CIC: There has been a delay in providing the information in several matters; The conduct of the public authority indicates the lack of prioritisation of RTI matters - CIC: Jt Secretary, Bar Council of India to take note and immediate corrective measures
Information sought and background of the case:
The Appellant filed an RTI application dated 05.02.2019 seeking information on the following 03 points:
Having not received any information from the CPIO, the Appellant filed a First Appeal dated 30.03.2019 and the same remained unheard.
Feeling aggrieved over non receipt of the information, the Appellant approached the Commission with the instant Second Appeal.
Facts emerging in Course of Hearing:
In order to ensure social distancing and prevent the spread of the pandemic, COVID-19, hearing through audio conference was scheduled after giving prior notice to both the parties.
The Appellant participated in the hearing through audio conference. He stated that no reply to the RTI application/ First Appeal was provided within the stipulated time period.
The Respondent represented by Shri Ashok Kumar Pandey, Jt Secretary, Bar Council of India participated in the hearing through audio conference. He stated that although the RTI application/ First Appeal were responded to late, the information available on record was provided vide letter dated 27.12.2019. The First Appeal was decided vide order dated 27.01.2020. In the point wise response provided by the CPIO it was mentioned that there has been an involuntary delay in replying to the Appellant since the matter of law colleges was considered and continuous meetings were held to take a decision since the academic year and counselling for admissions in law colleges had started. The CPIO as the head of the department and other staff members of the department of legal education were extremely tied up handling the matter of law colleges as the future of students was at stake. Further there was a change/ exchange of staff between the departments of the council which is a normal procedure that takes place every two years due to which there was some delay in replying to the RTI queries.
Keeping in view the facts of the case and the submissions made by both the parties, the Commission is of the view that adequate point wise information as per the RTI Act, 2005 has been provided by the Respondent. However, there has been a protracted delay in replying to the application which is against the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005. The Commission therefore cautions the then CPIO Shri Deepak Kumar to ensure that RTI applications are replied within the stipulated time period failing which penal action u/s 20 of the RTI Act, 2005 may be initiated. The Commission also observes that invariably several matters reach this forum at the Second Appeal/ Complaint stage where the information seeker claims that no reply has been provided or there has been a delay in providing the information and the public authority makes some excuse or the other justifying the delay. While there may be a reasonable cause for delay in some cases, the conduct of the public authority indicates the lack of prioritisation of RTI matters. The Commission therefore directs Shri Ashok Kumar Pandey, Jy Secretary, Bar Council of India to take note of the above mentioned observations and take immediate corrective measures to evolve a robust RTI mechanism within the public authority, so that responses are sent in a timely manner.
With the above observation, the instant Second Appeal stands disposed off accordingly.
Y. K. Sinha
Chief Information Commissioner
Citation: Shri Pranoy Ghosh v. Bar Council of India in Second Appeal No. CIC/BCOIN/A/2019/649292, Date of Decision: 18.08.2021