Can a PIO be penalised after retirement?
The appellant claimed that he was an employee of the GSI between1965 to 1979 and was dismissed from service later. He filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with the Geological Survey of India (GSI) in which he wanted to know the details of his full Provident Fund (PF) account and the method by which he could claim the outstanding balance. The Public Information Officer (PIO) informed that no records were available in this regard.
During the hearing before the Central Information Commission (CIC), the appellant admitted that although he had no records with him about his own PF account or the deductions made from his salary towards the PF but he was sure that he used to contribute to the PF. Therefore, he wanted this information in order to claim the outstanding balance from his PF account. The respondent submitted that the GSI had made a lot of efforts to locate the relevant records but could not do so the case being very old now.
View of CIC
The Commission observed that it was indeed a very old case and that without the PF account number it may not be possible to find out any further details about this account. To help the senior citizen, the CIC directed the PIO to make another effort in locating the relevant records within the GSI and in the office of the AG which is responsible for maintaining the PF account of the government employees and forward the same to the appellant. The Commission further stated that if he fails to locate the relevant records he should inform the appellant suitably clearly stating what all efforts he had undertaken in the process. The CIC noted that the PIO responded nearly one year after the filing of the RTI application and thus, such an action calls for imposition of penalty as per the provisions of section 20(1) Where the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be, at the time of deciding any complaint or appeal is of the opinion that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, has, without any reasonable cause, refused to receive an application for information or has not furnished information within the time specified under sub-section (1) of section 7 or malafidely denied the request for information or knowingly given incorrect, incomplete or misleading information or destroyed information which was the subject of the request or obstructed in any manner in furnishing the information, it shall impose a penalty of two hundred and fifty rupees each day till application is received or information is furnished, so however, the total amount of such penalty shall not exceed twenty-five thousand rupees: Provided that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall be given a reasonable opportunity of being heard before any penalty is imposed on him: Provided further that the burden of proving that he acted reasonably and diligently shall be on the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be. of the RTI Act. However, the respondent submitted that the PIO had since retired from service with effect from April 2012 on attaining the age of superannuation and thus no penalty could be imposed on the said person.
Citation: Mr. Dharani Sundaram v. Geological Survey of India in File No. CIC/SM/A/2012/000961
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2012/CIC/891
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