Although the RTI Act or the rules made thereunder do not prescribe the procedure to be followed by the FAA in dealing with first appeals, by convention, the FAA should give an opportunity of hearing if the Appellant expressly wants to be heard
The appellant has sought the following information:
1. Vide Public Notice bearing No. F.1-1/2018 (Journal-CARE), dated January 14, 2019, Prof. Rajnish Jain, Secretary, U.G.C., mentioned that protocol for Journal analysis consists of the following three sections:
(a) Basic Information (Part-I);
(ii) Primary Criteria (Part II);
(iii) Secondary Criteria Part(III).
Although the Part I of the protocol is made a part of the above noted Public Notice, but the Part II and III of the protocol has not been made a part of the above noted Public Notice. In view of the above, provide the duly certified copy of Part II and III of the above noted protocol.
2. Copies of Legal notices, if any, served upon the UGC/INFLIBNET Centre of UGC by any party as well as details of Court Cases, if an, filed by any party against the UGC/INFLIBNET in any of the Hon’ble Court of law regarding the UGC approved list of Journals.
3. Complete file containing the noting / proceedings along with every annexure, pertaining to the reply to be issued in response to the present application by the Official(s) concerned. The copies of those annexure may not be supplied, which will be the part of your reply to the present application of the applicant along with the Full Name and designation of every signatory of the noting/ proceedings referred to in the above para of present application.
Grounds for Second appeal
The CPIO has provided vague and incomplete information.
Submissions made by Appellant and Respondent during Hearing:
The appellant submitted that the CPIO has failed to provide the complete information to him as neither of the two links given by the CPIO in his reply contained the requisite information as was sought by him and there was a delay in giving a rely to him despite that fact that he had specifically mentioned that his case falls under the category of life and liberty. Hence, the concerned CPIO may be penalized and disciplinary action may be initiated against him and he may be adequately compensated for not providing the required information. He also stated that he was not given an opportunity of personal hearing despite requesting for the same.
The CPIO submitted that an appropriate reply was given to the appellant on 22.03.2019.
From a perusal of the relevant case records, it is noted that the reply of the CPIO is not proper as a point-wise reply was not given to the appellant. Rather the appellant was directed to get the desired information from their website for which the hyper-links were given but as per the submissions of the appellant, the information sought by him was not available in their website. It is also noted that the FAA’s order is also incomplete as for point no. 1, there was no justification given for claiming exemption u/s 8(1)(e) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information; of the RTI Act. For the rest of the points also, there is no categorical reply either by the CPIO or the FAA. Therefore, the CPIO is directed to provide a revised reply on all the points raised by the appellant in his RTI application and in case the CPIO is claiming any exemption, the same should be properly justified.
Among other submissions, the appellant in his second appeal has also raised an issue that the FAA did not provide him an opportunity of being heard even though he had requested for the same in his first appeal memo. Here it is brought to the notice of the FAA that deciding an appeal after rendering an opportunity of hearing to the parties is a fundamental principle of jurisprudence. It is conducive to fairness and transparency and is in line with the principles of natural justice. As per Section 19(6) An appeal under sub-section (1) or sub-section (2) shall be disposed of within thirty days of the receipt of the appeal or within such extended period not exceeding a total of forty-five days from the date of filing thereof, as the case may be, for reasons to be recorded in writing. of the RTI Act, the FAA is required to dispose of an appeal within 30 days of the receipt thereof and as far as possible also give the appellant as well as third party an opportunity of hearing specially if he so requests, without forgetting that the essence of the RTI Act is to provide complete, correct and timely information to the appellant.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the matter of Manohar Vs. State of Maharashtra, Civil Appeal No.9095/2012 has made the following observation:
“Thus, the principle is clear and settled that right of hearing, even if not provided under a specific statute, the principles of natural justice shall so demand, unless by specific law, it is excluded. It is more so when exercise of authority is likely to vest the person with consequences of civil nature.”
In view of the above, the CPIO is directed to re-visit the RTI application and provide a revised reply to the appellant in a point-wise manner as per the provisions of the RTI Act. This direction is to be complied with within a period of 21 days from the date of receipt of this order under intimation to the Commission.
It is also brought to the notice of the FAA that although the Right to Information (RTI) Act or the rules made thereunder do not prescribe in detail the procedure to be followed by the Appellate Authority in dealing with first appeals, by convention, the Appellate Authority should give an opportunity of hearing to any Appellant if the Appellant expressly wants to be heard. Therefore, the Commission would like the Appellate Authority to bear this in mind and, whenever any such request is made, to afford an opportunity of hearing to the Appellant. The present CPIO is directed to serve a copy of this order to the concerned FAA for his information.
The Appeal is disposed of accordingly.
Vanaja N. Sarna
Citation: Dr S Garg v. University Grants Commission in File No.: CIC/UGCOM/A/2019/639673, Date of Decision: 09/09/2020