Public accountability Government departments concerning unwarranted litigation & lack of accountability - CIC: The departments perfunctorily forward the RTI applications without properly realizing the fact that the information is largely in their custody
1. The issues under consideration i.e. the reliefs sought by the complainant in his complaint dated nil due to alleged non-supply of information vide his RTI application dated 02.05.2019 are as under:-
Initiate necessary action as per the provisions of the RTI Act
2. Succinctly facts of the case are that the complainant filed an application dated 02.05.2019 under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) before the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), Reserve Bank of India, Mumbai, seeking following information:
- This has reference to Ministry of Law transferred by cabinet secretariat as well as DOPT to DLA on the information as to who authorized court procedure in place of AOB TOB procedure in decision making process the reply is as under it is informed that as per general practice take its decision regarding litigation. It is informed that before filing a case in court instead of referring the deadlock to the house which appointed the council whose advice is AOB TOB procedure ministry of law justice advice is sought.
This has reference to Ministry of Law transferred by cabinet secretariat as well as DOPT to DLA on the information as to who authorized court procedure in place of AOB TOB procedure in decision making process .the reply is as under it is informed that as per general practice take its decision regarding litigation. It is informed that before filing a case in court instead of referring the deadlock to the house which appointed the council whose advice is AOB TOB procedure ministry of law justice advice is sought.
(i) please give reference number of recent 10 court cases of public sector banks who sought the advice of ministry of law and justice before filing a case in court and please inform what advice ministry of law and justice gave.
(ii) please give the names of ministries quoted by these banks who were consulted before filing the case which will be available in the proforma of advice sought from Ministry of Law and Justice as replied by M/Law vide M/Law 2018 80271
2. The CPIO vide letter dated 30.05.2019 replied the RTI application RBI had no information to furnish in the matter to the complainant. Dissatisfied with that, the complainant filed first appeal dated 04.06.2019. The First Appellate Authority vide order dated 7/07/2019 while relying upon the order of this Commission in the matter of Shree Rajeev Daiya Vs UCO Bank upheld the reply of CPIO. Aggrieved by the First Appellate Authority order, the complainant filed the complaint dated nil before the Commission which is under consideration.
3. The complainant has filed the instant complaint dated nil inter alia on the grounds that reply given by the CPIO as well as the first appellate authority were not satisfactory. The complainant 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. The CPIO replied vide letter dated 30.05.2019 that the information sought was not held by them and hence unable to provide. The FAA upheld the reply given by the CPIO.
5. The complainant and on behalf of the respondent Shri Ashok J Parikh, CPIO and Ms Amrutha P J, Legal Officer, Reserve Bank of India, Bandra, attended the hearing through audio conference.
5.1. The complainant inter alia submitted that he was willing to withdraw his complaint as his grievance relating to the matter had been resolved.
5.2. The respondent while defending their case inter alia submitted that the requisite information i.e. copy of extract of guidelines was provided to the complainant.
6. The Commission after adverting to the facts and circumstances of the case, hearing both the parties and perusal of records, observes that the complainant has pleaded to withdraw his complaint due to resolution of his grievance. Further, it is not a case that the respondent did not reply or did not provide the requisite information. Perusal of the RTI reveals that the complainant initially, in his application, sought information relating to the Transaction of Business Rules of Government of India and the information was sought originally from the Government of India which eventually landed in RBI. The complainant had raised very relevant issues impinging upon public accountability especially of PSBs/Government departments concerning unwarranted litigation and lack of accountability due to non compliance of law and procedure. The complainant (applicant) while quoting the observations of the Supreme Court and the Constituent Assembly Debates had endeavoured to highlight that administrative discretion vested in the executive (President) was being abdicated and the principles of public accountability were being flagrantly violated causing unnecessary load on the justice delivery system and consequent burden on the public exchequer. As the form seeking information by the applicant was wanting to the extant that the information sought was unspecific. It may not be out of place that the government departments perfunctorily forward the RTI applications without properly realizing the fact that the information is largely in their custody. Hence the public authorities in the Government of India are advised to do due diligence while dealing with RTI applications addressed to them instead of showing haste in transferring the same as that leads to avoidable load on the government machinery and consequent burden on the public exchequer. The complainant having withdrawn his complaint, the complaint holds no water. That being so, there appears to be no public interest in further prolonging the matter. Accordingly, with the aforementioned observations and advisory, the complaint is rejected.
Copy of the decision be provided free of cost to the parties.
Citation: P P M Ashraf v. Reserve Bank of India in Complaint No. CIC/RBIND/C/2019/645433; Date of order: 09.08.2021