Can a FAA hear the case which he had disposed in the capacity of PIO?
The appellant filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with the Ministry of Environment & Forest seeking a number of information in respect of various hydropower projects in the state of Sikkim. The Public Information Officer (PIO) provided copies of various documents including file noting. He denied some items claiming that no information was available.
During the hearing before the Central Information Commission (CIC), the appellant submitted that the entire information provided so far covered only two of his queries. He objected to the fact that one item of information was sent to him one year after he filed his RTI application. He also submitted that it was not possible that the Ministry did not have some of the records such as the report submitted by the committee headed by the Chief Secretary of Sikkim since this committee had been set up by the Ministry itself. The respondent submitted that they had truthfully provided whatever information was available at the relevant time. They also clarified that they had sent no other information other than what the PIO had sent at the very beginning and disowned the information sent to the appellant without a forwarding letter which the appellant claimed to have received one year after the filing of the RTI application. The appellant informed that the PIO herself had disposed of the first appeal in her new capacity as the First Appellate Authority (FAA).
View of CIC
The Commission ruled that the Ministry must take care not to appoint a PIO later as FAA to deal with the very same cases which she had disposed of as a PIO. This would avoid the possibility of any conflict of interest.
The officer in the organisation with the power to designate a PIO / FAA should be requested in such cases to appoint another person to deal with the appeals to avoid a clash of interest.
Citation: Mr. Harinder Dhingra v. Ministry of Environment & Forest in File No. CIC/SM/A/2012/000923
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2013/CIC/1038
Click here to view original RTI order of Court / Information Commission