CIC: State has vicarious liability to compensate the citizen for the loss suffered because of wrong of any officer who acts as agent of the State; Public Authority to devise a mechanism to facilitate payment of relief amount without waiting for recovery
Heard today dated 11.3.14. Appellant not present. Public Authority is represented by Shri Raman T.V. Accounts Officer
2. The Appellant filed an RTI application dt.29.7.12 with the PIO, Principal Accounts Office, GNCTD seeking the following information with regard to non payment of relief amount for three months despite approaching SDM Saket 25 times:
i) Kindly intimate me, when my said amount will be credited in my account.
ii) From August 2011, I have not received my relief amount, till date. Kindly intimate me who will pay bank interest for delay period.
iii) I have visited 25 times at SDM office for non payment of relief and I had spent Rs.3000 for conveyance from Dwarka to SDM office. So kindly who will pay the said conveyance.
iv) My three month relief payment for the period of August, October 7 November 2011 had been wrongly sent to another persons account Dilip Kumar, Hauz Khas Mehrauli ECS No.9560 and A/c No.11671. So why sent my three months Rs.15000/ to another persons account be classified.
iv) I have been mentally harassed for more than one year. So I want to know why action had not been taken against the dealing person who had delayed his payment for more than one year.
The PIO replied on 3.9.12 enclosing the following information furnished by Shri Ajay Kumar Kapahi vide his letter dt.31.8.12: It is to inform you that the matter has been discussed with DDO, DC(South) during March 2012 as the payment of relief in respect of Sh. Tej Kishan Koul, ECS No.9360 was wrongly credited into the account of Sh. Dilip Kumar, ECS No.9560 due to manual ECS nd the DDO, DC(South) has already communicated it to the SDM (Hauz Khas) for necessary recovery of wrong payment. Now the matter is pending with DDO, DC (South). On scrutiny of the bills it has been noticed the name of Sh. Tej Kishan Koul was appearing in the ECS list after the S.No. of ECS No.9558 instead of after the S.No. of ECS No.9358. Copies of the ECS list are enclosed herewith for your information and reference please. However, no manual ECS is now carried out by this PAO in respect of relief payments, all ECS payments of relief have been made by this PAO through ECS special cases. In response to the first appeal dt.14.9.12, the Appellate Authority vide his order dt.5.10.12 directed the PAOI of the Department to set right the error committed within a week’s time. On not receiving any reply, the Appellant filed a second appeal dt.30.11.12 before CIC.
3. During the hearing, the Respondent submitted that the error was rectified and the Appellant was paid the due amount in 2013. When queried by the Commission, it was submitted that the amount paid to the wrong person had to be recovered first and then only the aggrieved person can be paid as per their rules. He added that there are less number of staff to deal with heavy work and more than ten thousand cases are being dealt with at 11 DC offices. Still it is a huge burden and in this process the error happened inadvertently.
4. The Commission recommends the Public Authority to devise a mechanism within the Public Authority:
a) to facilitate payment of money which the aggrieved person is entitled to without waiting for recovery from the person to whom money was transferred by mistake or negligence.
b) to compensate the loss of aggrieved person, if any, because of the delay in payment by the Public Authority.
5. From the letters of Appellant and submission of Respondent, the Commission observes that PIO had made a very sincere effort to resolve the problem. But, due to absence of any mechanism to pay him immediately, the Respondent office could not pay to the Appellant which he has every right to receive by due date. Because the mistake is inadvertent and not deliberate, the Commission concludes that there was no violation of Sec.20 of RTI Act. Instead, they made the poor Appellant who is a migrant from J&K to go around the office allegedly twenty five times. The question before the Commission is a poor man who migrated from J&K and supposed to receive Rs. 5,000/ per month to live in Delhi as a matter of right is made to suffer for three months without fault on his side. There was one year delay in the office of DC (South) and another one year in the office of Pr.A.O. The Appellant claims that he has incurred Rs. 3,000/on conveyance.
6. Every right violated has to be compensated according to principles of rule of law. The State has vicarious liability to compensate the citizen for the loss he suffered because of wrong of any officer who acts as agent of the State. If the mistake is not deliberate the concerned agent or public servant may not be liable. But if that mistake results in loss to any citizen, the state is liable to compensate him under general principles of tortuous liability (liable under law of Torts). The responsibility to pay the compensation does not mean that the Govt. or the concerned public servant who is working on behalf of the state is being penalized. It is not a penalty. The penalty means punishment under criminal law whereas the law of civil wrongs (Torts) impose a general obligation on anybody whether it is a state or private body or person to compensate another whose right is violated because of breach of duty on their part. In this case, it was the duty of the State, i.e. Dy. Commissioner’s Office (South) and Principal Accounts Office to be diligent about the regular payment of relief to the Appellant who is a migrant from J&K. Because it is not a deliberate wrong, their mistake will come to their rescue as defence to their individual liability. But when it comes to State, mistake is no more a defence and especially when State is implementing a welfare programme like helping J&K migrants to survive in New Delhi. It is under an obligation to compensate in case of nonpayment of that relief amount for three months for whatever reasons. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in several cases explained the vicarious liability of the state towards the citizens in cases of civil wrongs and hence the State is liable to compensate the Appellant. Section 19(8)(b) In its decision, the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, has the power to require the public authority to compensate the complainant for any loss or other detriment suffered; of the RTI Act also empowers the Commission to require the public authority to compensate the complainant for any loss or other detriment suffered.
7. The Commission makes an approximate assessment of loss by the Appellant and directs the DC (South) to pay Rs. 5,000/and the O/o PAO to pay another Rs. 5,000/to the Appellant as compensation from the account of respective Public Authority and not from the salary of the PIOs. The compensation should reach the Appellant within one month of receipt of this order.
(M. Sridhar Acharyulu)
Citation: T.K.Kaul v. Principal Accounts Office, GNCTD in File No.CIC/AD/A/2012/003864SA