RTI Judgement Series
RTI Judgement Series: Information must be displayed at the Fair Price Shops and the Circle Offices

Fair Price Shops and the Circle Offices must display information in compliance with the Department’s own orders as well as requirements of Section 4 of the RTI Act. This is the 35th 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) after discussing the issue of displaying information asked the Department of Food, Supplies and Consumer Affairs of Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) to comply with its own orders as well as requirements of Section 4 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. While giving this important judgement, Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner, said the information should have been displayed as part of obligations to make suo moto disclosures under the RTI Act.

 

“The Department will ensure that the afore-mentioned information is displayed in the Circle Offices and Fair Price Shops before 31 January 2010. A compliance report will be sent to the Commission before 05 February 2010,” the CIC said in its order issued on 22 December 2009.

 

Delhi resident Rajiv Kumar filed four complaints about the Department of Food, Supplies and Consumer Affairs of GNCTD not meeting certain obligations under the Public Distribution System (PDS) Control Order.

 

According to the PDS Control Order 2001, it is the duty of every Fair Price shopkeeper to display information on a notice board at a prominent place in the Fair Price shop on a daily basis regarding a) list of BPL and Antodaya beneficiaries, b) entitlements of essential commodities, c) scale of issue, d) retail issue prices, e) timings of opening and closing of Fair Price shops, f) stock of essential commodities received during the month, g) opening and closing stock of essential commodities and h) the name of authorities for redressal of grievances/lodging complaints with respect to quality and quantity of essential commodities under the Public Distribution System.

 

In one of his complaint, Mr Kumar stated that many of the Fair Price Shops especially in Circle 63 have not complied with the PDS Control Order 2001 and the disclosures have not been displayed.

 

Shailesh Gandhi, the Central Information Commissioner, called a meeting on 21 December 2009 at the Commission’s office on this matter to discuss issues relating to disclosure of information on the PDS in Delhi.

 

During the hearing on 21 December 2009, the Commission informed the Food Commissioner that complaints had been received from some citizen groups particularly Pardarshita, Satark Nagrik Sangathan and Sajha Manch that information should be available suo moto at the Circle Offices and the Fair Price Shops is not available.

 

After consulting with the Food Commissioner as well as others present, the Commission directed that the following information should be displayed at every Circle Office of the Department:

 

i) Copy of all ration cards along with photographs of individual card holders in the Circle Offices of the Food and Supply Department.

ii) All citizens should have access to daily sale register, and stock register under suo moto disclosure of the RTI Act.

iii) Name and designation of each official in the Circle office along with their stated roles and responsibilities.

iv) Names and contact details of the PIOs and FAA.

v) Procedure to apply for new ration cards and the list of documents required.

vi) Time-frame for disposal of various applications (new cards, renewal, change of address, etc).

vii) Date of the next Vigilance Committee meeting and names of the members of the Committee.

viii) Rights and privileges of ration card holders as per Section 6(7) of Annexe to PDS Control Order 2001.

ix) List of documents present in the Circle Offices.

 

During the hearing, Mr Kumar showed a sample display print that can be displayed outside every Fair Price Shop. After discussing the sample display, the Commission, directed that the following information will be displayed at the Fair Price Shops under the Department:

 

i) Entitlement of essential commodities for all types of ration cards.

ii) Scale of issue of each essential commodity for all types of ration cards.

iii) Retail prices of each essential commodity for all types of ration cards.

iv) Working hours of Fair Price Shops.

v) Stock of essential items received during the month.

vi) Opening and closing stock of essential commodities.

vii) Name, designation and contact numbers of officials for redressal of grievances with respect to quality and quantity of essential commodities.

viii) Daily updation of stock position information

ix) Information about inspection of records by any citizen on every Saturday except for second Saturday as per the PDS Control Order dated 15/06/2006.

x) Display of samples of food grains being supplied through Fair Price Shops.

 

The Food Commissioner then gave a commitment to the Commission that she will ensure that the afore-mentioned information will be displayed before 31 January 2010.

 

CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION

 

Decision No. CIC/SG/C/2009/001619; 001621; 001622/6047

http://www.rti.india.gov.in/cic_decisions/SG-22122009-22.pdf

Complaint No. CIC/SG/C/2009/001619; 001621; 001622

 

Complainant                                                : Rajiv Kumar

                                                            Delhi 110095

 

Respondent                                       : 1. The Food Commissioner

                                                            Department of Food & Supplies

                                                            Govt. of NCT Delhi, K-Block,

                                                            Vikas Bhawan, New Delhi 110002   

                                                            2. Assistant Commissioner (HQ/RTI),

                                                            GNCTD, Deptt. of Food, Supplies and Consumer Affairs,

                                                           K Block, Vikas Bhawan, IP Estate, New Delhi.

                                                            3. Assistant Commissioner (North East),

                                                            GNCTD, Deptt. of Food, Supplies and Consumer Affairs,

                                                            Weavers Complex, Nand Nagari, Delhi.

                                                            4. Assistant Commissioner (West),

                                                            GNCTD, Deptt. of Food, Supplies and Consumer Affairs,

                                                            152 C Block, Janakpuri, Delhi.

                                                            5. Assistant Commissioner (North West),

                                                            GNCTD, Deptt. of Food, Supplies and Consumer Affairs,

                                                            C Block, Pocket C, Shalimar Bagh, Delhi.

                                                            6. Assistant Commissioner (New Delhi),

                                                            GNCTD, Deptt. of Food, Supplies and Consumer Affairs,

                                                            M Block Vikas Bhawan, IP Estate, Delhi.

                                                            7. Assistant Commissioner (South),

                                                            GNCTD, Deptt. of Food, Supplies and Consumer Affairs,

                                                            Asian Market, Sector 3, Pushp Vihar, New Delhi.

                                                            8. Assistant Commissioner (Central),

                                                            GNCTD, Deptt. of Food, Supplies and Consumer Affairs,

                                                            K Block, Vikas Bhawan, IP Estate, New Delhi.

                                                            9. Assistant Commissioner (East),

                                                            GNCTD, Deptt. of Food, Supplies and Consumer Affairs,

                                                            DDA Shopping Complex, Dayanand Vihar, Delhi.

                                                            10. Assistant Commissioner (North),

                                                            GNCTD, Deptt. of Food, Supplies and Consumer Affairs,

                                                            23/26, Shopping Complex, Gulabi Bagh, Delhi.

                                                            11. Assistant Commissioner (South West),

                                                            GNCTD, Deptt. of Food, Supplies and Consumer Affairs,

                                                            C22/23, Behind Qutb Hotel, Mehrauli, Delhi.

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RTI Judgement Series: A citizen has right to use most convenient and efficacious means available to access information

There is no provision in the RTI Act which restrains the citizen’s right to use it if another route to access information has been offered, ruled the CIC. This is the 34th 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 issuing a show-cause notice to the Public Information Officer (PIO) for not providing information within 30 days, said, that it is a citizen’s right to use the most convenient and efficacious means available to him. While giving this important judgement, Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner said if the complainant has more than one way of seeking remedy he has the freedom to opt for the way which is more convenient for him.

 

“The existence of another method of accessing information cannot be a justification to deny the citizen his freedom to exercise his fundamental right codified under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. If Parliament wanted to restrict this right, it would have been stated expressly in the Act. Nobody else has the right to constrain or limit the rights of the Sovereign Citizen,” the CIC said in its order issued on 14 July 2009.

 

Delhi resident Dharmender Kumar Garg, on 28 May 2009, sought information from the Registrar of Companies (RoC) about Bloom Financial Services. He sought information through following queries...

 

1. Who are the directors of this company? Please provide their names, addresses, dates of appointment and copies of consent filed at RoC.

2. After incorporation of above company, how many times directors were changed? Please provide the details of documents files and copies of Form 32 filed at ROC.

3. Please provide the copies of Annual Returns filed at RoC since incorporation to 1998.

4. On what ground prosecution has been filed please provide the details of prosecution and persons included for prosecution. Please provide the copies of Order Sheets and related documents.

5. On what ground the name of Dharmender Kumar Garg has been included for prosecution?

6. Please provide the copies of Form no.5 and other documents filed for increase of capital?

7. How much fee was paid for increase of capital of the above company? Please provide the details of payment of fee at RoC.

8. Please provide the copies of Statutory Report and SLP filed at RoC.

 

There was no mention of any replies either from the PIO or the First Appellate Authority (FAA). Mr Garg then filed his second appeal before the Commission.

 

During a hearing on 1 July 2009, the PIO stated that the information is available under Section 610 of the Companies Act on payment of the prescribed fee. The PIO also relied on the department circular of the ministry of company affairs dated 24 January 2006, a decision of the Commission CIC/MA/A/2006/00016 dated 29 March 2006 and CIC/AT/A/2007/00112 dated 12 April 2007 (particularly paras 8, 12 and 13).

 

Mr Garg stated that, “...their (RoC) website was inspected on 6 May 2009 on payment of Rs50 but no information was available. Thereafter after getting the reply under RTI, I went to the Manesar office (Gurgaon) and inspected the file. It was mentioned in the file that past records had been weeded out. Only three four documents were available. I took the copies on payment of more than Rs1,200 even then the information could not be collected from the record. The files are totally incomplete.”

 

Mr Garg's contention was that prosecution has been launched against him in spite of the fact that the records are not up-to-date.

 

The PIO contented that since they offered inspection under Section 610 of the Companies Act on payment of the prescribed fee, they need not give information under the RTI Act.

 

The Commission then reserved its decision.

 

During another hearing on 14 July 2009, the PIO submitted his arguments for denying the information. He said, once the information is available in the public domain accessible to the citizens, the information is automatically excluded from purview of the RTI Act as held by Information Commissioner AN Tiwari in the case of CIC/AT/A/2007/00112.

 

“Section 610 of the Companies Act, 1956, provides that any person may inspect any document kept by ROC and obtain copy of any document from the ROC concerned on payment of prescribed fee. Therefore, the complainant need not seek information under RTI Act. This was held by Information Commissioner MM Ansari in the case of CIC/MA/A/2006/0016,” the PIO stated.

 

The Commission, while interpreting Section 2(j) of the RTI Act had said that “…unless an information is exclusively held and controlled by a public authority that information cannot be said to be an information accessible under the RTI Act. Inferentially it would mean that once a certain information is placed in the public domain accessible to the citizens either freely or on payment of a pre-determined price that information cannot be said to be ‘held’ or ‘under the control of the public authority’ and thus would cease to be an information accessible under the RTI Act…”

 

Mr Gandhi said he begged to differ from this decision. He said, even if the information is in public domain, an applicant can still ask a public authority to grant him the information if it is held by it. Even if some information is available at various places, it is the citizen'’s choice from where he wishes to access it.

 

“The Commission would like to clarify that Section 2 of the RTI Act is the definitional provision and therefore Section 2(j) is not an exemption clause under RTI Act. It merely defines the ‘right to information’. So the exemption from disclosing the information cannot be sought under Section 2(j),” Mr Gandhi said.

 

The Commission noted that the information asked for is very basic information and records related to this particular information are missing. “This information is very important for the complainant as he is facing a threat of arrest and needs the information to prove his innocence. Not granting such information clearly leads to violation of the fundamental right of the complainant as provided under Article 21 of the Constitution,” it observed.

 

The PIO's second argument was the information should be sought only under Section 610 of the Companies Act. In his order (CIC/MA/A/2006/0016) Commissioner Ansari while upholding FAA’s order stated that “There is already a provision for seeking information under Section 610 of The Companies Act, 1956. The complainant may accordingly approach the RoC as advised by the Appellate Authority to obtain the relevant information.” 

 

Mr Gandhi said the PIO have not made any claim for exemption under the RTI Act to deny the information. “If a Public Authority has a procedure of disclosing certain information which can also be accessed by a citizen using the Right to Information Act, it is the citizen’s prerogative to decide which route he wishes to take,” the CIC said.

 

“It appears to the Commission that information is being denied to the complainant without any valid grounds and this delay is causing mental agony to the complainant who is living under the constant fear of arrest,” Mr Gandhi noted.

 

While allowing the appeal, he then directed the PIO to provide complete information before 25 July 2009.

 

The Commission also held the PIO responsible for not supplying the complete, required information within 30 days as required under sub-section (1) of Section 7 of the RTI Act. The CIC then issued a show-cause notice to the PIO.

 

CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION

 

Decision No. CIC/SG/C/2009/000702/4128

http://www.rti.india.gov.in/cic_decisions/SG-10092009-02.pdf

Complaint No. CIC/SG/C/2009/000702 

 

 

Complainant                                       : Dharmender Kumar Garg,

                                                                  New Delhi - 110003

                                                           

Respondent                                        : Raj Kumar Sah

                                                                 PIO

                                                                Registrar of Companies & CAPIO

                                                                NCT Delhi and Haryana,

                                                               4th Floor, IFCI Tower,

                                                               Nehru Place, New Delhi - 110003

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RTI Judgement Series: Public interest supersedes individual’s interest

Even though the applicant wanted to withdraw her appeal after receiving a ration card, the CIC said in larger public interest it is necessary to provide info about the delay. This is the 33rd 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) directed the Public Information Officer (PIO) to provide the information in larger public interest even though the applicant wanted to withdraw her complaint after receiving a ration card. While giving this important judgement, Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner said there is clearly a public interest in knowing the truth of why the card was not given.

 

“The PIO is directed to provide complete information as per the available record and send a copy to the appellant and the Commission before 25 November 2009,” the CIC said in its order issued on 10 November 2009.

 

Delhi resident Shrimati Virbati, on 16 March 2009, sought information about her ration card from the Food and Supplies Department of the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD). On the basis of her application for a ration card under the “below poverty line” (BPL) category, she sought information about...

 

1. Copy of the daily progress report on the application for a BPL card.

2. The name, designation, phone, address and time taken by each official to process the file regarding the BPL application.

3. The time taken to process the entire application as per the norms, rules and regulations.

4. Whether any officials are responsible for dereliction of duty and a copy of the duties of these officials.

5. Copy of rules which state the time duration to process the BPL application.

6. The reasons for the appellant being asked to fill up a form for the second time for a BPL card.

7. The name, designation and phone no of person responsible for the delay of the BPL card.

8. The action and the time that can be taken against the official responsible for the delay.

9. Till what date the ration will be given on the receipt. 

10. The time duration when the appellant will get the BPL card.

 

The PIO in his reply on 9 April 2008 said:

 

1. The department does not make a Daily Progress Report.

2. The concerned officials have been transferred.

3. Action has been taken within the stipulated time.

4. Action has been taken as per procedure.

5. The time limit to issue APL card is 45 days but there is no time limit prescribed for BPL cards.

6. No order has been issued to fill the form a second time.

7. The appellant has not been issued BPL cards due to non-eligibility.

8. Same as above.

9. Ration can be availed till advance orders.

10. The appellant has not been issued a BPL card due to non-eligibility.

 

Not satisfied with the PIO’s reply, Virbati then filed her first appeal before the First Appellate Authority (FAA). The FAA, in an order on 29 May 2009, asked the PIO to give precise reasons to the appellant for the rejection of BPL cards within 30 days. Since the PIO failed to provide the information within 30 days, Virbati then approached the CIC with her second appeal.

 

During the hearing 10 November 2009, the PIO brought a letter from the appellant (Virbati) stating that she wishes to withdraw the appeal. “It is evident that a BPL card which should have been given two years back was denied without any stated reasons and the card was now been given because of the RTI application. There is clearly a public interest in knowing the truth of why this card was not given,” Mr Gandhi said in his order.

 

The Commission then directed the PIO to provide complete information as per the available record and send a copy to the appellant and the CIC before 25 November 2009.

 

CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION

 

Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2009/002309/5447

http://www.rti.india.gov.in/cic_decisions/SG-10112009-05.pdf

Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2009/002309

 

 

Appellant                                          : Smt Virbati,

                                                            Delhi- 110093                                                                          

 

Respondent                                       : Subodh Sharma

                                                            Public Information Officer & AC (NE)

                                                            Government of NCT of Delhi

                                                            O/o Assistant Commissioner, North Zone,

                                                            Food and Supplies Department, Bunker Complex,

                                                            Nand Nagari, Delhi- 110093

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