Information regarding two IMPS transactions from SBI was provided 16 months later claiming that the RTI application was inadvertently skipped on the portal - Appellant alleged financial loss - CIC: Penalty of Rs. 5,000/- each on the then PIO & present PIO
O R D E R
1. The issues under consideration arising out of the second appeal dated 11.04.2019 include non-receipt of the following information raised by the appellant through his RTI application dated 14.01.2019 and first appeal dated 26.02.2019:-
(i) Copy of reply sent to him for his all 3 letters dated 29.08.2018, 19.08.2018 sent to sender i.e. himself – Om Prakash Vijaivergia.
(ii) Copy of written communication to the customer regarding marking of hold for Rs. 17,000 if hold has been marked and if not market, copy of communication to the customer on his request for marking hold.
(iii) Point wise action taken by the Bank Branch on para 2 and 4 a, b, c and d of his letter dated 29.08.2018 with supporting documents.
(iv) Action taken on letter dated 17.09.2018 forwarded by SBI, Madame Cama Road, Mumbai.
(v) Action taken on his letter dated 31.12.2018. (vi) Action taken on his email dated 17.11.2018 sent by SBI, MC Road, Mumbai.
2. Succinctly facts of the case are that the appellant filed an application dated 14.01.2019 under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) before the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), Bank of India, Malad (West), Mumbai, seeking aforesaid information. The CPIO did not reply to the appellant. Dissatisfied with that, the appellant filed first appeal dated 26.02.2019. The First Appellate Authority did not pass any order. Aggrieved by that, the appellant filed a second appeal dated 11.04.2019 before this Commission which is under consideration.
3. The appellant has filed the instant appeal dated 11.04.2019 inter alia on the grounds that no reply was given by the CPIO as well as by the FAA. The appellant requested the Commission to direct the CPIO to provide the complete information and take necessary action as per Section 20 (1) of the RTI Act. 4. As per records presented by the appellant, the CPIO as well as the FAA did not give any reply.
Hearing on 03.08.2021:
4.1. The appellant and on behalf of the respondent Shri Yashwant Ingole, Chief Manager (Law), Band of India, Bandra attended the hearing through video conference.
4.2. The Commission passed the following directions on 16.08.2021:
“6. The Commission after adverting to the facts and circumstances of the case, hearing both the parties and perusal of records, observed that there had been a delay of almost one year in replying to the RTI which was clear violation of the mandate of provisions of RTI Act. The appellant had suffered loss of an amount of Rs. 17,000/- wrongly sent through internet banking to a mischievous account holder which could not be recovered and the appellant was defrauded. It may be noted that had there been immediate action on the RTI application, preventive action could have been taken. However, the requisite information had not been provided so far. In view of the observations made above, Shri Sanjiv Pathak, the then CPIO, & Shri Ganesh Ramchandran, Present CPIO, are show caused as to why action under section 20 (1) of RTI Act may not be initiated and why appropriate penalty may not be imposed upon each of them. Shri Ganesh Ramchandran is given the responsibility to serve a copy of this order/notice upon the then CPIO and secure his written explanations as well as his attendance on the next date of hearing. All written submissions must be uploaded on the Commission’s Web-Portal within 21 days of the receipt of this order.”
Hearing on 27.10.2021
5. The appellant and on behalf of the respondent Shri Yashwant Ingole, Chief Manager (Law), Bank of India, Bandra attended the hearing through video conference.
5.1. The appellant inter alia submitted that he had sought information regarding two IMPS transactions of Rs. 8,500/- from State Bank of India Branch to Marve Road Branch of Bank of India on 27.08.2018. Therefore, he required the details of the account of the fraudster opened in their Branch through KYC compliance so that he could initiate legal action against the culprit.
5.2. The respondent while defending their case inter alia submitted that the matter came into their notice after the appellant filed the second appeal. Therefore, they replied to the appellant on 14.02.2020. The respondent further stated that the Branch had received request for freezing of account. Accordingly, the account had been freezed and the account holder Ms. Sunita was contacted. The respondent submitted that the account holder had withdrawn the amount on the same date as transaction i.e. 27.08.2018. The respondent further clarified that as a matter of general practice once the amount had been transferred, the branch did not have the right to reverse the amount without taking the consent from the concerned account holder. In response to the show cause notice, the respondent Shri Ganesh Ramachandran, CPIO, had submitted written explanation dated 08.09.2021. The CPIO explained that the RTI application was inadvertently skipped on the portal and therefore the same could not be replied timely. Further, the delay was not intentional. On the contrary, the Branch acting on the information received from the appellant immediately contacted the customer and all assistance was extended to him including freezing of the account. The respondent (Shri Sanjeev Pathak) had also submitted his written explanations dated 07.09.2021 in response to the show cause notice. It was submitted that the appellant had informed them about the crediting of the amount of Rs. 17,000/- into another customer’s account. However, the amount was credited on 25.08.2018 and the same was withdrawn on the same day itself. However, the appellant informed them on 27.08.2018. The respondent clarified that they had acted in good faith and made all efforts to freeze the account of the other customer. Further it was found that there was no balance in the mischievous customer’s account and recovery could take some time. Therefore, there was no mala fide on their part and the delay caused on their part was not intentional.
6. The Commission after adverting to the facts and circumstances of the case, hearing both the parties and perusal of records, observed that the respondent submitted their written explanations in response to the show cause notice vide letters dated 07.09.2021 and 08.09.2021. The respondent (both the CPIOs) did not appear during the hearing. The CPIOs cited reasons for online and technical issues for non-receipt of the RTI application. The delay caused in the matter affected the appellant financially since he could not initiate any legal action against the mischievous account holder who withdrew the amount of Rs. 17,000/-. The respondent replied to the appellant on 11.06.2020 i.e. after expiry of almost 16 months from the date of filing of the RTI application. The reasons cited for the delay caused did not appear to be satisfactory. Therefore, in view of the negligence on the part of the CPIOs and in their absence during the hearing without seeking leave which reflect their disregard towards the Commission, this seems to be fit case for imposition of penalty.
6.1. The Commission notes that the negligence of duty as designated CPIOs appears to be deliberate and mala fide is established on part of both Shri Sanjeev Pathak, the then CPIO and Shri Ganesh Ramachandran, the present CPIO, hence, both are found liable as per section 20 (1) of RTI Act. In view of this, a penalty of Rs. 5,000/- (Rupees Five Thousand only) may be imposed on both of the above mentioned officers and Rs. 5,000/- shall be deducted from each of their pension/salaries i.e. Shri Sanjeev Pathak, the then CPIO and Shri Ganesh Ramachandran, the present CPIO, by the Public Authority and paid by way of demand draft drawn in favour of "PAO, CAT", New Delhi, forward the demand drafts addressed to the Deputy Registrar (CR-II), email: firstname.lastname@example.org Room No. 106, First Floor, Central Information Commission, Baba Gangnath Marg, Munirka, New Delhi 110067. The instalment of penalty amount should reach to the Commission by 30.12.2021. With these directions, the appeal is disposed of.
Copy of the decision be provided free of cost to the parties.
Citation: Om Prakash Vijayvargiya v. Bank of India in Second Appeal No. CIC/BKOIN/A/2019/638180, Dae of Order: 15.11.2021