Delay in reply - CIC: In view of the unfortunate demise of the then PIO, no action can be taken on the present complaint for the delay and the falsity in the reply has not been proved - CIC: Delay justified due to COVID and the volume of information asked
The Complainant has sought the following information:
1.1 Provide the number and aggregate value of frauds inflicted on NINL from FY 2011 to FY 2020, as under:
- Year, Number, Aggregate Fraud Value. 1.2. Provide Year, Name of Person/Entity involved, Nature of Fraud (Accounting, Purchase, Tenders, Contracts, Projects, etc.)
2. Contingent Liability
2.1 Provide the following details of contingent liabilities (in excess of Rs 10 crore per entity) in respect of non-Govt. parties as at 31st March, 2019: - Name of Entity, Amount of Contingent liability and Nature of Contingent liability.
3.1 Whether CAG has done a performance audit of NINL in the last 7 years? If yes, provide the year of audit and the year to which it related.
3.2 Whether CAG has done a performance / efficiency audit of the Capital Work in Progress of NINL in the last years? If yes, provide the year of audit and the year to which it related.
4. And other related information.
Grounds for filing Complaint
The CPIO did not provide the desired information.
Submissions made by Complainant and Respondent during Hearing:
The complainant alleged that even if the plant was closed, the administrative offices were functioning and the reply being not given is evident of the violation of the RTI Act.
The PIO submitted that NINL is a state public authority and the State Government has jurisdiction. He further submitted that Government of India with consent from Government of Orissa having decided for disinvestment of NINL to be carried out by DIPAM (Department of Disinvestment and Public Asset Management) Govt. Of India, the said disinvestment process is presently in the concluding stages. After the disinvestment decision taken by the Government of India, MMTC had stopped infusing working capital resulting in a blow down of Blast Furnace, w.e.f 26th July 2019.
In addition to the above, due to non-release of salary and other factors such as lack of power, water, etc, the office at the Plant site was functioning in a restricted manner since 2019. Subsequently, due to outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, there were more restrictions and ever since, the offices have not been functional to the full strength. While most of the staff had opted to work from home, as per roster duty, minimum staff is running the office physically even as on date.
He further submitted that the RTI application was dealt with by the then PIO, who unfortunately expired due to COVID on 10.05.2021. He also submitted that due to the disinvestment process several old records and registers have been dislocated. He summed up stating that despite efforts the RTI file could not be located and he requested for at least 8 weeks’ time to trace the records.
The Commission observed at the outset that Neelachal Ispat Nigam Limited (NINL), is a company promoted by MMTC Ltd, Industrial Promotion and Investment Corporation of Orissa limited. Therefore, the same was treated as an organisation under the Centre. Be that as it may, the complainant has made a reference to some other reply from NTPC. Be that as it may, it was noted that correspondence was made by MMTC with Late S.K Mallik of NINL to provide a reply on 29.08.2020 and the same was informed by the FAA, MMTC on 19.11.2020.
The complainant had filed the RTI application on 29.08.2020. Furthermore, on receipt of no reply from the CPIO he filed this complaint u/s 18 of the RTI Act on 30.10.2020. Therefore, the CPIO was asked to explain why a reply under the RTI Act was not given within 30 days from the date of receipt of the RTI application. He reiterated that due to COVID the reply was delayed and provided a detailed explanation regarding inability to trace the RTI file. Be that as it may, on the basis of the records available in the complaint file, it was noted that on 24.12.2020 the concerned PIO had provided a detailed point-wise reply on 134 points of the RTI application consisting of 14 pages. In the reply itself it was mentioned that due to unavoidable circumstances arising out of COVID 19 pandemic the reply was delayed.
In view of the unfortunate demise of the then PIO, NINL on 10.05.2021, no action can be taken on the present complaint for the delay and the falsity in the reply has not been proved. Moreover, the delay also has been justified due to COVID and the volume of information asked.
The appeal is disposed of accordingly.
Vanaja N. Sarna
Citation: Samir Sardana v. Neelachal Ispat Nigam Limited (NINL) and NTPC Ltd, in File no.: CIC/MINES/C/2020/690976/MOSTL, Date of Decision: 16/06/2022