The appellant was understandably agitated about the fact that the combination of vigilance and enquiry set-ups in India does not lead to any deterrent action for the wrong doing. This is the 36th 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 agreeing with the applicant asked the Public Information Officer (PIO) of vigilance department of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to provide information sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. While giving this important judgement, Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner, said this was an important issue and the information given by the PIO clearly shows that instructions of Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) are not even circulated or shown.
“The Commission finds that whereas the CVC has given timelines for enquiries and investigations it is apparent that these timelines are not followed, which is the main contention of the appellant,” the CIC said in its order issued on 31 July 2009.
Delhi resident Kamal Singh sought information about functioning of the vigilance department in MCD. Below are the information he sought and the replies provided by the PIO...
1. How many officials of the MCD have been ordered to be charge-sheeted during the last three years (from 11/01/2006 to 31/11/2008) for minor and major penalties? How many charge-sheets have actually been issued during the above period?
PIO- Total officials charge-sheeted w.e.f. 1/1/2006 to 30/11/2008 are 1,595. Out of these officials 1,350 officials were charge-sheeted for major penalties while 245 officials were charge-sheeted for minor penalties. In this period 1,472 charge-sheets were issued.
2. How many departmental inquiries were pending and what were the steps taken to ensure early conclusion of departmental inquiries?
PIO-This Para has already been referred to Director of Inquiries vide letter No. PIO(Vig.) /CRIA/HC/1493 /2008/5853 dated 26/12/2008 for providing information directly.
3. Did the vigilance department of the MCD actually consider and process the defence statements/representations received from the charged officers and put up the same to the concerned disciplinary authorities for their consideration for obtaining their specific orders on the same for accepting or rejecting them as required under the relevant rules i.e. DMC Services (Control and Appeal) Regulations, 1959? In how many cases charges during the last three years had been dropped after considering the defence statements? If there is no practice to consider the defence statements received from the charged. What are the reasons thereof?
PIO-Defence statements/representation of the charged officials along with entire record of the case is placed before the disciplinary authority for consideration and passing appropriate orders. In no case charges were dropped during last three years after considering defence statements. Defence statements/representation are properly considered.
4. What were the steps taken by the vigilance department to avoid delay in taking action on defence statement and processing vigilance cases? Have any instruction been issued in this regard? If yes, kindly supply copies of the instructions. If not, what are the reasons for not issuing necessary instructions to the officers and staff of Vigilance Department?
PIO-In this regard CVC instructions are being followed (Copy has been provided).
5. Are officers of vigilance department including DOV and CVO conscious and alive to their responsibilities to dispose off the files and papers put up to them expeditiously to set the good examples of efficiency to the lower staff of vigilance department? How many files had been disposed off during the last three years by ADVOs, ADCDOV and COV and what was the time taken in respect of each file. Kindly give the relevant information.
PIO-Yes, all the files and papers put up before CVO, DOV, ADC & ADOVs were disposed expeditiously taking necessary minimum time.
6. It has been seen that wrong charges have been framed against some officials of the MCD due to carelessness on the part of concerned officials/officers of the vigilance department. In how many such cases of framing wrong and factually incorrect charges, disciplinary action has been taken for dereliction of duty?
7. What is the policy with regard to posting of staff and officers to vigilance department? Is there any tenure limit of posting in vigilance department? If yes, what is the maximum period of posting in vigilance department? Are steps taken to ensure that staff and officers do not overstay in vigilance department and develop any personal interest in staying in vigilance department? Give the number of such officers who had been in this department for more than five years.
PIO-As per CVC instructions posting and transfer in the vigilance department is required to be done with the approval of CVO. Four Officers are continuing in the vigilance department for more than five years.
Mr Singh then filed the first appeal with the First Appellate Authority (FAA) due to unsatisfactory and incomplete information provided by the PIO. The FAA, in his order issued on 2 March 2009, said, “In view of fact arose during the hearing of the case, the PIO of vigilance dept of the MCD is directed to inform the appellant within 15 days as to whether the CVC's instructions in question have been circulated or not. So far information regarding number of files disposed off by various officers of the department and time taken in respect of each file is concerned, the appellant is requested to inspect the relevant registers of various officers within 10 days as the information is bulky in nature which will divert the entire resources of the department, if collected.”
However, the PIO did not comply with the order issued by the FAA. Mr Singh then approached the CIC with his second appeal. During a hearing, Mr Gandhi, the CIC, noted that the appellant has raised a fairly important issue about instructions from the CVC.
The PIO claimed that “...many times files are sent to CVCs for obtaining first stage advise or second advise which takes three to four months hence it is not possible to maintain any timelines.”
When asked by Mr Gandhi about the delay in providing the information, the PIO stated that this was due to the concerned officer having an illness in his family. The PIO was then warned that if the timelines are not observed, then penalties under Section 20(1) will be imposed upon him by the CIC.
The CIC noted that the respondent’s statement only indicates that if CVC which issues these guidelines itself does not follow any time discipline; organizations like vigilance department are also likely to follow the bad example being set.
Mr Gandhi while allowing the appeal directed the PIO to provide the information sought by Mr Kumar.
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2009/001500/4335
Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2009/001500
Appellant : Kamal Singh
Respondent : AK Verma
Public Information Officer
Municipal Corporation of Delhi
16, Rajpur Road, Civil Lines,
Pratibha Patil spent over Rs225 crore on her 14 foreign tours covering 24 countries, most of the time accompanied by her friends and relatives. RTI activist Subhash Agrawal says the cost incurred on her friends and relatives must be recovered from Patil in order to set an example
Pratibha Patil, who had undertaken a number of foreign trips as president, was accompanied by her friends and relatives on several occasions, reveals a Right to information (RTI) reply received by activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal. Following this disclosure, and to set an example, the government must recover all costs of travel, boarding, lodging and other aspects incurred on her friends and relatives, except her spouse, in proportionate to total expensed made on these trips, demands Mr Agrawal.
He said, “The cost should be recovered from her even by stopping her post-retirement pension and other perks and if needed through other recovery proceedings. It will be in fitness of things that she may herself offer to pay these expenses following bitter criticism on the high expenses of about Rs225 crore made on her Presidential trips."
Patil had undertaken 14 foreign trips covering 24 countries during her five-year term that ended on 25 July 2012. Her trips came under media headlines after it was revealed under the RTI Act that this had cost the exchequer over Rs225 crore.
“President Secretariat after directions from the Chief Information Commission (CIC) has now reluctantly provided complete details of large fleet of accompanying persons with the then president of India Pratibha Patil on her numerous trips in India and abroad confirming her taking friends and relations, other than her spouse, on these pleasure trips made in name of official trips. This is a gross misuse of taxpayers’ hard-earned money by none other than head of the nation,” Mr Agrawal alleged.
For example, when Patil visited United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah) and the Syrian Arab Republic (Damascus and Aleppo) between 21st and 30 November 2010, besides an official delegation and her staff and security personnel, two guests, Dr Gajendra Singh Patil and Randhirsingh Patil accompanied her. While Dr Gajendra Singh Patil is younger brother of the former president, Randhir Singh Patil is her nephew. They both were part the 97-member team that visited UAE and Syria with Patil.
Even for a five-day visit to Mauritius between 24th April and 28 April, Patil was accompanied by a 98 members, including her son, Rajendra Singh Shekhawat, daughter-in-law Manjari Shekhawat, daughter Jyoti Rathore, grandson Prithvi Singh Shekhawat and grand-daughter Vedika Rathore. There were about 24 people from the media who visited Mauritius with the president.
Notwithstanding a huge controversy over expenditure on her foreign travels, Patil, the then president ran up a bill of Rs18.08 crore on her last trip abroad shortly before demitting office, according to official information accessed through RTI.
The chartering of the Air India Boeing 747-400 jumbo for her two-nation trip to South Africa and Seychelles from 29th April 29 to 8 May 2012 alone cost Rs16.38 crore, the airline said in an RTI reply.
In addition, an expenditure of Rs1.46 crore was incurred in Pretoria—the South African capital. Of this, Rs71.82 lakh was spent on local stay, Rs52.33 lakh on transportation and Rs22.12 lakh on miscellaneous expenditure.
In Durban, an expenditure of Rs23.55 lakh was incurred. Of this, hotel stay alone cost nearly Rs18 lakh and transportation was Rs5.27 lakh. The details about the lodging and other expenditures in South Africa were provided by the Indian Missions in Pretoria and Durban under RTI.
Here are the details received by Mr Agrawal about Pratibha Patil's trips as President...