RTI Judgement Series: How the government ‘misplaces’ inquiry reports
Moneylife Digital Team 03 December 2012

This particular case highlights the careless way in which reports of Commissions of enquiry are lost over the years. It makes one wonder if we should not stress more on adherence to some timeframes. This is the sixth in a series of important judgements given by Shailesh Gandhi, former CIC that can be used or quoted in an RTI application

The public information officer (PIO) or other person responsible for not providing information to an applicant within the stipulated time can be summoned and penalised under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. While giving this important judgement, Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner noted that the actions of the PIO attract the penal provisions of Section 20(1) of the RTI Act.

 

“...it is apparent that the PIO is guilty of not furnishing information within the time specified under sub-section (1) of Section 7 by not replying within 30 days, as per the requirement of the RTI Act. It appears that the PIO’s actions attract the penal provisions of Section 20(1). If there are other persons responsible for the delay in providing the information to the appellant, then the PIO is directed to inform such persons of the show-cause hearing and direct them to appear before the Commission with him,” the Central Information Commission (CIC) said in its order issued on 17 September 2010.

 

Delhi-based Suroor Mander sought information and certified copies from the PIO of the Lok Sabha about the Jain-Aggarwal Committee Report, Banerjee, Misra & Marwah Commission Report on the 1984 Anti-Sikh Riots with its annexures as well as all other documents related to the Commission of inquiry.

 

Ms Mander also sought reports and action taken reports of various commissions...

 

  • Certified photocopy of the Jain-Aggarwal Committee Report, Banerjee, Misra & Marwah Commission Report on the 1984 Anti-Sikh Riots with its annexure as well as all other documents related to the Commission of inquiry.
  • Certified copy of the Action Taken Report submitted to the parliament on the Jain-Agarwal, Banerjee, Misra & Marwah Commission Committee.
  • Certified photocopy of the Bhatt and Singh. Commission Report on the 1989 Bhagalpur Anti-Muslim Riots with its annexure as well as all other documents to the Commission.
  • Certified copy of the Action Taken Report submitted to the Bihar Legislative Assembly on the Bhatt and Singh Commission of inquiry.
  • Certified photocopy of the Narula Committee Report on the 1984 Anti-Sikh Riots with its annexure as well as all other documents related to the Commission of inquiry.
  • Certified copy of the Action Taken Report submitted to the parliament on the Narula Committee.
  • Certified photocopy of the Mahapatra Commission’s Interim Report on the 2007 Kandhamal Riots with its annexure as well as all other documents related to the Commission.
  • Certified copy of the Action Taken Report submitted to the Orissa Legislative Assembly on the Mahapatra Commission of inquiry.
  • Certified photocopy of the Kapur-Mittal Commission Report on the 1984 Anti-Sikh Riots with its annexure as well as all other documents related to the Commission of inquiry.
  • Certified copy of the Action Taken Report submitted to the parliament on the Kapur-Mittal Commission of inquiry.
  • Certified photocopy of the Nanavati Commission Report on the 1984 Anti-Sikh Riots with its annexure as well as all other documents related to the Commission of inquiry
  • Certified copy of the Action Taken Report submitted to the parliament on the Nanavati Commission of inquiry

 

Assuming that it does not have the reports, the PIO, Lok Sabha transferred the RTI application to the ministry of home affairs (MHA). The MHA also did not have the reports and transferred the application of Ms Mander to the Chief Secretary, who then forwarded it to Divisional Commissioner of Delhi. The Divisional Commissioner, in turn transferred the application to Home Department of the Delhi government. The PIO at the Home Department of Delhi could not locate the reports sought by Ms Mander and tried to provide some of the reports. However, nobody from the government could provide the Marwah Commission, the Dhillon Commission and the Narula Commission reports on the 1984 Anti-Sikh riots.

 

The CIC noted that it appears that a number of Commissions have made hay on the Anti-Sikh Riots and given reports which have not delivered any justice to the victims and yet these reports cannot be located. The appellant naively believes that the government would have acted on these reports, whereas it appears nobody is even aware of what these reports said, it said.

 

The PIO and joint secretary, Government of NCT of Delhi also refused to provide the Kapur-Mittal report on the 1984 Anti-Sikh riots citing official secrets. He stated that, "...the report of Kapur-Mittal Committee has been marked as secret and therefore cannot be disclosed under the provisions of Official Secret Act, 1923”.

 

The CIC pointed out that the action (refusing information under other law for an RTI application) of the PIO is without any basis in the law. “Nearly four and half years after the RTI Act, 2005, had been implemented a PIO must realize that refusal to give information can only be based on the exemptions of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act,” the Commission noted.

 

While allowing the appeal by Ms Mander, the CIC asked the PIO to provide a copy of the Kapur-Mittal Committee report and also directed the Home Secretary to provide an affidavit as regards with Marwah Commission, Dhillon Commission and Narula Committee reports certifying that these reports are not with the Delhi government.

 

The Information Commission, while issuing a show-cause notice also asked the PIO and joint secretary to present himself before the Commission along with written submissions showing why penalty should not be imposed on him under Section 20(1) of the RTI Act. The Commission also asked the PIO to inform about the show cause notice and bring for hearing before it, any persons who may be responsible for the delay in providing the information to Ms Mander.

 

CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION

 

Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2010/002098/9399

(https://ciconline.nic.in/cic_decisions/CIC_SG_A_2010_002098_9399_M_42352.pdf)

 

Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2010/002098


Appellant    : Ms Suroor Mander B-68, Second Floor,
                          Sarvodaya Enclave, New Delhi-110017                               

Respondent :    Mr MA Ashref PIO & Joint Secretary (Home-II)
                            Govt. of NCT of Delhi Home (Police-II) Deptt,
                             5th Level 'C' Wing, Delhi Secretariat,
                             New Delhi-110002. 
 

                                                              

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