PIO rejected the RTI application on the ground that the IPO was not properly addressed - CIC: PIO’s action to return the RTI application was not proper - CIC: Bona fide of the complainant is established by payment; RTI application should have been replied
PIO rejected the RTI application on the ground that the IPO was not properly addressed - CIC: This action of the CPIO to return the RTI application to the appellant was not proper - CIC: PIO should have understood that the complainant has already paid Rs 10 through IPO, which will surely go into the account of Government (State or Centre) - CIC: This is not an application without fee simpliciter; The bona fide of the complainant is established by this payment, and therefore, the RTI application should have been replied to properly.
The complainant has stated that he had filed a complaint against Shamsher S/o Ajaypal on 05/08/2020. In this regard, he has sought the following information:
- What action has been taken on his complaint so far? Provide copies of the related documents i.e. noting, reply of Shamsher, comments given by the Officers concerned.
Grounds for Complaint
The CPIO did not provide any information.
Submissions made by Complainant and Respondent during Hearing:
The complainant submitted that the CPIO had malafidely rejected his RTI application and therefore penalty may be imposed on the concerned CPIO.
The CPIO submitted that an appropriate reply was given to the complainant on 01.10.2020. He also reiterated the contents of his written submissions dated 25.04.2022. He explained that after informing the complainant about the status of the IPO, he filed a fresh RTI to which a reply was provided.
From a perusal of the relevant case records, it is noted that the CPIO in his reply had rejected the RTI application on the ground that the IPO was not properly addressed. This action of the CPIO to return the RTI application to the appellant was not proper. The CPIO should have understood that the complainant has already paid Rs 10 through IPO, which will surely go into the account of Government (State or Centre). It is not a case that the applicant did not pay any fee. This is not an application without fee simpliciter. The bona fide of the complainant is established by this payment, and therefore, the RTI application should have been replied to properly.
At this point, the Commission draws attention to an observation made by this Commission in the case of R. K. Jain v. CPIO, Delhi University, CIC/RM/C/2014/000138-SA. The relevant portion is extracted below:
“The CPIO has every authority to collect the fee prescribed. But when IPO indicates that Rs 10 paid to Government of India, the RTI application cannot be considered as without payment. Even non-payment of fee cannot be a ground for rejection of RTI application. Only grounds for rejection are specifically provided under section 8 and 9. Reading Section 6 and 7 together and understanding spirit of RTI Act as a whole should make CPIO to act reasonably and provide information rather than searching for excuses to reject. Expression “on payment of such fee” means both fee of Rs 10 and further fee representing cost of copying. For that the CPIO has to accept and study the RTI Application, get ready to give the information sought, if not exempted, and seek payment of cost of copying and on receipt of additional fee, if needed, and then the information need to be provided. What is the significance of fee of ‘Rs. 10’? Does it represent the value of the information, cost of its searching, labour charge for preparing the information or consideration for it? No. The decision of CPIO to return the entire application lock stock and barrel on the excuse that addressee space was left blank is without any legal base and totally unjustifiable. He refused application at threshold and was not inclined to arrange information. The mandatory 30 day limit is dismissed by this action. If CPIO has any issues with realization of that fee for his authority, he has every chance of addressing those issues. By returning application along with IPO he has closed all those chances.”
However, since the error seems to be due to lack of knowledge of the various orders passed by the Commission from time to time, the Commission is unable to attribute any malafide intention on the part of the CPIO in rejecting the RTI application and therefore a lenient view is taken in the matter.
In view of the above, the concerned CPIO is cautioned to remain careful in future and to take note of the above observations and not reject any RTI application in future on the ground that the IPO is invalid when the fee has been paid.
The complaint is disposed of accordingly.
Vanaja N. Sarna
Citation: Rajesh Verma v. Air Force in File no.: - CIC/DODEF/C/2020/689192/IAIRF, Date of Decision: 26/04/2022