The complainant sought information pertaining to PIOs reply for RTI like the name and designation of the PIO etc - CIC issued a strict warning to Shri Rajeev Ranjan, the then CPIO for having poor understanding of the RTI Act and cautioned him
O R D E R
1. The complainant filed an application under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) before the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), M/o. Finance, Department of Economic Affairs, North Block, New Delhi. The complainant seeking information pertaining to PIOs reply for RTI Reg No DOEAF/R/E/20/00039 Dtd 27.02.2020 is as under:-
1. “Name and designation of the PIO with whom the information sought is available in Department of Economic Affairs.
2. Grounds available in records based upon which neither the FAA directed the PIO nor the erring PIO invoked section 6(3) Or 5(4) +5(5) earlier for subject mentioned RTI while replying instead of harassing the RTI applicant.
3. Name and designation of both the erring PIO and erring FAA along with dates on which training of RTI act has been provided to them. 4. Name and designation of the controlling authority of officials mentioned at Sno 3 to whom administrative complaint of harassing RTI applicant can be filed.”
2. The CPIO vide letter dated 28-02-2020 had denied the information sought in the RTI application by stating that “the information sought is not available with this CPIO.”Being aggrieved with the response given by the respondent, the complainant filed a complaint u/Section 18 of the RTI Act before the Commission requesting to take appropriate legal action against the CPIO u/Section 20 of the RTI Act.
3. The complainant attended the hearing through audio-call. The respondent, Ms Jessie Jacob, present CPIO/ Ass. Commissioner along with Shri Rajeev Ranjan, then CPIO attended the hearing through audio-call.
4. The respondent submitted their written submissions dated 27.10.2021 and the same has been taken on record.
5. The complainant submitted that complete and correct information has not been provided to him by the respondent on his instant RTI application. That the respondent in response to his RTI application has given cyclostyle response and not applied his mind in giving reply/information. That the then CPIO has also not sought assistance under Section 5(4)/ Section 5 (5) of the RTI Act in order to obtain information from the concerned department/section of the public authority. Regarding conduct of FAA, he further stated that the FAA neither disposed of his appeal nor directed the CPIO to provide relevant information; hence the respondent with malafide intention obstructed the relevant information under the RTI Act.
6. Shri Rajeev Ranjan submitted that since in the original case bearing file no. CIC/DOEAF/C/2020/665367, it has been informed to the complainant that the information sought was not available with their office. Therefore, in the present matter also the same reply has been provided to the complainant.
7. The Commission, after hearing the submissions of both the parties and after perusal of records, observes that the complainant has sought information pertaining to PIOs reply for RTI Reg NoDOEAF/R/E/20/00039 dated 27.02.2020 including Name and designation of the PIO and other related queries. That the complainant contended that the respondent could have taken the assistance of the concerned department/ division under section 5(4)/ Section 5 (5) of the RTI Act instead of providing reply without application of mind. Therefore, the respondent with malafide intention has obstructed the information under the RTI Act. The respondent contended that since the reply stating that the information sought is not available with their office has already been provided in the original case vide an online disposal dated 27.02.2020, accordingly the same reply has also been provided in the instant matter as well the very next day. The Commission is of the opinion that the reply provided by the respondent indicates that he has poor understanding of the RTI Act but acted accordingly without delay. Nonetheless, if the complainant is aggrieved with the reply provided by the respondent then he could have approached the Commission by filing an appeal.
8. Further, while examining the complaint under Section 18 of the RTI Act, the CIC has no jurisdiction to direct disclosure of any information. This legal position has been authoritatively settled by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Chief Information Commissioner and Another v. State of Manipur and Anr.in Civil Appeal Nos. 10787-10788 of 2011 dated 12-12-2011. The relevant extract of the said decision is set down below:-
“30. It has been contended before us by the respondent that under Section 18 of the Act the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission has no power to provide access to the information which has been requested for by any person but which has been denied to him. The only order which can be passed by the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be, under Section 18 is an order of penalty provided under Section 20. However, before such order is passed the Commissioner must be satisfied that the conduct of the Information Officer was not bona fide.
31. We uphold the said contention and do not find any error in the impugned judgment of the High court whereby it has been held that the Commissioner while entertaining a complaint under Section 18 of the said Act has no jurisdiction to pass an order providing for access to the information.”
9. In the light of the above observations, the Commission is hereby issued a strict warning to Shri Rajeev Ranjan, the then CPIO for having poor understanding of the provisions of the RTI Act and cautions him to be more meticulous in future while dealing with the matters related to the RTI Act.
10. With the above observations, the complaint is disposed of.
11. Copy of the decision be provided free of cost to the parties.
Neeraj Kumar Gupta
Citation: Mr. Varun Krishna v. M/o. Finance, Department of Economic Affairs in Complaint No. CIC/DOEAF/C/2020/665374, Date of order: 01-11-2021