RTI Judgement Series: Tourism secretary asked to inquire into a ‘mysterious’ project report
Moneylife Digital Team 14 February 2014

The PIO could not find the report while the appellant submitted a copy of the same. The CIC then directed the Secretary of Tourism to inquire into the matter. This is the 197th in a series of important RTI judgements given by former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi

The Central Information Commission (CIC), while allowing an appeal, directed the Public Information Officer (PIO) as well as secretary of Department of Women and Child Welfare at Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) to upload details of people who received pension from the government on its website.

 

While giving the judgement on 17 April 2012, under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner, said, "This could be either a matter where the PIO or some other officer is hiding the information or a matter in which the report being submitted is forged or a collusive conspiracy by which the report and all associated papers are taken away from the Government."

 

Ahmedabad resident, Vishwas Bhamburkar, on 14 May 2011, sought from the PIO information regarding project report for Development of Ayurvedic Health Resort and Herbal Garden. Here is the information he sought and the reply provided by the PIO...

 

Provide an authenticated photocopy along with the file notings of the Project Report for Development of Ayurvedic Health Resort and Herbal Garden at Vagamon, which was submitted by the Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala in December, 2005 and was bearing file number 426/D(CN) dated 20.02.2006. 

PIO's Reply- Mentioned project has not been received in the Ministry of Tourism.

 

Citing PIO not provided the sought information, Bhamburkar filed his first appeal.

 

In his order, the First Appellate Authority (FAA) said, "The noting initials on the cover page of the Project Report produced by Shri Bhamburkar suggest that the Report was received in MOT. However, since it is only a photocopy, its authenticity cannot be taken for granted. CPIO & Asstt. DG (PSW) is directed to make a thorough search for the said Project Report and records pertaining to its receipt and movement in the Ministry. If the Report is traced, its authenticated copy will be supplied by the CPIO to the applicant. If the Report is not traceable, but records are found which confirm that the Report was received in the MOT, a report may be lodged with Police regarding the missing documents. An intimation to this effect may then be conveyed to the applicant by the CPIO. In case neither the Project Report nor any records of its receipt in Ministry are available, the applicant may be so informed by the CPIO. Action has to be taken within 15 days."

 

Bhamburkar, citing information provided is false and inadequate, approached the CIC with his second appeal.

 

During the hearing before the Bench of Mr Gandhi, the PIO stated that following the order from FAA, she on 30 January 2011 informed Bhamburkar that though a thorough search for the said project reports and records pertaining to its receipt and movement were made it could not be found anywhere.

 

Bhamburkar produced before the Bench, a photocopy of a fairly bulky report which appears to be of about 144 pages purportedly sent by the Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala in December 2005.

 

Mr Gandhi observed that the Report has signatures of various officials and on the cover also there are signatures, which appear to be from 2006.

 

The PIO confirmed that these were signatures of the then Joint Secretary Amitabh Kant and Director Leena Nandan. However, she stated "there is no trace of this report in the Ministry nor any other relevant papers which would indicate the presence of such a report."

 

Mr Gandhi said, "Prima-facie the statements suggest a possibility that the report, if genuine, and all other relevant records and communications may have been removed by one or more persons."

 

He then directed the Secretary, Ministry of Tourism to inquire into this and send his report to the appellant and the CIC before 15 June 2012.

 

While allowing the appeal, the Bench handed over the copy of the Report submitted by Bhamburkar to the PIO and directed the Secretary of the Ministry to treat it as evidence in the inquiry.

 

CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION

 

Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2012/000607/18434

http://ciconline.nic.in/cic_decisions/CIC_SG_A_2012_000607_18434_M_80550.pdf

Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2012/000607

 

Appellant                                            : Vishwas Bhamburkar

                                                                 Vastrapur, Ahmedabad- 380015

 

Respondent                                        : Tuntuni Chowdhury

                                                                Public Information Officer & Asstt. Director General

                                                                Ministry of Tourism

                                                                PSW Division

                                                                Transport Bhawan,

                                                                1, Parliament Street,

                                                                New Delhi-110011

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