Grievance on Pg portal - PIO: Since the subject matter in the present RTI application was similar to earlier RTI application to which a reply had been provided, it was not responded to - CIC appalled at the conduct of PIO; Penalty of Rs 1000/- imposed
The appellant’s has sought information related to his grievance which was sent to Ministry of Culture on Pg Portal vide online registration No. DARPG/P/2018/02929.
Grounds for Second Appeal
The CPIO did not provide the desired information.
Submissions made by Appellant and Respondent during Hearing:
The appellant submitted that till date no information had been provided to him by the respondent organisation. The CPIO admitted the fact that till date no reply was provided to the appellant, however, she submitted a reply dated 25.10.2019 for perusal of the Commission.
From a perusal of the relevant case records and considering the submissions of the appellant, it is an established fact that till date the appellant has received no response to his RTI application. The reply dated 25.10.2019 is a recent one, hence the appellant has not received the same. It is also not established if a copy of the same was sent to the appellant or not as the original copy bears no dak stamp or any indication that it was sent on the postal address of the appellant. The appellant also denied receipt of any such reply.
On a query by the Commission as to why such a delayed response has been provided in connection with the above mentioned RTI application, the CPIO submitted that since she was not the custodian of the requisite information, she had to seek assistance from the concerned holder of the information i.e. the Akademi. However, despite her several reminders, no assistance was provided to her by the concerned Section and hence she was unable to reply to the RTI application. But as soon as a reply was received, she has prepared a reply. She also submitted copies of her reminders dated 10.06.2019, 05.07.2019, 09.08.2019, 18.09.2019 and 14.10.2019 addressed to the S.O(Admin) for perusal and record of the Commission. There was also nothing on record to even show that some action was taken on the RTI application after its receipt on 27.07.2018. Also, the reminders were issued only in the year 2019 and not before that. All this shows that the whole organisation had not acted upon the RTI application until the receipt of the CIC’s hearing notice.
The Commission is appalled at the conduct of the CPIO, Smt Vinodi Sharma and the deemed PIO, Smt.Kusum Dhingra, Section Officer, Administration for handling the RTI application in such a casual and negligent manner showing utmost disrespect towards the implementation of the RTI Act.
Based on the above observations, the CPIO, Smt Vinodi Sharma is directed to provide complete information to the appellant i.e. the action taken on his grievance dated 02.07.2018. She can obtain the information from the concerned holder under Section 5(4) of the Act and the deemed PIO, Smt Kusum Dhingra is also directed to provide assistance to the CPIO without any further delay. This direction is to be complied with within a period of 20 days from the date of receipt of this order under intimation to the Commission. The CPIO is also directed to send a copy of the recent reply dated 25.10.2019 to the appellant forthwith.
Moreover, the conduct of the CPIO, Smt Vinodi Sharma and that of the deemed PIO, Smt Kusum Dhingra, Sangeet Natak Akademi in not having provided any reply on the RTI Application within the stipulated time-frame of RTI Act amounts to gross violation of the provisions of RTI Act. In view of this, the Commission directs the CPIO, Smt Vinodi Sharma and that of the deemed PIO, Smt Kusum Dhingra, Sangeet Natak Akademi through its First Appellate Authority to appear before the Commission on 03.12.2019 at 01.20 pm to show cause as to why action should not be initiated against them under Section 20 of the RTI Act. Both the CPIO and the deemed PIO are also directed to send the copies of all the supporting documents which they choose to rely upon during the hearing to the Commission. They shall send the copy of the said documents to the Commission at least four days prior to the hearing via link-paper to the Commission’s link http://dsscic.nic.in/online-link-papercompliance/add. If any other persons are responsible for the said omission, the CPIO shall serve a copy of this order on such persons to direct their presence before the bench as well.
A copy of this order is marked to the First Appellate Authority, Sangeet Natak Akademi to ensure compliance of the above directions by the concerned CPIO. The case is accordingly adjourned.
Date of Hearing: 03/12/2019
The following were present:
Respondent: Vinodi Sharma, Deputy Secretary & CPIO alongwith Kusum Dhingra, deemed PIO, both present in person.
Submissions made by Respondent during Hearing:
The respondents submitted that the above mentioned RTI application was transferred to them by the Ministry of Culture on 27.07.2018 and thereafter, a reply was provided to the appellant on 26.10.2018 which was in connection with another RTI application dated 13.07.2018 and hence giving any reply to the present RTI application was not required. After receipt of the CIC’s hearing notice, a reply was sent to the appellant on 25.10.2019 and after hearing the matter on 28.10.2019, a fresh reply was also sent to the appellant on 11.11.2019. The applicant has received the copy of the letter and he had stated that he is satisfied with the reply as per his remarks put on the office copy of the letter.
They also submitted that the appellant is in the habit of filing repeated RTI application on the same subject matter and the Commission also took note of this fact in its File Nos CIC/MCULT/A/2018/117883, CIC/SANAK/A/2018/117881, CIC/SANAK/A/2018/127290, CIC/SANAK/A/2018/101668 and CIC/SANAK/A/2018/143174 dated 19.11.2018.
Having heard the submissions of both the PIOs, the Commission agrees with their submission that the appellant is in the habit of filing multiple RTI applications covering more or less the similar subject matter. In this regard, the Commission has already advised the appellant to refrain from filing repeated RTI applications in future.
As far as the present matter is concerned, the show-cause notices were issued against Smt Vinodi Sharma and Smt. Kusum Dhingra to explain as to why no reply was provided to the appellant with regard to this RTI application. During the hearing and in their written submissions also, both the PIOs had admitted that since the subject matter in the present RTI application dated 27.07.2018 and another RTI application dated 13.07.2018 were similar, a reply was provided with regard to the RTI application dated 13.07.2018 and hence they had taken the stand that a reply in connection with this RTI was not required.
The Commission is appalled at the conduct of the CPIO and the deemed PIO for handling the RTI application in such a negligent manner as it is an admitted fact that no reply, whatsoever, was provided to this RTI application until CIC’s hearing notice was received by them. The Commission understands that repeated information ought not to be provided to the appellant time and again, however, under the provisions of the RTI Act, a categorical reply to each and every RTI application is the mandatory requirement and this means even if a similar RTI application was replied to before and information was provided, this fact is to be brought to the knowledge of the appellant while replying to his subsequent RTI. However, this was not done either by the CPIO or by the deemed PIO and they both kept the RTI application with them without taking any action. The CPIO and the deemed PIO, both had an administrative responsibility under the RTI Act to provide the correct and complete information in a timely manner. But they failed to discharge their legal obligation placed upon them under the RTI Act. The CPIO Smt. Vinodi Sharma had merely acted as a post office without application of mind and if an officer who holds the position of a CPIO is not sensitive to the continuous failure of her assisting officers, it would be considered completely inexcusable and would tantamount to dereliction of her duties. On the other hand, the deemed PIO did not take any action on this RTI application after the CPIO sought assistance from her. The position not only paints a dismal picture of the public authority in regard to the management of RTI applications but also exhibits lack of complete awareness regarding the provisions of the RTI Act. However, the Commission is taking a lenient view in the matter taking into account the fact that the appellant had filed multiple RTI applications with the respondent authority and also several replies were provided to him. However, the Commission cannot absolve the officers responsible for not providing any reply to the appellant and therefore, imposes a token penalty on both of them.
In view of the above observations, the Commission imposes a token penalty of Rs 1000/- each u/s 20(1) Where the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be, at the time of deciding any complaint or appeal is of the opinion that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, has, without any reasonable cause, refused to receive an application for information or has not furnished information within the time specified under sub-section (1) of section 7 or malafidely denied the request for information or knowingly given incorrect, incomplete or misleading information or destroyed information which was the subject of the request or obstructed in any manner in furnishing the information, it shall impose a penalty of two hundred and fifty rupees each day till application is received or information is furnished, so however, the total amount of such penalty shall not exceed twenty-five thousand rupees: Provided that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall be given a reasonable opportunity of being heard before any penalty is imposed on him: Provided further that the burden of proving that he acted reasonably and diligently shall be on the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be. of the RTI Act on the CPIO, Smt. Vinodi Sharma and Smt. Kusum Dhingra, the deemed PIO. The First Appellate Auhtority, Sangeet Natak Akademi is directed to recover the amount of Rs 1,000/- from the salaries payable to Smt. Vinodi Sharma and Smt Kusum Dhingra and remit the same by way of demand draft drawn in favour of ‘PAO CAT’ New Delhi. The penalty should reach the Commission by the 2nd week of January, 2020. The Demand Draft is to be sent to the Deputy Registrar (CR-II), e-mail;dyregcr2- firstname.lastname@example.org Room no. 106, First Floor, Central Information Commission, Baba Gangnath Marg, Munirka, New Delhi-110067.
The registry of this bench is directed to send a copy of this order to the First Appellate Authority, Sangeet Natak Akademi for compliance of this order who is directed to take action as per the above direction and submit an action taken report within 15 days from the receipt of this order.
A copy of this order is to be sent to the Chairman, Sangeet Natak Akademi, for information and appropriate action.
The show-cause proceeding is accordingly disposed of.
Vanaja N. Sarna
Citation: Chandranshu Mehta v. Sangeet Natak Akademi (Ministry of Culture) in Decision no.: CIC/SANAK/A/2018/164502/01975/Final, Date of Decision: 28/10/2019, 03/12/2019