OM regarding equal salary to employees - CIC: The extent of pro-activeness and wisdom displayed by PIO at the hearing stage could have been exercised at the stage of replying to the RTI Application; Subject matter was adequate to ascertain availability
OM regarding equal salary to contractual employees - CIC: The extent of pro-activeness and wisdom displayed by the PIO at the hearing stage could have been exercised at the stage of replying to the instant RTI Application; Even as the Appellant may have mentioned the OM number incompletely, the subject matter referred to therein adequately provided for the CPIO to ascertain the availability of the relevant information even at the click of a mouse on the internet or the intranet - CIC: The CPIO is advised to exercise proactiveness and due diligence while dealing with the RTI Applications of similar nature in the future
The Appellant filed an RTI application dated 26.05.2022 seeking the following information:
Certified copy of order 490 dated 14/01/2017 issued by Personnel & Training Department regarding giving similar pay to contractual employees and file notings. (loosely translated)
The CPIO furnished a reply to the appellant on 08.06.2022 stating as under:-
The CPIO replied that the information is not available with the office. It is not the requirement to provide interpretation under RTI. (loosely translated)
Being dissatisfied, the appellant filed a First Appeal dated 15.07.2022. FAA’s order dated 01.08.2022 provided a copy of the CPIO’s reply of 08.06.2022.
Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied, the appellant approached the Commission with the instant Second Appeal.
Relevant Facts emerging during Hearing:
The following were present:-
Appellant: Present through video conference.
Respondent: A K Gopal, US & CPIO present through intra-video conference.
The CPIO submitted that the OM nomenclature or the date of OM mentioned by the Appellant does not exist in the records of DoPT. As gathered from the records, an OM on the subject matter referred to in the RTI Application was issued on 07.10.2019, the OM nomenclature of which reads as No. 49014/l/2017-Estt.(C)-pt, therefore it is his assumption that the OM no. mentioned by the Appellant in the RTI Application is incomplete.
The Appellant argued that the specifics of the OM referred to by him may not be put to strict test as he being a layman gathered the information about the OM from a newspaper article and if the CPIO could have explained to him the said inadequacy at the time of replying to the RTI Application, it would have been a time-saving and convenient approach in dealing with the matter.
Upon a query from the Commission, the CPIO further affirmed that no such OM issued in the year 2017 is available with respect to the subject matter mentioned in the RTI Application. He furthermore submitted that it is also pertinent to note that the Appellant has sought for the OM regarding Contractual Employees but the OM that is found to be relevant to the OM No. mentioned by him relates to Casual Workers. Yet, if the Commission so directs, he can provide a copy of the averred OM of 07.10.2019 to the Appellant immediately over WhatsApp. Soon after, he informed that he has sent the copy of the OM to the Appellant during the course of the hearing itself.
The Commission having perused the facts on record and the upon hearing the submissions of the CPIO observes that the extent of pro-activeness and wisdom displayed by the CPIO at the hearing stage could have been exercised at the stage of replying to the instant RTI Application. It is pertinent to note that even as the Appellant may have mentioned the OM number incompletely, the subject matter referred to therein adequately provided for the CPIO to ascertain the availability of the relevant information even at the click of a mouse on the internet or the intranet. The OM provided to the Appellant at this stage could have been provided to him at the original instance itself or the desired clarification may have been sought from the Appellant in line with the stipulation contained at Section 5(3) of the RTI Act which provides as under:
“(3) Every Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall deal with requests from persons seeking information and render reasonable assistance to the persons seeking such information.”
Now, since the available OM on the related subject matter mentioned in the RTI Application has been sent to the Appellant during the hearing, copy of which is also available in the public domain, no order of any further relief is pertinent in the matter. However, the CPIO is advised to exercise proactiveness and due diligence while dealing with the RTI Applications of similar nature in the future in keeping with the spirit of the RTI Act.
The appeal is disposed of accordingly.
Citation: Ajit Kumar Singh v. Department of Personnel & Training, CIC/DOP&T/A/2022/149336; Date of Decision: 20/07/2023