Democracy without accountability is like a body without a soul
The PIO of Food and Supplies Department refused to provide information about rations cards without claiming any exemption under the RTI Act. This is the 63rd 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 Food and Supplies Department to publish information about ration cards in his zone on the website of Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) under the provisions of Section 4 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
While giving this important judgement on 10 September 2009, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner said, “The PIO's contention that this information can be used for blackmail indicates that irregularities are brought out and therefore if the information is publicly available irregularities would also be curbed.”
Delhi resident Irshad, on 6 March 2009, sought information about bogus ration cards from the Food and Supplies Department of the GNCTD. Here is the information he sought...
Regarding Bogus Card of Circle - 49 related to different shops of 2496/82, 3080/87, 3563/93, 6837 6747, 6734, 6728 and 6719:
i) Copy of APL stamping list.
ii) Copy of Master Card Register.
The PIO in his reply stated that Irshad enclosed several letters that were written by different shop owners, who have objected to giving information since he was not a card holder of the same area. The information sought in the application can be misused by Irshad, the PIO contended.
Not satisfied with the reply, Irshad filed his first appeal. The First Appellate Authority (FAA), in his order stated that according to the provisions of Control Order and in view of various measures taken by the department to increase the transparency in the PDS, the documents could be inspected in the public audit.
Irshad then approached the CIC with his second appeal.
During the hearing, Mr Gandhi, the then CIC, observed that the PIO refused to provide information even after 37 days without citing any exemptions under Section 8 of the RTI Act. “The plea of the PIO that third parties were refusing permission cannot be a ground for denial unless the exemptions are claimed and justified under Section 8 (1),” the Commission said.
“Even the FAA has not understood the law and had directed the appellant to participate in a public audit! There appears to be no ground for denial of the information,” Mr Gandhi noted.
The PIO contended that this information could be used to blackmail rations shop owners. The Commission, however, rejected the contention.
Mr Gandhi said, “The PIO's contention that this information can be used for blackmail indicates that irregularities are brought out and therefore if the information is publicly available irregularities would also be curbed.”
He then directed the PIO to ensure that this information is put up for his zone on the website under the provisions of Section 4 so that everybody has access to this information before 15 October 2009.
Since, the information was not provided within the stipulated time specified under sub-section (1) of Section 7, the Commission issued a show-cause notice to the PIO.
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2009/001729/4746
Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2009/001729
Appellant : Irshad
Respondent : RK Chauha
Public Information Officer
Asstt. Commission (NE)
Govt of NCT of Delhi
O/o the Asst Commissioner (NE)
Food and Supplies Department
Bunkar Complex, Nand Nagri, Delhi.
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