CIC: the responsibility cast upon PIO would be seriously eroded if they were to simply mark RTI applications to other officials & then put the entire blame for delay in reply on such other officials; an effective monitoring system to be put in by PIO
The Complainant was present at the NIC Studio, Port Blair, during the first hearing. On behalf of the Respondents, Shri S. Subhakar Rao, CPIO was present at the NIC Studio, Port Blair during the first hearing.
During the second hearing, the following were present at the NIC Studio, Port Blair:
1. Shri Subhakar Rao, Asstt. Director (CPIO).
2. Shri Sandeep Bedi, Pharmacist.
During the third hearing, the following were present at the NIC Studio, Port Blair:
1.Shri S. Subhakar Rao, Asstt. Director (CPIO).
2. Shri Saravana Kumar, LGC.
Information Commissioner: Shri Sharat Sabharwal
First hearing on 20.2.2014
According to the complaint, the Complainant filed an RTI application on 27.8.2013 seeking information on six points. Not having received a reply within the stipulated time frame, he filed a complaint to the CIC on 30.9.2013, requesting for appropriate action under “the RTI Act 18(1)(c)”.
2. We heard the submissions of the complainant and the Respondents. The Complainant stated that he had not received the information sought by him. The CPIO stated that on receipt of the RTI Application, he had forwarded it to the concerned officer, Shri Sandeep Bedi, Pharmacist on 18.9.2013, with the request to provide the required information. Shri Bedi responded on 27.11.2013, whereafter the CPIO forwarded the information to the Complainant on 9.12.2013. The CPIO further stated that he would give the Complainant a copy of the speed post receipt, vide which the information was sent to him. On being asked about the reason for the delay in providing the information, the CPIO stated that it was on account of delayed receipt of information from Shri Sandeep Bedi, Pharmacist. In response of our query as to why the RTI Application dated 27.8.2013 was forwarded to the concerned officer, Shri Bedi, only on 18.9.2013, the CPIO stated that the dealing clerk put it up to him only on 18.9.2013. We are not inclined to accept the explanation given by the CPIO. After carefully considering the facts of this case, we are of the view that Shri S. Subhakar Rao, CPIO and Shri Sandeep Bedi, Pharmacist must explain why they failed to provide the information to the Complainant within the time frame stipulated in the RTI Act. We, therefore, direct Shri S. Subhakar Rao, CPIO and Shri Sandeep Bedi, Pharmacist to show cause why they should not be penalised in terms of the provisions of sub section (1) of Section 20 of the Right to Information Act for their failure to provide information to the Complainant in time. They are directed to appear before us on 7th April, 2014 at 12.00 noon at the NIC Studio, Port Blair, to give their explanation. Their written submissions, if any, should reach the Commission’s office by 31st March, 2014.
Second hearing on 7.4.2014
3. As directed in paragraph 2 above, Shri S. Subhakar Rao, CPIO and Shri Sandeep Bedi, Pharmacist appeared before us today. They had earlier sent their written submissions to us vide their letters dated 24.3.2014 and 21.3.2014 respectively. According to the submissions of Shri Subhakar Rao, the RTI application dated 27.8.2013 was received in his office on 29.8.2013 and was marked by him on 30.8.2013 to Shri Saravana Kumar, LGC who deals with RTI matters. Shri Saravana Kumar submitted the application to him on 18.9.2013 and the CPIO endorsed it the same day to Shri Sandeep Bedi, Pharmacist with the instruction to submit the information within two days. The CPIO reminded him on 4.10.1013 to expedite the information and forward it within two days, failing which the delay in furnishing the information would rest with Shri Bedi. Shri Bedi provided the information on 27.11.2013, but Shri Saravana Kumar put up the file to the CPIO on 9.12.2013 and the CPIO forwarded the information the same day to the RTI applicant. Shri S. Subhakar Rao has stated that the delay in provision of information was on account of non cooperation of the deemed APIOs, S/Shri Sandeep Bedi, Pharmacist and Saravana Kumar, LGC. Shri Sandeep Bedi attributes the delay to the fact the file containing the information was under movement from one office to the other. However, this does not absolve him of the responsibility of locating the file and providing the information within the stipulated time frame. Before we pass our final order, we would like to give a hearing to Shri Saravana Kumar, LGC. Accordingly, Shri S. Subhakar Rao, CPIO is directed to appear before us along with Shri Saravana Kumar, LGC on 8 th May, 2014 at 11.00 a.m. at the NIC Studio, Port Blair. They should appear at the following address: NIC, 1st Floor, ‘A’ Block, General Pool Office Accommodation Complex (GPOA) Complex, Ranchi Basti (Near Diary Farm), Port Blair, Andaman & Nicobar Islands – 744103 The Contact Officer is Mr. Narasimha Rao, Scientist – C & Cont.
Third hearing on 8.5.2014
4. As directed in our order dated 7.4.2014, Shri S. Subhakar Rao, CPIO and Shri Sarvana Kumar, LGC appeared before us today. In response to our query, Shri Subhakar Rao confirmed that Shri Sarvana Kumar is working directly under his control. He submitted that he had marked the RTI application to Shri Sarvana Kumar on 30.8.2013 to give it a distinct number for being forwarded to the concerned officer for provision of information. He further stated that the information provided by Shri Sandeep Bedi, Pharmacist on 27.11.2013 was received through the Central Diary Department by Shri Sarvana Kumar, but was put up to him only on 9.12.2013. Shri Sarvana Kumar stated that he had given the RTI application “unofficially” to Shri Sandeep Bedi for collection of information, before it was sent formally to him. However, there is nothing to substantiate this claim. He also pleaded heavy workload for the delay on his part in processing the application. We do not accept this explanation. He delayed action on an RTI application, where there is a statutory time frame for disposal of the matter.
5. Having considered the records and the submissions made before us, we note that this RTI application was responded to in a period of 103 days (29.8.2013 to 9.12.2013), i.e. 73 days beyond the period of 30 days stipulated in Section 7 (1) of the RTI Act. The RTI application remained in the office of the CPIO for 33 days (29.8.2013 to 17.9.2013 and 27.11.2013 to 9.12.2013). Taking into account the period of five days, stipulated in Section 6 (3) for forwarding an application to another public authority, a period of five days would have been reasonable for forwarding the application to Shri Sandeep Bedi. Another period of five days would have been reasonable to forward the information to the Complainant, after it was received from Shri Bedi on 27.11.2013. Thus, there was delay of 23 (33 – 10) days in the office of the CPIO. The CPIO has put the entire blame on Shri Sarvana Kumar, LGC. However, the responsibility cast upon CPIO in Section 7(1) Subject to the proviso to sub-section (2) of section 5 or the proviso to subsection (3) of section 6, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, on receipt of a request under section 6 shall, as expeditiously as possible, and in any case within thirty days of the receipt of the request, either provide the information on payment of such fee as may be prescribed or reject the request for any of the reasons specified in sections 8 and 9: of the RTI Act would be seriously eroded if CPIOs were to simply mark RTI applications to other officials, particularly officials under their direct charge, and then put the entire blame for delayed action on such other officials. It is incumbent upon every CPIO to put in place an effective monitoring system concerning the RTI applications, received by him. In view of the foregoing, the responsibility for the delay of 23 days in the office of CPIO should be shared equally by Shri S. Subhakar Rao, CPIO and Shri Sarvana Kumar, LGC. Neither of them has given a satisfactory explanation for this delay. Accordingly, in terms of the authority vested in us under Section 20 (1) of the RTI Act, we impose a penalty of Rs. 5,750/ ( 23X250) on Shri S. Subhakar Rao, CPIO, and Shri Sarvana Kumar, LGC, to be shared equally between them, with each one paying Rs. 2,875/. We direct the Andaman and Nicobar Administration to deduct this amount in one instalment from the monthly salary of the above mentioned two officials in June 2014. Further, the RTI application was with Shri Sandeep Bedi, Pharmacist for a period of 70 days (18.9.2013 to 26.11.2013). After allowing for ten days, out of the period of thirty days specified in Section 7 (1), for the office of the CPIO, the delay in the case of Shri Sandeep Bedi was of 50 days (7020). Accordingly, by virtue of the authority vested in us under Section 20 (1) of the RTI Act, we also impose a penalty of Rs. 12,500/ (250X50) on Shri Sandeep Bedi, Pharmacist. We direct the Andaman and Nicobar Administration to deduct this amount from the salary of Shri Sandeep Bedi in two instalments of Rs. 5000/ each and one instalment of Rs. 2500/ w.e.f. June 1, 2014. We further direct that the amount of penalty, deducted as above in the case of the three officials, be remitted to the Deputy Registrar, Central Information Commission, Room No. 305, August Kranti Bhawan, Bhikaji Cama Place, New Delhi 110066 by way of Demand Draft drawn in favour of Pay and Accounts Officer, Central Administrative Tribunal, New Delhi.
6. With the above directions and observations, the complaint is disposed of.
7. Copies of this order be given free of cost to the parties.
Citation: Shri Gandhi Raj v. Directorate of Health Services in File No. CIC/DS/C/2013/000638/