Appellant sought information regarding the fees paid to the advocates on behalf of Embassy of India, Bangkok for hearing before CIC in RTI cases - Respondent replied “Nil” - CIC: File an affidavit deposing that no fees no fees were paid to the Advocates
O R D E R
1. The complainant filed an application under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) before the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi seeking information on six points pertaining to cases attended by advocates on behalf of Embassy of India, Bangkok for hearing before Central Information Commission (CIC) under the RTI Act, 2005 including, inter-alia,
(i) the status and powers of the Public Authority for engaging Advocates to represent the CPIO/FAA before the Central Information Commission under the RTI Act, 2005;
(ii) the fees paid to Advocates in such RTI cases for last 10 financial years till date;
(iii) the head under which amount has been debited; (iv) whether National Litigation Policy is being followed in the organization;
(v) Name of the Advocates, amount allotted, amount paid in the ongoing case file no. CIC/KYC/C/2016/000015;
(vi) File noting on movement of RTI petition.
2. The complainant filed a complaint before the Commission on the grounds that CPIO failed to furnish any information sought for by him even after the delay of 80 days. The complainant requested the Commission to direct the respondent to furnish an appropriate response and to impose penalty of Rs. 25,000 apart from recommending disciplinary proceedings for habitually avoiding the replies.
3. The Complainant Shri Byragoni Sreenivas Goud was present through video conferencing. The respondents Ms. Deepa Jain, under Secretary (RTI), Ministry of External Affairs, Delhi and Shri. Ishaan George, Advocate for Embassy of India, Bangkok, Thailand were present in person.
4. Due to some administrative reasons, the hearing was adjourned to 15.11.2019 at 01:00 PM.
5. Copy of the interim decision be provided free of cost to the parties.
Hearing on 15.11.2019:
6. The Complainant, Shri Byragoni Sreenivas Goud attended the hearing through video conferencing and the respondent, Smt. Deepa Jain, Under Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs was present in person.
7. The Complainant submitted that he filed an RTI application on 19.05.2017 seeking information on six points and the same was transferred to the CPIO, Embassy of India, Bangkok on 05.06.2017. However, no reply has been received either from the CPIO, Ministry of External Affairs or from the CPIO, Embassy of India, Bangkok till date. The appellant further submitted that the FAA vide his order dated 28.08.2017 informed him that CPIO has already uploaded online a point wise reply vide letter no. Ban/Pol/551/02/2017 dated 26.06.2017. The appellant submitted that no reply dated 26.06.2017 was received by him either via email or via post. The appellant pleaded before the Commission to direct the CPIO to provide correct and complete information sought by him.
8. The respondent submitted that a point wise reply, as per the available records, was uploaded online vide letter no. Ban/Pol/551/02/2017 dated 26.06.2017. The respondent further submitted that the FAA vide order dated 28.08.2017 had upheld the reply of the CPIO. Hence, no further information remains to be provided to the appellant.
9. The Commission, after hearing the submissions of both the parties and perusing the records, observes that due information, as uploaded online by the respondent, has not been received by the appellant. The Commission hereby directs the respondent to provide the appellant with a copy of the letter dated 26.06.2017 along with the trail of emails whereby the said reply dated 26.06.2017 was uploaded in response to the RTI application.
10. The Commission further takes notice of the fact that the information provided by the respondent with regards to point no. 2 of the RTI application wherein the appellant has sought information regarding the fees paid to the advocates in RTI cases for last 10 years, the respondent has replied “Nil.” The Commission hereby directs the respondent to file an affidavit with the Commission deposing that no fees were paid to the Advocates in respect of the RTI cases in the last 10 years. A copy of the affidavit shall also be provided to the appellant.
11. The above directions of the Commission shall be complied with, within four weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order under intimation to the Commission.
12. With the above observations, the Complaint is disposed of.
13. Copy of the decision be provided free of cost to the parties.
Chief Information Commissioner
Citation: Shri Byragoni Sreenivas Goud v. CPIO, Ministry of External Affairs in Complaint No. CIC/EIBTH/C/2017/157708, Date of decision: 19.11.2019