CIC: RTI Act does not provide any additional time to the PIO in cases where an application may contain more than one queries or an applicant may have filed more than one applications; show cause notice issued to PIO to explain the delay
Minutes of the Annual General Meeting of the Badminton Association of India were sought - there was delay in providing the information & there were some shortcomings in the information provided - PIO: RTI application contained multiple questions, Complainant had filed more than one RTI applications, putting pressure on the PIO, RTI application was filed in capacity as Honorary Secretary of the Delhi Badminton Association whereas only individual citizens could seek information under the RTI Act - CIC: the individual’s name was clearly identified on the RTI application & he has also followed up the matter at the subsequent stages of appeal, it cannot become the ground for rejection of or delayed action on his RTI application - CIC: RTI Act does not provide any additional time to the PIO in cases where an RTI application may contain more than one queries or an applicant may have filed more than one applications, show cause notice issued to PIO to explain the delay - Complainant: there were some shortcomings in the information provided - CIC: while considering a complaint made under Section 18 of the Act, the Commission cannot direct the concerned PIO to provide the information which the complainant had sought from him. Such a power can only be exercised when a Second Appeal in terms of Section 19(3)
1. This matter pertains to an RTI application dated 21.6.2013, which was filed by the Complainant to the CPIO of the Badminton Association of India (BAI), seeking information on 12 points arising out of minutes of the Annual General Meeting of the Badminton Association of India, held in Delhi on 27.4.2013. Not having received a reply from the CPIO, the Complainant wrote to the First Appellate Authority (FAA) on 10.8.2013. Not having received a reply from the FAA, the Complainant filed a complaint under Section 18 of the RTI Act, 2005 to the CIC on 14.10.2013.
2. We earlier heard this matter on 30.1.2014. During this hearing, the Respondents submitted that they had sent a reply to the Complainant on 6.9.2013. However, they had received the communication back with the remark by the postal authorities that despite repeated visits, the house of the addressee was found locked. Based on the hearing, held on 30.1.2014, we had passed an interim order on the same date, adjourning the case to be heard again on March 3, 2014.
3. The matter was heard again today. The Respondents submitted that they had forwarded their response dated 6.9.2013 again to the Complainant. The Complainant acknowledged having received the same. It was submitted that there were some shortcomings in the information provided by the Respondents vide their letter dated 6.9.2013. However, since we are considering a complaint under Section 18 of the RTI Act, alleging non provision of information within the timeframe stipulated in the RTI Act, we would not go into the issue of content of the information provided. In this context, we recall the following observation by the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in J K Mittal vs. Central Information Commission and Anr. [W.P.(C) No. 6755/2012]:“.... there can be no dispute that while considering a complaint made under Section 18 of the Act, the Commission cannot direct the concerned CPIO to provide the information which the complainant had sought from him. Such a power can only be exercised when a Second Appeal in terms of Subsection (3) of Section 19 is preferred before the Commissioner.”
4. During the hearing today, the Respondents acknowledged that no reply was sent by them to the Complainant between the date of the RTI application (21.6.2013) and their response dated 6.9.2013. It is thus seen that the first and the only response was sent by the Respondents in a timeframe much longer than the limit of 30 days laid down in Section 7 (1) of the RTI Act. In response to our query regarding the reason(s) for this delay, the Respondents cited a few reasons that are examined below.
5. The first reason cited by the Respondents for the delay was that the RTI application dated 21.6.2013 contained “multiple questions”. The Respondents also stated that the Complainant had filed more than one RTI applications, putting pressure on the time of the CPIO. However, it is noted that the RTI Act does not provide any additional time to the CPIO in cases where an RTI application may contain more than one queries or an applicant may have filed more than one applications. The Respondents also submitted that some references had to be made to third parties as the information sought pertained to such parties. They referred in particular to query No. 9 of the RTI application dated 21.6.2013, seeking a list of District Badminton Associations of each affiliated unit of BAI available in the BAI office. In this context, we note that in their reply dated 6.9.2013 (a copy of which was given to us by the Respondents for our records), the Respondents had stated that the information sought by the Complainant was “information furnished to BAI by its affiliated units in fiduciary relationship and the disclosure of which may effect (sic) the competitive position of third party...” The Respondents had denied this information on the above ground. The Respondents further submitted that the RTI application dated 21.6.2013 might have reached them late. They stated that they were not in a position to make a definitive submission in this regard today as Shri R. A. Sharma, CPIO was not present in today’s hearing, but might come back to this issue in any future proceedings.
6. The Respondents also brought up the issue of the RTI application having been made by Shri S. P. Singh in his capacity as Honorary Secretary of the Delhi Badminton Association. They further submitted that only individual citizens of India could seek information under the RTI Act. In this context, we note that the RTI application dated 21.6.2013, the appeal dated 10.8.2013 to the FAA and the complaint dated 14.10.2013 to the CIC, were all made on the letterhead of the Delhi Badminton Association. All these communications were signed by Shri S. P. Singh, with his name clearly mentioned under his signatures, followed by “Hony Secretary Delhi Badminton Association.” This is the first time that the Respondents have brought up this particular issue.
7. The issue of submission of an RTI application on behalf of an Association was examined at some length in the Commission’s order No. CIC/AD/A/2009/001462 dated 18.11.2009. The Respondents in that case had contended that the Appellant had sought information on behalf of an Association. In the above mentioned order dated 18.11.2009, a number of decisions of the Commission were cited to arrive at a decision on the above contention of the Respondents. Having examined the previous decisions of the Commission, it was stated in the order dated 18.11.2009: “Detailed study of the aforementioned cases thus reveals that the opinion is divided on whether an association of persons is to be considered as “citizen” as understood and defined under the RTI Act 2005 or not. However the one constant position in all the cases where information has been denied on the ground that the information has not been sought by a citizen as defined under the RTI Act 2005, is that the signatories have been different individuals at different levels of the same case. Also in some cases, the name of the signatory has not even been clearly specified. In such cases the inference is obvious that the signatory is a mere representative of the Firm/Association and not seeking information in his/her individual capacity. The position is completely the opposite in the instant case, where the Appellant is the same individual who has duly signed the RTI application as also the Appeals and pursued the case in his individual capacity at all levels.” Based on the above observation, the Commission had directed the Respondents to disclose the information.
8. It is noted that in the instant case, the same individual, Shri S. P. Singh, who filed the RTI application, with his name clearly identified on it, has also followed up the matter at the subsequent stages of appeal to the FAA, complaint to the Commission and the hearings on this complaint. Accordingly, the contention of the Respondents that he filed the application in his capacity as Hony. Secretary of the Delhi Badminton Association, cannot become the ground for rejection of or delayed action on his RTI application.
9. In the light of the foregoing, we are not inclined to accept the explanation given by the Respondents for the delay in responding to the RTI application dated 21.6.2013. Shri R. A. Sharma, CPIO must explain the delay in providing the information to the Complainant. Accordingly, we direct Shri R. A. Sharma, CPIO to show cause why he should not be penalised in terms of the provisions of sub Section 1 of Section 20 of the Right to Information Act for the delay in providing information in response to the RTI application dated 21.6.2013. By virtue of the powers vested in us in terms of Section 18 (3) of the Right to Information Act, 2005, we direct Shri R. A. Sharma, CPIO to appear before us on 7 th April, 2014 at 3.15 p.m . and give his explanation. Shri R. A. Sharma, CPIO is further directed to bring along the file on which the RTI application dated 21.6.2013 was processed, along with the documents, if any, regarding references made to third party(ies). His written submissions, if any, should reach the Commission’s office by 31.3.2014.
Citation: Shri S P Singh v. Badminton Association of India in File No. CIC/SS/C/2013/000531/SH