Information regarding grant of Honorary rank to Shri Sachin Tendulkar and the reasons for his ineligibility for grant of honorary Commission - CIC: In case any such repeated second appeal or complaint is filed, the same shall be dismissed in limine
Information Sought in File No.CIC/IAIRF/A/2018/106767:
The appellant has sought the following information pertaining to the policy/document/guidelines/manuscript with regard to Grant of Honorary Commission:
1. (i) Whether the Honorary rank of Group Captain conferred on Mr. Sachin Tendulkar is held against the substantive vacancy of Group Captain or an additional vacancy has been created. Provide details of relevant authority for creating/establishing an additional vacancy of a Group Captain.
(ii) Provide the information with a copy of policy/ document/ guidelines/ manuscript in respect of Grant of Honorary Commission to Regular Commissioned officers in the Indian Air Force
2. Provide the information with the covering authority letter for payment of pay to civilians who have been granted Honorary Rank. Whether the payment to such civilians has been paid from the Defence Officers Budget. Provide the information with regard to the Defence Budget Estimate Code Head under which civilians are paid the pay.
Information sought in File No.: CIC/IAIRF/A/2018/110144
The appellant has sought the following information/documents with reference to the RTI Application dated 02/09/2017 as mentioned in para 01 of letter No. Air HQ/23401/204/4/12333/E/Ps dated 27/09/2017:
1. Provide a copy of POR No. 43/2014 or
2. Provide the concerned portion/part related to Honorary Commissioned officers representing the lay-out of occurrences of Honorary Commissioned Officers.
3. Provide a copy of Parchment Commission as has been stated vide Para 03 of JDPA (CPC) letter No. Air HQ/C40254/2/PA(CPC) dated 31/07/2017.
Information sought in File No.: CIC/IAIRF/A/2018/123548
The appellant has sought the following information/documents:
1. Provide the details of basic pay and grade pay indicating relevant pay band governing the payment of basic pay and grade pay being paid to Honorary Flying officers and Honorary Flight Lieutenants in the IAF.
2. Provide the information with regard to audit objection against irregular state of payment to Honorary Flying Officers and Honorary Flight Lieutenants raised by the auditors/ test auditors. Provide the information on the action taken to settle the said audit objections. Provide the information on the audit objections which are still unsettled.
Grounds for Second Appeals
The CPIO did not provide the requisite information.
Submissions made by Appellant and Respondent during Hearing:
The appellant submitted that he is not satisfied with the replies given to him in all the above mentioned RTI applications as misleading and incomplete information was provided to him. He has also showed his dissatisfaction at the conduct of the respondent organisation to give Honorary rank to Shri Sachin Tendulkar and wanted to know the reasons for his ineligibility for grant of honorary Commission. He also submitted that Section 10 of Chapter 3 of the Air Force Act was not followed in his case and he was betrayed by the respondent authority.
The CPIO submitted that despite the fact that multiple RTI applications have been filed by the appellant regarding the same/similar issue of honorary Commission, they have given appropriate replies to the appellant from time to time. He further submitted that since the appellant has raised a new issue of the implementation of Section 10 of Chapter 3 of the Air Force Act which was not originally raised in any of his RTI applications, the same cannot be accepted at such a later stage as they are not prepared to submit anything in this regard. The Commission concurs with the submissions of the CPIO as the points of determination during the hearing are limited to the issues and points raised in the original RTI applications and anything submitted beyond that cannot be accepted.
At the outset, it is pertinent to mention that the instant 03 cases were heard together and have been clubbed for decision to avoid multiplicity of proceedings and also based on multiple earlier orders of the Commission while adjudicating the second appeals/complaints filed by the same appellant against the Indian Air Force. The main paras of the order passed in File No. CIC/IAIRF/A/2017/182726/SD& Ors dated 24.10.2018, where 20 other cases of the appellant were clubbed together, are reproduced below:
“Commission has clubbed the above referred matters for decision as the subject matter of all these matters pertain to the same grievance of the Appellant regarding grant of honorary commission. It is also pertinent to note that most of these cases are duplicate registrations as Appellant has filed the same Appeal over and over again. The nature of queries in all of these matters is such that largely seeks interpretation of the CPIO or clarification based on various perceived injustices by the Appellant which is outside the purview of Section 2(f) “information” means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force; of the RTI Act. It is also more than apparent from a bare perusal of the contents of these Appeals and Complaints that Appellant is indeed channelizing his angst with the department through RTI Act, perhaps in a bid to get the grant of honorary commission.
Commission fully concedes with the submissions of the CPIO regarding the nature of these RTI Applications and it is also observed that each RTI Application has been responded to appropriately. The reliance placed by the CPIO on various judgments of the High Courts and Supreme Court as well as that of the Commission is also well founded……….
Upon a conjoint reading of the above dicta and the perusal of facts on record, it is established well beyond reasonable doubt that Appellant is in a habit of misusing his right to information. Commission advises the Appellant to make judicious use of the cherished statute of RTI Act in future. CPIO is advised to deal with any future RTI Applications of the Appellant on the subject of grant of Honorary Commission or anything related to service related grievance emanating from this subject in accordance with the aforesaid observations of the Commission”
Now, having perused the instant 03 Second Appeals, it is observed that all of these cases are against the Indian Air Force where the appellant was an ex-employee. A close scrutiny of the nature of information sought by the Appellant in the above mentioned 03 RTI applications shows that the appellant is seeking information regarding grant of honorary Commission, a copy of policy/ document/ guidelines/ manuscript in respect of Grant of Honorary Commission to Regular Commissioned officers, details of lay-out of occurrences of Honorary Commissioned Officers etc, and all his RTI applications are in the form of elaborate paragraphs without seeking any specific information and mostly airing his criticism or requesting to consider him for honorary rank of Fg. Offr. Further, while perusing the recent written submissions of the appellant dated 16.10.2020, it is noted that through his RTI applications the appellant has not sought any information but wanted to know as to why a CAS, IAF should not nominate a retired W.O for the honorary rank of Group Captain and in such scenario, the question of providing any relief as far as the information is concerned does not arise.
All this establishes the fact that these RTI applications are just a way of taking revenge against the public authority and showing his personal vengeance against the organisation as a whole. It is also noted that the appellant has filed most of these appeals prior to the orders of the Commission mentioned above but has pursued the second appeals, not paying any heed to the several orders passed by the Commission advising him not to file similar RTI applications in future.
This case becomes a fit illustration for the observation of the Apex Court in Aditya Bandhopadhyay’s case that –
“…The nation does not want a scenario where 75% of the staff of public authorities spends 75% of their time in collecting and furnishing information to applicants instead of discharging their regular duties….”
It is brought into the notice of the appellant that as much as a CPIO has a statutory responsibility of complying with the provisions of the RTI Act, it is also expected of the RTI applicants to not transgress the spirit of RTI Act by clogging the functioning of public authorities with such repetitive, cumbersome and implausible RTI applications, more so, when such applicant was already restrained from filing further RTI applications by the Commission itself.
It will not be out of place to quote verbatim the observations made by the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in the matter of Rajni Maindiratta Vs Directorate of Education (North West- B) [W.P.(C) No. 7911/2015].The relevant paras are extracted below:
'8. Though undoubtedly, the reason for seeking the information is not required to be disclosed but when it is found that the process of the law is being abused, the same become relevant. Neither the authorities created under the RTI Act nor the Courts are helpless if witness the provisions of law being abused and owe a duty to immediately put a stop thereto.' A more lucid rationale can be drawn in the facts of the present matter by referring to the matter of Shail Sahni vs Sanjeev Kumar [W.P.(C) 845/2014] wherein the Hon'ble High Court of Delhi has held that:
'...In the opinion of this Court, the primary duty of the officials of Ministry of Defence is to protect the sovereignty and integrity of India. If the limited manpower and resources of the Directorate General, Defence Estates as well as the Cantonment Board are devoted to address such meaningless queries, this Court is of the opinion that the entire office of the Directorate General, Defence Estates Cantonment Board would come to stand still.' 'This Court is also of the view that misuse of the RTI Act has to be appropriately dealt with, otherwise the public would lose faith and confidence in this "sunshine Act". A beneficent Statute, when made a tool for mischief and abuse must be checked in accordance with law.' The aforesaid dicta particularly resonates with the said set of cases as the Respondent office is a vital part of the Department of Defence Production engaged in the production of warfare equipments in the area of land, sea and air systems. If the resources of this office are diverted into addressing the umpteen RTI Applications and First Appeals of the Appellant alone, it will lead to a situation of colossal wastage of its valuable manpower and infrastructure.
Although the Commission took note of the fact that the appellant had worked in IAF for such a long time and might have had a legitimate expectation of getting honorary Commission and thus has taken the route of the RTI to know the possible reasons for his ineligibility, however, after looking at the non-stop trail of RTI applications filed by the appellant, it appears that he has misconceived the role of the Central Information Commission. The CIC is an adjudicating body to give relief only in such cases where it is found that the relevant information is not provided to the applicant. However, in the present cases, the CPIO and the FAA cannot be expected to satisfy the appellant, when the appellant is not in search of information but is only settling his service grievances against the department by filing multiple, repetitive RTI applications followed by appeals and complaints. All the appeals are interrelated in some manner or the other and are clearly indicative of absolute misuse of the provisions of the RTI Act.
The appellant should know that the RTI Act is a means to promote public interest and should not to be used as an instrument to harass the public authority and sort out his personal grievances for which other fora exist. His multiple RTI applications have a grave impact on the functioning of the respondent organization, and if this is allowed, the public authority cannot focus on their core duties and their entire time will be devoted to such frivolous/vexatious/repeated/multiple RTI questions as can be seen that for every hearing, the concerned officers have to leave their core and important work and be present for the hearings. This is undoubtedly misuse and it has to be checked. He cannot use the RTI route by flooding the public authority with numerous RTIs on the same or similar issues.
In view of the foregoing, the Commission without commenting on the merits of each of the appeals deems it appropriate to dismiss these appeals and orders no relief in the matters. It is rather apparent that the appellant’s only intention was to harass the public authority as well as to waste the time and resources of both the public authority and the Commission. He is cautioned to refrain from filing such RTI applications henceforth and is directed to follow the directions given in the earlier orders of the Commission as mentioned above in this order. In case any such repeated second appeal or complaint is filed before the Commission, the same shall be dismissed in limine. The respondent authority is also at liberty to reject any RTI application if the same is found to be repetitive or similar to any subject matter already raised by the appellant in any of his RTI applications filed before them. The Appellant is once again advised to make judicious use of the cherished statute of the RTI Act in future.
The above mentioned appeals are accordingly dismissed.
Vanaja N. Sarna
Citation: S P Bajpai v. Directorate of Personal Services, Air Head Quarters in File No.: CIC/IAIRF/A/2018/106767+ 110144+123548, Date of decision: 27.10.2020