Information about the National Iodine Deficiency Disorders Control Programme - PIO: In all the RTI applications where the appellant was directed to pay the requisite photocopying charges, he has never paid the same - CIC: Appellant himself is non-serious
Information in connection with the National Iodine Deficiency Disorders Control Programme - PIO: In all the RTI applications where the appellant was directed to pay the requisite photocopying charges, he has never paid the same - CIC observed that the appellant is himself non-serious about the RTI applications filed by him; PIO to explain the modes of payment other than the online RTI portal
The appellant has sought the following information in connection with the National Iodine Deficiency Disorders Control Programme (NIDDCP):
1. How much grant has been provided to Salt Organisation in 2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 with break-up under different headings.
2. Number of posts under different headings sanctioned during the above mentioned years.
3. How many Salt Test Laboratories have been working during the above mentioned years (Under Plan and Non-Plan). Also provide places where the laboratories are working.
4. How many posts are vacant under this programme. Provide names of incumbent against each existing post along with vacant/abolished posts for the above mentioned years.
5. And other related information.
Grounds for Second Appeal
The CPIO has not provided the desired information.
Submissions made by Appellant and Respondent during Hearing:
The appellant submitted that he is not satisfied with the reply of the CPIO as the desired information was not provided to him.
The CPIO, Ms Mohita submitted that all the available and relevant information was supplied to the appellant by virtue of the letters dated 27.02.2019 and 15.03.2019. While giving the background of the cases, she stated that the appellant is a voluntarily retired employee of the Salt Department. He is well aware of the fact that the Department is running with meagre staff strength, as direct recruitment in the organization were stopped in 2001 and promotions were also withheld from 2014 to 2019. As a result, all key functional posts are lying vacant and only two Group ‘A’ officers are running the whole organization and they all are overburdened with heavy workload. Despite knowing all these facts, he is misusing the RTI Act by filing multiple RTI applications which only diverts the valuable time and energy of the organization in answering those queries, answers to which, he is already having. He insists and demands, that the CPIO should leave aside all important work, and should remain ever engaged in creating/ interpreting the information for him and answering all his hypothetical questions which are raised by him, without any legitimate goal or purpose and no larger public interest.
From a perusal of the relevant case records and having heard the submissions of both the parties, it is noted that all the points raised in the RTI application were properly replied to by the CPIO vide the letters dated 27.02.2019 and 15.03.2019. The Commission noted that the sought for information was supplied to the appellant on all points except for point no. 1 on which he was requested to pay an amount of Rs 14/- as photocopying charges. During the hearing, the CPIO submitted that in all the RTI applications where the appellant was directed to pay the requisite photocopying charges, he has never paid the same, on the pretext that he is facing some problem while paying the additional photocopying charges through online mode, despite the fact that the First Appellate Authority in his letter dated 21.08.2019 had properly guided the appellant in a step-wise manner as to how the charges are to be paid. This shows that the appellant is misusing the RTI Act and is not serious about obtaining the information sought.
The Commission has also taken note of the fact that this appellant has come for the hearing today for this and 7 other cases against the same respondent and in every second appeal he has raised the issue regarding online payment of the photocopying charges. The Commission agrees with the submissions of the CPIO and observes that the appellant is himself non-serious about the RTI applications filed by him, as can be seen that wherever he is asked to pay the photocopying charges, he has showed his inability to pay the charges through online RTI portal. The appellant should know that it is not mandatory for any applicant to pay the additional charges through online mode only and if he was very much interested in getting the information sought by him through his multiple RTI applications, he could have opted for any other option for making the payment like IPO, DD etc., rather than waiting for more than a year for the Commission to give any relief. Further, the bonafides of the respondent organisation can be established from the fact that in each of the RTI applications, the CPIO has never denied any information. Such multiple RTI applications where the queries are also not specific and serious and which are often not information under Sec. 2(f) “information” means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force; lead to obstruction of the flow of information with respect to other applicants and defeats the very purpose of the RTI Act.
At this point, the Commission would like to place its reliance on the OM No. 1/18/2011-IR of DoP&T dated 16.09.2011 and the judgment pronounced by Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in case of CBSE and Anr. Vs. Aditya Bandopadhyay & Ors. Civil Appeal No. 6454/2011 wherein it was held as under:
“The nation does not want a scenario where 75% of the staff of public authorities spends 75% of their time in collecting and furnishing information to applicants instead of discharging their regular duties. The threat of penalties under the RTI Act and the pressure of the authorities under the RTI Act should not lead to employees of public authorities prioritising 'information furnishing' at the cost of their normal and regular duties."
Also, the Commission finds it relevant to draw attention to the observations made by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in the matter of CBSE Vs Aditya Bandopadhyay, 2011 8 SCC which is reproduced as below,
“Indiscriminate and impractical demands or directions under RTI Act for disclosure of all and sundry information (unrelated to transparency and accountability in the functioning of public authorities and eradication of corruption) would be counter-productive as it will adversely affect the efficiency of the administration and result in the executive getting bogged down with the non-productive work of collecting and furnishing information. The Act should not be allowed to be misused or abused, to become a tool to obstruct the national development and integration, or to destroy the peace, tranquility and harmony among its citizens. Nor should it be converted into a tool of oppression or intimidation of honest officials striving to do their duty. The nation does not want a scenario where 75% of the staff of public authorities spends 75% of their time in collecting and furnishing information to applicants instead of discharging their regular duties. The threat of penalties under the RTI Act and the pressure of the authorities under the RTI Act should not lead to employees of a public authorities prioritising ‘information furnishing’, at the cost of their normal and regular duties.”
However, in the interest of justice, the appellant is given one more opportunity to pay the requisite charges if he still desires the information, so as to enable the CPIO to supply the desired information on point no. 1 to him. The CPIO is also directed to guide the appellant regarding the different modes through which the payment can be made.
In view of the above, the CPIO is directed to explain in writing the modes of payment other than the online RTI portal so that appellant can pay the requisite charges and whatever information is available, can be provided to him. This direction should be complied with by e-mail within a period of 02 days after the issuance of this order under intimation to the Commission.
The appeal is disposed of accordingly.
Vanaja N. Sarna
Citation: Rajesh Nagar v. Salt Commissioner, Directorate General of Health Services and Department for Promotion of Industry & Internal Trade in Decision no.: CIC/SALTC/A/2019/139973/03502, Date of Decision: 18/05/2020