Copy of Note sheet containing approval of competent authority for initiation of disciplinary proceedings and charge sheet was denied u/s 8(1)(h) - CIC: Give reasons for invoking Section 8(1)(h); PIO may invoke Section 10 for redacting personal information
The Appellant filed an RTI application dated 29.09.2022 seeking the following information:
“This is in reference to the Board's Memorandum (Charge Sheet) issued u/r 14 of the CCS(CCA), Rules, 1965 being Charge Memo F.No. C-29016/28/2020-Ad. VI(A) dated 31 January 2022- Qua hearing on 20-09-2022 issued to the Applicant. In this connection, it is requested to supply the following information.
(a) Name and the designation of the authority approving the initiation of the disciplinary proceedings and the date on which it was approved.
(b) Date on which the draft Charge Sheet (Memorandum) was put up for the approval of the authority mentioned in (a) above and the date on which the approving authority gave its approval.
(c) Copy of Noting/ Note sheet as recorded by different authorities/officers at different stages containing approval of competent authority for initiation of disciplinary proceedings and subsequently approval for charge sheet.”
The CPIO furnished a pointwise reply to the appellant on 04.11.2022 stating as under:
“(a) Information provided by this CPIO Disciplinary Authority i.e. President of India vide dated 20.01.2022
(b) Dt. 11.01.2022 draft Charge Memo was put up and the President has approved it on 20.01.2022.
(c) As per Section 8(1) (h) of the RTI Act, 2005, information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders; is exempted from disclosure.”
Being dissatisfied, the appellant filed a First Appeal dated 30.11.2022. FAA’s order, dated 16.12.2022, reply of the CPIO is in order hence upheld. Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied, the appellant approached the Commission with the instant Second Appeal.
Relevant Facts emerging during Hearing:
The following were present:-
Appellant: Ramesh Chander representative of Appellant present in person.
Respondent: Nitin Mane, Under Secretary & CPIO present in person.
The written submissions of the Respondent are taken on record. The Rep. of Appellant, during the hearing, reiterated the contents of the RTI application of the Appellant and submitted that complete and correct information was not provided to the Appellant on point nos. 1 and 3 of the RTI application. The Appellant further referred to a decision given in Neera Malhotra’s case in support of his arguments.
The Respondent submitted that vide their letter dated 04.11.2022, point-wise reply/information, as per the documents available on record was provided to the Appellant.
The Commission observes from a perusal of records that the main premise of instant Appeal was denial of information by the CPIO on point nos. 1 and 3 of the RTI application.
The Commission observes that the Respondent has not given categorical reply on point no. 1 of the RTI application. Further, w.r.t point no. 3 of the RTI application, the CPIO has failed to give reasons for invoking Section 8(1)(h) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders; of the RTI Act in denying the information.
Nonetheless, in furtherance of hearing proceedings, the CPIO is directed to revisit point nos. 1 and 3 of the RTI Application and provide a revised reply as per RTI Act. The said reply/information should be provided by the CPIO free of cost to the Appellant after redacting the names and identifying particulars of the other third party officers and cannot be divulged in view the exemption clause of Section 8(1)(j) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information: Provided that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person. and 8(1)(g) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes; of the RTI Act. In doing so, the CPIO is at liberty to invoke Section 10 of the RTI Act for redacting the information related to the personal information of third parties, as the said provision states as under:
“…10. Severability.— (1) Where a request for access to information is rejected on the ground that it is in relation to information which is exempt from disclosure, then, notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, access may be provided to that part of the record which does not contain any information which is exempt from disclosure under this Act and which can reasonably be severed from any part that contains exempt information….”
The aforesaid direction should be complied by the CPIO within 15 days from the date of receipt of this order under due intimation to the Commission.
The Appellant is further advised to approach appropriate forum in order to redress his grievance.
No further intervention of the Commission is required in the matter.
The appeal is disposed of accordingly.
Citation: K. K. JAISWAL v. CBDT, Department of Revenue, CIC/CBDTD/A/2023/106985; Date of Decision: 13/10/2023