CIC issued a warning to the PIO for his absence during the hearing; He was cautioned to remain careful in future & ensure that before absenting himself, prior permission of the CIC should be taken with permission to send a representative on his behalf
The appellant has sought the following information regarding the production, import-export, stock, preservation, trade, consumption & use of the “Chlorofluorocarbon”, “Hydro-fluorocarbon” & “Hydro-chlorofluorocarbon” as refrigerant in India:
1. Details regarding completely banned, completely phased out and illegal refrigerants and gases in India for any types of production, import-export, stock, preservation, trade, consumption and use along with complete phased out details of such refrigerants in India.
2. Details along with each copy of the concerned document about the legally sanctioned and approved production, import-export, stock, preserve, trade, consumption and use of the “Chlorofluorocarbon”, “Hydro-fluorocarbon” & “Hydro-chlorofluorocarbon” as refrigerant in India indicating the phased out details against each mentioned refrigerants/gases.
3. Details of the authorities that are legally permitted and approved to produce, import-export, stock, preserve, trade, consume and use “Chlorofluorocarbon” in India with concerned copies of the approval & sanction issued by the competent authorities after 2014 till the date of filing of the RTI application alongwith the year of sanction.
4. Other related information.
Grounds for Second Appeal
The CPIO did not provide the desired information. Submissions made by Appellant and Respondents during Hearing: The Appellant submitted that no information has been provided by the CPIO till date and hence maximum penalty may be imposed against the erring officer. He further submitted that the online portal of the Ministry is showing the appeal as disposed of, showing some anonymous reply which is not signed and is incomplete. He also stated that he has already gone through the website relating to ozone cell and several other related websites , but could not find the answers to the specific queries raised by him through his RTI application.
The Commission takes grave exception to the absence of the CPIO during the hearing without intimating any reasons thereof. From a perusal of the relevant case records, it is observed by the Commission that an online reply has been provided to the appellant on 19.12.2017 which simply states that comments are being sought from the concerned CPIO. The Commission notes that this was an interim reply only and there was nothing on record to show that any other reply was provided to the appellant. However, the First Appellate Authority vide order dated 06.03.2018 disposed of the first appeal providing some information to the appellant vis-a- vis the comments received from the concerned CPIO and the queries of the appellant. However, the same was also not sufficient and specific. The Commission would also like to apprise the appellant of the fact that when any reply is reflected on the Ministry’s online portal, the question of being anonymous does not arise, as all such information is owned by the Ministry and it does not require any validation in the form of signatures etc. The Commission is also in receipt of written submissions from the concerned CPIO dated 11.03.2019 which were received after the hearing was over. In the submissions, the CPIO has stated that since he has been deputed to attend the fourth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly of the United Nations Environment Programmes to be held in Kenya from 11-15 March, he will not be able to attend the hearing. On this point, the Commission would like to mention that in such cases, the CPIO should depute a representative on his behalf to assist the Commission by taking prior permission of the Commission. However, no such effort has been taken by the concerned CPIO in the present case.
The CPIO is directed to provide a categorical and point-wise reply to the appellant based on the queries raised in his RTI application in the form of hard copies of the documents sought by the appellant, free of cost within 15 days from the date of receipt of this order under intimation to the Commission instead of directing him to the website. Further, a warning is issued to the present CPIO for his absence during the hearing. He is cautioned to remain careful in future and ensure that before absenting himself, prior permission of the Commission is taken and to ensure that permission is also taken to send a representative on his behalf. In the event of such mistake being repeated, the Commission will be constrained to take more stringent action. The appeal is disposed of accordingly.
Vanaja N. Sarna
Citation: Biswanath Goswami v. Central Public Information Officer Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Indira Paryavaran Bhavan in Decision no.: CIC/MOENF/A/2017/606273/00244, Date of Decision: 14/03/2019