CIC: No response was provided against the application which is in violation of the RTI Act - CIC: The FAA, Bar Council of West Bengal to inquire into the matter and, if required, take appropriate departmental action against the officers responsible
O R D E R
1. The appellant filed an application under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) before the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) Bar Council of West Bengal, Kolkata seeking information on six points pertaining to Advocate Alokesh Pal including, inter-alia,
(i) acknowledgement of receipt of money (details provided in the RTI application) by Advocate Alokesh Pal;
(ii) name and designation of the public authority granting permission to Advocate Alokesh Pal to practice at the District Judge’s Court and Criminal Court, Berhampore, Murshidabad; and
(iii) his Bar Council registration, oath paper and authority to practice at the aforementioned Court, etc.
2. The appellant filed a second appeal against the CPIO/ FAA, Bar Council of West Bengal wherein it was stated that no reply was provided against the RTI application/ First Appeal. The appellant prayed to the Commission to direct the respondent to provide all documents with certificates as mentioned in RTI application, to initiate penal action against the PIO/ FAA, Bar Council of West Bengal; recommendation from the Commission to the Government to provide him compensation of Rs. 30 Crores; auction of entire savings, movable-immovable properties of Adv. Alokesh pal, PIO/ FAA of Bar Council of WB.
3. The appellant Shri Pritam Bhattacharya was present in person. Shri Pinaki Ranjan Banerjee, CPIO and Assistant Secretary and Shri Vivekananda Bose, Advocate, representing the Bar council of West Bengal were heard through video conferencing.
4. The appellant’s written submissions dated 12.07.2019 has been taken on record. The appellant submitted another written submission (received by the Commission on 29.07.2019) wherein he stated that he did not wish to pursue the matter further and did not have any grievance against the CPIO, Bar Council of West Bengal.
5. The appellant at the outset requested to ignore his earlier written submission (received by the Commission on 29.07.2017) and stated that he was still keen to pursue the matter. The appellant submitted that the action taken on his complaint against the Advocate mentioned in the RTI application was not provided by the respondent. He submitted that he was not in receipt of any reply from the CPIO/ FAA until last week i.e., after issuance of the notice of hearing of the instant second appeal, wherein documents pertaining to the RTI application were requested from him.
6. The respondent submitted that due to reorganization of the public authority, the Bar Council of West Bengal was not effectively functioning at the time when the RTI application was filed by the appellant. Hence, the RTI application filed by the appellant was lost and could not be traced in their records. Subsequently, on receipt of the Notice of Hearing, they had also requested for a copy of the RTI application from the appellant who had also expressed his inability to provide the same since it was not readily available with him. As regards the first appeal, the respondent submitted that it was not traceable in their records. The respondent while tendering their unconditional apology for the delay in taking action on the RTI application submitted that there was no malafide intention to deny information to the appellant and that they are willing to provide the information held and available on record to the appellant.
7. The Commission, after hearing the submissions of both the parties and perusing the records, observes that no response was provided against the RTI application till date which is in violation of the RTI Act, 2005. The Commission, therefore, directs the FAA, Bar Council of West Bengal to inquire into the matter as to whether the RTI application was received by the CPIO and if so, what action was taken on the RTI application. The FAA shall also, if required, take appropriate departmental action against the officers responsible for the misplacement of the records. A copy of the inquiry report along with the action taken report may be provided to the Commission as well as to the appellant within a period of six weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order. The Commission further directs the CPIO to provide a pointwise reply in response to appellant’s RTI application to him within four weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order under intimation to the Commission. The Dy. Registrar is instructed to forward a copy of the RTI application alongwith this decision to the respondent for further necessary action in the matter.
8. With the above observations, the appeal is disposed of.
9. Copy of the decision be provided free of cost to the parties.
Chief Information Commissioner
Citation: Pritam Bhattacharya v. CPIO, Bar Council of West Bengal in Second Appeal No. CIC/BCOI/A/2018/130458, Date of decision: 08.08.2019