RTI Judgement Series: Information which is more than 20 years old should be provided
Moneylife Digital Team 03 July 2013

Rejecting the PIO's claim for exemption under Section 8(1)(d) & (e) of the RTI Act, the CIC said, since the information was over 20 years old, it should be provided. This is the 126th in a series of important judgements given by former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi that can be used or quoted in an RTI application

The Central Information Commission (CIC), while allowing an appeal, directed the Public Information Officer (PIO) of Bank of India to provide information about public provident fund (PPF) records that were over 20 years old. The PIO had claimed exemption under Section 8(1)(d) & (e) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

 

While giving this judgement on 29 July 2009, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner said, “The Commission as well as all PIOs have to follow the provisions of the RTI Act and cannot on their own start deciding disclosure of which information would be good for society.”

 

Kandivali (Mumbai) resident Jignesh V Thakkar, on 4 June 2010, sought details of PPF accounts with the bank relating to the 10 year period between 1 April 1979 and 31 March 1989 from the PIO of Bank of India, under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Here is the information he sought and the reply given by the PIO...

 

Details of PPF accounts for all branches under the jurisdiction of the Bank of India which have completed the initial investment period i.e. 15 years (or completed the extended period) for which the maturity amount is not yet claimed or intimation of further extension is not yet received. The details are required for the 10 financial years i.e. from 1 April 1979 till 31 March 1989. The details wanted were:

a. PPF account number

b. PPF account holder's name

c. Complete postal address of the account holder

d. Contact numbers of the account holder

e. Email address of the account holder

f. The date on which the PPF account matured

g. The amount payable to the account holder
h. If such PPF account holder is also holding a savings bank account in the branch then the complete name, address, contact numbers of the person who has signed as introducer for the savings account
i. Details of the steps taken to contact the account holder to inform about the PPF maturity

 

PIO's reply: The information sought falls under the exemption provided under Section 8(1)(d) & (e) of the Right to Information Act and also it would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individuals. Thereby the request for information is rejected.

 

Not satisfied with the PIO’s reply, Thakkar then filed his first appeal. In his order the First Appellate Authority (FAA), while upholding the PIO's decision said, “The information sought is third party individuals and is of commercial confidence in nature. The said information is held by the bank under fiduciary relationship and relates to personal information. Therefore, the said information being exempted under section 8(1)(d), (e) & (j) of the Act cannot be supplied to you (Thakkar).”

 

Thakkar then approached the CIC with his second appeal. In the appeal, he stated...

 

1. The First Appellate Authority did not provide the details of the procedure for the second appeal.

2. “The information which is 20 year old can be denied only under sub-clause (a), (c) & (i) of section 8 and no other sub-section. Hence the denial of information under section 8(1)(d) & 8(1)(e) of the RTI Act is not allowed.”

3. Failure to comply with the guidelines issued by the Government of India—Guidelines issued by Government of India, Ministry of Personnel, P.G. and Pensions Department of Personnel and Training dated 25 April 2008 for the officers designate as the first appellate authority under the RTI Act 2005 clearly states that the information can only be denied under clause (a), (c) & (i) of Section 8. Therefore information cannot be denied under section 8(1)(d), 8(1)(e) & 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act.

4. Failure to provide speaking order—from the appellate order—it is evident that the first appellate authority has completely ignored the clear guidelines issued by the Government of India based on observation of CIC.

5. Existence of Public Interest – “It is important to emphasis that as the matter pertains to public money, definitely there exists ‘larger public interest’.”

 

During the hearing through video conferencing, Mr Gandhi, the then CIC noted that the PIO has denied information about PPF accounts with the bank claiming exemption under Section 8(1)(d) & (e) of the RTI Act. In his appeal, Thakkar, the appellant, argued that since the information was 20 years old, as per the provisions of Section 8(3) of the RTI Act, he should be provided the information.

 

Section 8(3) of the RTI Act states,

“Subject to the provisions of clauses (a), (c) and (i) of sub-section (1), any information relating to any occurrence, event or matter which has taken place, occurred or happened twenty years before the date on which any request is made under Section 6 shall be provided to any person making a request under that section:”

 

Mr Gandhi noted that it was clear that the exemptions sought for non-disclosure by the PIO are not covered under clauses (a), (c) & (i) of sub-section (1) of the RTI Act.

 

The PIO stated that disclosure of such information could lead to some misuse of the information.

 

Mr Gandhi said, “The Commission as well as all PIOs have to follow the provisions of the RTI Act and cannot on their own start deciding disclosure of which information would be good for society.”

 

The PIO also stated that PPF Act, 1968, and the Scheme there under this information cannot be disclosed. 

 

Section 20(2) of the RTI Act clearly states,

“The provisions of this Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in the Official Secrets Act, 1923, and any other law for the time being in force or in any instrument having effect by virtue of any law other than this Act.” 

 

Mr Gandhi said, as far as disclosing information is concerned the RTI Act supersedes provisions of all earlier Acts.

 

“The Commission does not accept the plea of the PIO for refusal to give the information under Section 8(1)(d) &(e) of the RTI Act since the information is over 20 years old and the provisions of Section 8(3) of the RTI Act will apply in the instant case,” he said.

 

While allowing the appeal, the CIC directed the PIO to provide the information sought to the appellant (Thakkar) before 25 September 2011.  

 

CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION

 

Decision No. CIC/SM/A/2011/001324/SG/14256

https://ciconline.nic.in/cic_decisions/CIC_SM_A_2011_001324_SG_14256_M_65458.pdf

Appeal No. CIC/SM/A/2011/001324/SG

 

Appellant                                            : Jignesh V. Thakkar,

                                                                 Kandivali (E), Mumbai -400101

                                                                       

Respondent                                       : Shivram Naskar

                                                              PIO & Dy. GM

                                                              Mumbai North Zone,

                                                             Bank of India

                                                             Bank of India Building, 2nd Floor,

                                                            Opp. Natraj Market,

                                                            SV Road, Malad (W)

                                                           Mumbai- 400064

Comments
SOMASUNDARAM
9 years ago
Sir,
Unnecessarily delayed to give an PF number to me.My PF cheque has become invalid date. Hence, I have personaly suffered in monetary level.
Our official said that they have procedures to give new PF number.
Therefore,Through RTI, I demand issue copy of the employees applications (20 yrs before)who were demand for new number.
Now Official reply that the more than 20yrs record cannot be given and also cannot be given the individual records.(which I was not asked Individual record & I asked only any 5 of the PF number applied staff)
Hence whethere their reply is correct.
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