Steps taken to implement Supreme Court directions issued regarding the implementation of NOTA option during elections - Deciding appeals is a quasi judicial function under RTI - Matter remanded matter back to the FAA to decide the First Appeal
The Appellant vide his RTI application sought information in respect of legal action and steps taken to implement the Hon'ble Supreme Court directions issued in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 161 of 2004; day to day action taken report, office proceedings, file noting and entire complete file pertaining to the implementation of NOTA awareness programme etc.
The CPIO, vide its letter dated 10.05.2019 provided a point wise response to the Appellant. Dissatisfied by the response of the CPIO, the Appellant approached the FAA. The order of the FAA, if any, is not on the record of the Commission.
Facts emerging during the hearing:
The following were present:
Appellant: Mr. A. R. Shashi Kumar through TC;
Respondent: Mr. Naresh, US & CPIO and Mr. Sujeet Kumar Mishra, Ex. CPIO through TC;
The Appellant reiterated the contents of the RTI application and stated that unsatisfactory and incomplete information was provided by the CPIO and that his First Appeal was not decided, till date which was a violation of the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005.Hence penal action ought to be initiated against the erring official for the dereliction of his/ her duties. During the hearing, the Appellant also submitted that no cogent steps were initiated to enforce/implement the Hon'ble Supreme Court directions issued in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 161 of 2004 pertaining to the implementation of NOTA option during elections which was in violation to the directives of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India. In its reply, the Respondent re-iterated the response of the CPIO and stated that all the points raised in the RTI application were replied and a fee of Rs. 138/- was also sought for providing the information. On being queried by the Commission regarding the order of the FAA in this matter, the Respondent tendered their unconditional apology for not replying to the First Appeal and attributed the same to their preoccupation to other official work during the General Elections of 2019. The Respondent however assured the Commission about providing all necessary assistance to the information seeker, if so directed by the Commission.
Having heard both he parties and on perusal of the available records, the Commission observed that the First Appeal was not decided in the matter, till date which was a violation of the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005. In this context, the Commission referred to the OM No. 20/10/23/2007-IR dated 09.07.2009, issued by the M/o Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, D/o Personnel and Training, 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.
5. The Act provides that the first appellate authority would be an officer senior in rank to the CPIO. Thus, the appellate authority, as per provisions of the Act, would be an officer in a commanding position vis a vis’ the CPIO. Nevertheless, if, in any case, the CPIO does not implement the order passed by the appellate authority and the appellate authority feels that intervention of higher authority is required to get his order implemented, he should bring the matter to the notice of the officer in the public authority competent to take against the CPIO. Such competent officer shall take necessary action so as to ensure implementation of the RTI Act. ”
Keeping in view the facts of the case and the submissions made by both the parties, the Commission remands the matter back to the FAA to decide the First Appeal in accordance with the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005 after granting an opportunity of hearing to the Appellant, within a period of 30 days from the date of receipt of this order depending upon the condition for containment of the Corona Virus Pandemic in the Country.
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.
(The Order will be posted on the website of the Commission).
(Chief Information Commissioner)
Citation: Mr. A. R. Shashi Kumar v. Election Commission of India in Second Appeal No.:- CIC/ECOMM/A/2019/140508-BJ, Date of Decision: 12.06.2020