The CIC clarified that the law does not put any restriction on the public authorities or PIOs to which the RTI application could be transferred. This is the 108th 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, ruled out the contention of the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the Cabinet Secretariat that a Right to Information (RTI) application can only be transferred to one PIO as per the circular from the Department of Personnel & Training (DOPT).
While giving this judgement on 16 June 2011, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner said, “If the records and operations were computerized, transferring an RTI application to even 50 or 100 public authorities could be done with a click of mouse or by email. If public authorities do not meet commitments implied in the RTI Act, the citizen cannot be denied his fundamental right.”
Mumbai resident Chetan Kothari, on 23 October 2009, sought information about consumption of petrol and diesel by state ministers and cabinet ministers including the leader of the opposition and staff from the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the Lok Sabha Secretariat. Here is the information he sought under the RTI Act...
a) Please provide the details. Name-wise break up of state ministers and cabinet ministers of the central government petrol & diesel consumption and amount with opposition party leader.
(b) Please provide the details of each state minister and cabinet minister of the central government (Name-wise break up) how many cars.
(c) Please provide the details of each state minister and cabinet ministers of the central government each of them how many staff provided. (Give name-wise ministers break up)
On 27 September 2010, the PIO of Lok Sabha Secretariat transferred the RTI application to PIO of Cabinet Secretariat and PIO of Leader of Opposition.
The PIO of the officer of the Leader of Opposition, on 4 October 2010 provided the following information...
“The staff car to Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha is provided by Lok Sabha Secretariat and accordingly, all matters/ records relating to the maintenance/ running, including the expenditure on petrol/ diesel, etc of the car are being dealt/ maintained by the concerned branch of Lok Sabha Secretariat. The information required by the applicant is not available in the office of Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha and hence the CPIO is not in a position to give the required information to the applicant.
It is, therefore, requested that the CPIO, Lok Sabha Secretariat give the information directly to the applicant. The application forwarded with the OM dated 27 September 2010 is returned herewith."
On 12 October 2012, the PIO of the Cabinet Secretariat provided following information in respect with the queries of Kothari...
“2. The information sought is scattered among a large number of public authorities, including Central Government Ministries/ Departments. Therefore, in terms of the provisions contained in O.M. No. 1012/2008-IR dated 12.6.2008 issued by Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions (Department of Personnel & Training), you are required to file separate applications with the CPIOs of each of the Ministries/Departments concerned individually, for obtaining the required information.
3. In so far as the Cabinet Secretariat is concerned, the information may be treated as NIL."
On 29 October 2010, the PIO of Lok Sabha Secretariat gave a reply stating that no information was available.
Kothari then filed his first appeal. The First Appellate Authority (FAA) after carefully considering all the relevant documents, upheld the decision of CPIO as referred in para 2 above and direct the CPIO to provide a copy of list of ministries/ departments which contains the office addresses of the public authority, within 10 working days.
Citing information not provided as well as the Secretariat not complying with Section 4 of the RTI Act, Kothari then approached the CIC. In his second appeal before the Commission, he submitted that...
(1) CPIOs did not transfer application within the stipulated period as per provision under Section 6 (3) & delay inform to applicant.
(2) Applicant was unable to send same application to 85 department of Central Govt which is waste of time & money.
(3) Applicant sent RTI application to nodal CPlOs of 'Lok Sabha Secretariat' because that department provide car, staff etc to opposite party leader.
(4) CPIOs violated the RTI Act & holding the information but misleads to applicant & wasting the public money & time & increasing the work load for higher authority.
(5) CPIOs failure to Act according to under provision of Section 4(3) for the purposes of sub-section (1), every information shall be disseminated widely and in such form and manner which is easily accessible to the public. Also CPIOs failure to act according to under provision of Section 5(3) & (4).
(6) PIO's failure to Act according to under provision of Section 2(f), 4(1)d & 5.
To support his submission Kothari quoted two orders from the high courts.
(1) It will be in context to quote the observation made by the division bench of the Delhi High Court in LPA 501/2009, pronounced on 12.1.2010 (matter relating to asset declaration of judges of the apex court):
The Act does not merely oblige the public authority to give information on being asked for it by a citizen but requires it to suo moto make the information accessible. Section 4(1)(a) of the Act requires every public authority to maintain all its records duly catalogued and indexed in a manner and the form which facilitates the right to information under the Act and ensure that all records that are appropriate to be computerized are, within a reasonable time and subject to availability of resources, computerized and connected through a network all over the country on different systems so that access to such records is facilitated. Section 4 spells out various obligations of public authorities and Sections 6 and 7 lay down the procedure to deal with request for obtaining in formation.
(2) In fact the Madras High Court even went a step further and stated that administrative difficulties and shortage of manpower cannot be cited as reasons for denying information. While dismissing WP No. 20372 of 2009 and MP No. 1 of 2009, in a Judgment dated 7.1.2010, the court ruled:
The other objections that they are maintaining a large number of documents in respect of 45 departments and they are short of human resources cannot be raised to whittle down the citizens' right to seek information. It is for them to write to the government to provide for additional staff depending upon the volume of requests that may be forthcoming pursuant to the RTI Act. It is purely an internal matter between the petitioner archives and the state government. The right to information having been guaranteed by the law of Parliament, the administrative difficulties in pro v/ding information cannot be raised. Such pleas will defeat the very right of citizens to have access to information. Hence the objections raised by the petitioner cannot be countenanced by this court. The writ petition lacks in merit."
During the hearing Mr Gandhi, the then CIC, noted that the appellant had sought the information for a period of 10 years, which he felt appeared excessive, since it was unlikely that information would be maintained in this format for 10 years.
While the PIO of the Lok Sabha Secretariat transferred the RTI application to the PIO of Cabinet Secretariat and to the PIO of the office of Leader of Opposition, both the PIOs did not provide any information stating that they do not have it.
During the hearing, the PIO of Cabinet Secretariat took a position that he cannot transfer the RTI application to PIOs of various ministries. He was depending on an office memorandum issued by Department of Personnel & Training (DOPT) no10/ 02/ 2008-IR dated 12 June 2008 which states that Section 6(3) of the RTI Act mentions public authority in the singular and therefore the RTI application can only be transferred to one public authority as per the RTI Act.
Kothari, the appellant, disputed this claim and stated that the RTI application should have been transferred wherever required. He also quotes a Madras High Court Judgment in support of his contention.
Section 6(3) of the RTI Act states,
"Where an application is made to a public authority requesting for an information,-
(i) which is held by another public authority; or
(ii) the subject matter of which is more closely connected with the functions of another public authority, the public authority, to which such application is made, shall transfer the application or such part of it as may be appropriate to that other public authority and inform the applicant immediately about such transfer:
Provided that the transfer of an application pursuant to this sub-section shall be made as soon as practicable but in no case later than five days from the date of receipt of the application."
The Commission said the point to be determined was whether Section 6(3) means that the transfer should only be made to one public authority or to multiple public authorities, if required.
Section 13 of the General Clauses Act, 1897 stipulates inter alia that in all central legislations and regulations, unless there is anything repugnant in the subject or context, words in the singular shall include the plural, and vice versa.
Section 13 of the General Clauses Act, 1897, enacts a general rule of construction that words in the singular shall include the plural and vice versa but the rule is subject to the proviso that there shall be nothing repugnant to such a construction in the subject or context of the legislation which is to be construed.
"This principle of law has been well- established and applied by the Supreme Court of India from time to time viz. in K Satwant Singh v/s State of Punjab 1960 SCR (2) 89, Narashimaha Murthy v/s Susheelabai & Ors AIR 1996 SC 1826 and J Jayalalitha v/s UOI & Anr AIR 1999 SC 1912, as well as by several high courts while interpreting various statutory provisions," the CIC pointed out.
Mr Gandhi noted that there is nothing in the Act which would show that Parliament intended that the transfer should only be to one public authority. “It also appears that DoPT's office memorandum is in contravention of the General Clauses Act 1987 and interpreted Section 6(3) of the RTI Act wrongly. The whole purpose of the RTI Act has been to facilitate flow of information to the Citizens,” he said.
The CIC said, "In this case, the Lok Sabha Secretariat was not aware who would hold the information being sought by the appellant. The law does not put any restriction on the public authorities to which the RTI application could be transferred. The Commission does believe that an appellant should seek information from a public authority, which he can reasonably believe may have the information. In the instant case the appellant appears to have exercised reasonable care and applied and to a public authority which an average citizen may believe will hold the information.”
There are numerous instances where RTI applications have been transferred by one public authority to another and none of them appears to know where the information is. In this scenario for public authorities to take a position that they will only transfer to one public authority is unreasonable and the law certainly does not state this, the Commission said.
While allowing the appeal, Mr Gandhi said, "Public Authorities claim that it would be difficult to transfer RTI applications to multiple authorities since it would mean putting a lot of resource. The Commission rules that DOPT's office memorandum no10/ 02/ 2008-IR dated 12 June 2008 is not consistent with the law. The Commission explained to the appellant that seeking information for 10 years would definitely disproportionately divert the resources of the public authorities. He has agreed that information could be furnished to him for the last two years."
The Commission then directed the PIO to transfer the RTI application to various public authorities before 25 June 2011, who must provide information for the last two years to Kothari as per the provisions of the RTI Act.
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Decision No. CIC/SM/A/2011/000278/SG/12906
Appeal No. CIC/SM/A/2011/000278/SG
Appellant: : Chetan Kothari
Mumbai 400 026
Respondent: : KJ Sibichan
Under Secretary & CPIO
Various officers of the Delhi Municipal Corporation colluded to ensure that an illegal construction can continue and the PIO provided the information only during the hearing before the CIC. This is the 107th 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, issued show-cause notices to executive engineers at the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), for colluding to deny information to the applicant. The Commission also came to the conclusion that prima facie it appears that the information had been delayed with malafide intention to ensure that an illegal construction can continue.
While giving this judgement on 14 May 2010, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner said, “The Commission also feels that there is malafide intention in doing this hence they will show cause why disciplinary action against them should not be recommended as per Section 20(2) of the RTI Act.”
New Delhi resident Raj Kumar Sharma, on 23 October 2009, sought information regarding construction of an illegal building from the Public Information Officer (PIO) at the office of superintending engineer in MCD. Here is the information he sought under the RTI Act and the reply provided by the PIO...
1. With regard to property no. 536, 200 square feet area, has anybody taken no-objection certificate (NOC) after depositing map for construction?
PIO's reply: No
2. Photocopy of the documents for construction for which permission has been taken.
PIO's reply: No
3. If permission has not been taken with regard to property no. 536, then will the newly constructed building be demolished and when will it be demolished?
PIO's reply: Information is provided through RTI with regard to property no. 536. Investigation is being done. If it is found illegal, necessary action will be taken.
4. How many constructions are being done without map or permission?
PIO's reply: No such record is available in the office.
Not satisfied with the reply, Sharma then filed his first appeal. In his order the First Appellate Authority (FAA) directed the PIO to furnish specific reply on the questions to the applicant within three weeks.
Since the PIO did not provide required information within the time frame, Sharma then approached the CIC with his second appeal.
During the hearing before Mr Gandhi, the then CIC, the appellant stated that he had complained about an illegal building being constructed in October 2009 and submitted the RTI Application in 2009 hoping that MCD would take some action.
“In a modus operandi that has been perfected by certain MCD officers a reply was given that no plan has been approved and some inquiry will be done if there is any illegal construction in progress," he alleged.
The PIO defied the order of the FAA and did not provide the information. The information was brought by the PIO and given to the appellant before the Commission. The PIO stated that the illegal construction has been booked under the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act (DMC Act).
When Mr Gandhi asked the PIO when the property was booked, he informed the Commission that it was booked on 13 May 2010 i.e. the day before the hearing. The appellant stated that the construction is going on and yet MCD officers had refused to stop it.
Mr Gandhi noted that it was evident that this could not have been possible without the actual collusion of various MCD officers. “The Commission only has its jurisdiction on the supply of information and the Commission comes to the conclusion that the delay in providing the information is clearly due to malafide intention and collusion between the various officers,” he said.
“The delay in providing the information, the defiance of the order of the FAA and booking the illegal construction just one day before the hearing before the Commission indicates prima facie a collusion by the officers to support the cause of illegal construction,” the CIC said.
While allowing the appeal, Mr Gandhi then issued a show-cause notice to PK Chauhan, JE, then Executive Engineer RS Gupta, Rajbir Kundu, AE, PR Meena, present EE since January 2010 and PIO AK Mittal, SE (during November 2009 to 8 February 2010) as to why penalty under Section 20(1) should not be imposed on them for colluding to deny information to the appellant.
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2010/000810/7724
Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2010/000810
Appellant : Raj Kumar Sharma
New Delhi - 15
Respondent : NC Sharma
Public Information Officer & SE
Municipal Corporation of Delhi
O/o Superintending Engineer,( Rohini -1)
Sector - 5, Rohini,
Delhi - 110085
The PIO of the Revenue Department at the Delhi government gave a vague reply when asked about publishing information under Section 4. The CIC then directed the PIO to publish and update information on the department's portal. This is the 106th 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 the Revenue Department at the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD), to display information on its website as mandated under Section 4 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
While giving this judgement on 29 June 2011, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner said, “The PIO has given slightly vague replies because there does not appear to be a systematic effort to ensure that Section 4 is complied with. The PIO is directed to ensure that information as directed above is displayed on the website and updated as per the directions.”
New Delhi resident Rambir Singh, on 1 November 2010 sought information regarding implementation of Section 4, from the PIO of the Revenues Department. Here is the information he sought under the RTI Act and the reply provided by the PIO...
1. Whether any action has been initiated/ proposed to be taken against officers/ Public Authority for not initializing action as per Sections 4(1)(a), 4(1)(b), 4(2), 4(3)& 4(4) of the RTI, Act within 120 days from the enactment of the Act
PIO's Reply: If it is found that no action has been initiated within 120 days of enactment of the Act under Sections 4(1)(a), 4(1)(b), 4(2), 4(3)& 4(4) then action shall be taken
2. Information regarding the status/action taken under Section 4 of the RTI Act
PIO's Reply: The Question is not clear
3. Information regarding the proposed time to be taken in obeying the directions under Section 4 of the RTI Act
PIO's Reply: The information Under Section 4 of the act is available with the PIO of this district and the same can be obtained
Singh, citing the information provided by the PIO as unsatisfying and vague filed his first appeal. In his order on 28 January 2011, the First Appellate Authority (FAA) said, “The appellant is required to provide/comply with the provision of section 4 of the RTI Act. Let the PIO/ ADM (South West) give a factual reply in details on the issue i.e. Section 4 of the RTI Act about Dist. South West. The appeal was thereafter disposed of.”
Singh then approached the CIC. In his second appeal, he stated that “(the) PIO has not provided true and complete information as per direction of the FAA. Neither the PIO nor the FAA mentioned the address of the second appellate authority in their reply which, appellant claims, amounts to denial of information.”
During the hearing before the Commission, Mr Gandhi noted that the PIO had given slightly vague replies due to lack of systematic efforts for complying with Section 4 of the RTI Act.
After discussing the matter with both Singh and the PIO, the CIC directed the PIO to ensure that the following information regarding the public authority is displayed on the website of the department:
1 Information every month on the number defaults in meeting the SLA (Service Level Agreements) and amount of penalty recovered form officers for default.
2 Orders passed under Section 81 of Delhi Land Reform Act 1954.
While allowing the appeal, Mr Gandhi said, “The order is being given by the Commission under its powers under Section 19(8) (a) of the RTI Act. This is a requirement of Section 4 of the RTI Act. It would ensure that both the above information is updated every month before the 10th of the following month.”
He also directed the PIO to send a compliance report along with the URL address (web address) where the information has been uploaded to Singh and the Commission before 25 July 2011.
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2011/001225/13156
Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2011/001225
Appellant : Rambir Singh,
New Delhi - 110037
Respondent : BS Jaglan
PIO & ADM (SW)
Revenue Department, GNCTD
Old Terminal Tax Building,
Kapashera, New Delhi - 110037