RTI Judgement Series: When PIO tries to conceal information by sending application to other department
Moneylife Digital Team 06 May 2013

The deemed PIO transferred the RTI application to other branch despite possessing the information in his department, which the CIC termed as 'wilful denial'. This is the 85th 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 deemed Public Information Officer (PIO) and assistant director of education (ADE) for vigilance at Directorate of Education from the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) to provide required information and also issued a show cause notice for the delay.

 

While giving this judgement on 19 January 2009, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner said, “It is impossible to imagine how information about a complaint of alleged bribery against a department official could have been available at any place except the Vigilance department. The ADE (Vigilance) Hari Om Gupta has acted wilfully in denying information and wilfully obfuscating the issue in the RTI application.”

 

New Delhi resident Taj Mohammad, on 18 June 2008, sought information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act from the PIO of Directorate of Education in the GNCTD.

 

He sought a copy of comments of ADE (Estate) with copy of the report of inquiry officer and final action taken, report on the complaint filed with Director of Education vide diary no10343 R&I Branch, on 31 March 2008 from the PIO.

 

The PIO forwarded the RTI application to the Vigilance Branch vide office letter no DE/RTI/ID no2768/2008/1976 on 23 June 2008. Further the PIO stated, "As per the information received from Act branch, the requisite information has been transferred to the Deputy Director of Education (Central) vide office letter No DE/RTI/ID No2768/2008/9212-13 dated 22 July 2008 and they being the independent PIO will supply the information directly."

 

Since Taj Mohammad did not receive any information from the PIO, he on 23 July 2008 filed his first appeal. The First Appellate Authority (FAA), in his order stated that the information as available has been furnished by the PIO, which was adequate and satisfactory.

 

While disposing the first appeal, the FAA said, "Since the information sought by the appellant lies with the district Central, the appellant is advised to approach the concerned FAA i.e. Regional Director of Education (Central)/ FAA in case of non-receipt of information from Deputy Director of Education (Central)/ PIO."

 

Not satisfied with the reply, Taj Mohammad then filed his second appeal before the CIC. During the hearing, the Commission noted that the appellant (Taj Mohammad) had filed a complaint on 31 March 2008 against VC Pachouri, ADE (Estate) in which he alleged that a bribe of Rs50,000 was demanded from him and by his RTI application he was seeking action taken on his complaint.

 

The PIO, on 23 June 2008 had sought the assistance of Hari Om Gupta, ADE (Vigilance) under Section 5 (4). A reminder was sent on 14 July 2008. The ADE (Vigilance) forwarded the PIO's 23rd June letter to ACT Branch stating that the complainant is a teacher in an aided school. The ACT branch in turn returned the letter to RTI cell on 15 July 2008 stating that this pertains to District Centre.

 

RTI cell transferred the application to PIO/DDE district centre. DDE centre further transferred this on 7 August 2008 to Principal, Anglo-Arabic Senior Secondary School at Ajmeri Gate in Delhi which could have had no information about the information sought.

 

Taj Mohammad, then showed a letter dated 14 January 2009 from PIO of HQ which stated that the information would be available with ADE (Vigilance), who was also asked to be present before the Commission.

 

The PIO presented a letter dated 24 October 2008 by Hari Om Gupta purportedly explaining his role in which there was no explanation of why he first did nothing from 23 June 2008 to 7 July 2008 and subsequently contended that DDE Central would have this information.

 

Mr Gandhi, the then CIC, said, "It is impossible to imagine how information about a complaint of alleged bribery against a department official could have been available at any place except the Vigilance department. It appears the First Appellate authority has not done his job with diligence."

 

"It appears from the facts presented that the ADE (Vigilance) Hari Om Gupta has acted wilfully in denying information and wilfully obfuscating the issue in the RTI application. The Principal of the School could have no role to play in whether any action had been taken by the department on allegation of bribery," the CIC said in its order.

 

While allowing the appeal, the Commission directed the deemed PIO Hari Om Gupta to give the information sought by the appellant before 5 February 2009.

 

Mr Gandhi also said, from the facts it was apparent that the deemed PIO was 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 also appears that there was wilful attempt to deny the information by the deemed PIO Hari Om Gupta, he said.

 

The Commission, then issued a show cause notice to the deemed PIO Hari Om Gupta. The deemed PIO was also asked to give a written submission showing cause as to why penalty should not be imposed on him as mandated under Section 20(1) of the RTI Act. The Commission also stated that it was also likely to consider disciplinary action against Hari Om Gupta.

CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION

 

Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2008/00024/SG/1148

https://ciconline.nic.in/cic_decisions/SG-19012009-04.pdf

Appeal No. CIC/ SG/A/2008/00024

 

 

Appellant                                            : Taj Mohammad

                                                                 Delhi-110032

                                                         

 

Respondent 1.                                    : Public Information Officer (CPIO)

                                                             Directorate of Education

                                                            Govt. of NCT Delhi

                                                            Old Secretariat,

                                                            Delhi-54

Comments
hasmukh
10 years ago
Hats off to Shri Shailesh Gandhi. Wish, all present and future CIC s are also like him. Even PIO s should understand the spirit of the legislation and devote full sincerity. (they should not be like most other Babus, indulging in bureaucratic procedures).
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