enacted to ensure transparency and accountability in the working of Public Authorities. In this context, the Commission referred to the decision of the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in Mujibur Rehman vs Central Information Commission (W.P. (C) 3845/2007)(Dated 28 April, 2009) wherein it had been held as under:
“14.......The court cannot be unmindful of the circumstances under which the Act was framed, and brought into force. It seeks to foster an "openness culture" among state agencies, and a wider section of "public authorities" whose actions have a significant or lasting impact on the people and their lives. Information seekers are to be furnished what they ask for, unless the Act prohibits disclosure; they are not to be driven away through sheer inaction or filibustering tactics of the public authorities or their officers. It is to ensure these ends that time limits have been prescribed, in absolute terms, as well as penalty provisions. These are meant to ensure a culture of information disclosure so necessary for a robust and functioning democracy.”
With regard to providing a clear and cogent response to the Appellant, the Commission referred to the decision of the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in J P Aggarwal v. Union of India (WP (C) no. 7232/2009 wherein it was held that:
“ 7“it is the PIO to whom the application is submitted and it is who is responsible for ensuring that the information as sought is provided to the applicant within the statutory requirements of the Act. Section 5(4) is simply to strengthen the authority of the PIO within the department; if the PIO finds a default by those from whom he has sought information. The PIO is expected to recommend a remedial action to be taken”. The RTI Act makes the PIO the pivot for enforcing the implementation of the Act.”
8………….The PIO is expected to apply his / her mind, duly analyse the material before him / her and then either disclose the information sought or give grounds for nondisclosure.”
The Hon’ble Delhi High Court in the case of Shri Vivek Mittal v. B.P. Srivastava, W.P.(C) 19122/2006 dated 24.08.2009 had upheld the view of the CIC and observed
“…..that a CPIO cannot escape his obligations and duties by stating that persons appointed under him had failed to collect documents and information. The Act as framed, castes obligation upon the CPIOs and fixes responsibility in case there is failure or delay in supply of information. It is the duty of the CPIOs to ensure that the provisions of the Act are fully complied with and in case of default, necessary consequences follow”.
Furthermore, the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in the matter of R.K. Jain vs Union of India, LPA No. 369/2018, dated 29.08.2018, held as under:
“9………………………….. That apart, the CPIO being custodian of the information or the documents sought for, is primarily responsible under the scheme of the RTI Act to supply the information and in case of default or dereliction on his part, the penal action is to be invoked against him only.
Furthermore, in OM No. 20/10/23/2007-IR dated 09.07.2009, while elaborating on the duties and responsibilities of the FAA, it was stated that:
“3. Deciding appeals under the RTI Act is a quasi judicial function. It is, therefore, necessary that the appellate authority should see that the justice is not only done but it should also appear to have been done. In order to do so, the order passed by the appellate authority should be a speaking order giving justification for the decision arrived at.”
The Commission also noted that it should be the endeavour of the CPIO to ensure that maximum assistance should be provided to the RTI applicants to ensure the flow of information. In this context, the Commission referred to the OM No.4/9/2008-IR dated 24.06.2008 issued by the DoP&T on the Subject “Courteous behavior with the persons seeking information under the RTI Act, 2005” wherein it was stated as under:
“The undersigned is directed to say that the responsibility of a public authority and its public information officers (PIO) is not confined to furnish information but also to provide necessary help to the information seeker, wherever necessary.”
The Commission 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 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 expressed its displeasure over the manner in which the RTI application had been dealt with thereby disrespecting the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005. The Commission, therefore directs Pr. Director (Personnel) C&AG Office, New Delhi to furnish information forthwith and not later than 15 days from the date of receipt of this order failing which penal action as per Section 20 (1) of the RTI Act, 2005 could be initiated.
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 accordingly.
(Chief Information Commissioner)
Citation: Ms. R. Rukmani v. Office of the Accountant General (Accounts & Entitlements) in Second Appeal No.:- CIC/CAGIN/A/2018/152804-BJ, Date of Decision: 20.03.2020