There are no parameters to determine whether the information sought pertains to one-subject matter. However, rules framed by the competent authority could put some reasonable restrictions on the length of the RTI application, the CIC said. This is the 134th 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), rejected the contention of the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), that the applicant should pay Rs10 for each query in his application. As per the provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Commission directed the PIO to provide complete information free of cost to the applicant.
While giving this judgement on 7 September 2011, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner said, “In the absence of any clear definition of what ‘one category of request’ means it would only lead to arbitrary refusals of information under the RTI Act, leading to clogging of the appellate mechanisms. However, rules framed by the competent authority could put some reasonable restrictions on the length of the RTI application.”
Gwalior resident Amit Pande, on 20 July 2010, sought information from the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of SIDBI at Lucknow. Here is the information he sought under the RTI Act...
(1) In relation to letter no. 5590 dated 15/05/2007, inform:
(i) Performance score obtained by the appellant for the Assessment Years 2003- 04, 2004- 05, 2005-06 and 2006- 07;
(ii) Name and designation of the reporting and reviewing officer for each year separately.
(iii) Certified copy of the note sheet prepared in connection with the above mentioned letter.
(2) In relation to an interview call for the appellant for promotion from Grade A to Grade B twice between 2004 and 2006, inform:
(i) Marks awarded by each committee member;
(ii)Threshold marks fixed by the board for promotion; and
(iii) Certified copy of each and every page related to the appellant's assessment.
(3) In relation to letter no. 7889/RTI-6(i)/197 dated 07/07/2010, inform:
(i) Section of the RTI Act invoked by SIDBI for filing the review petition;
(ii) Whether any note sheet was prepared by SIDBI before issuance of the above letter. If yes, provide a certified copy of the same.
(4) In relation to the two pages of letter no. 5204/SIDBI/CPIO/NZO dated 13/02/2007 issued by SIDBI to the appellant, inform:
(i) Whether any of the said guidelines were issued by SIDBI till date which were not issued earlier (by 13/02/2007). If yes, provide a certified copy of the same;
(ii) Whether any action has been taken by SIDBI on this report of the HR consultant till date other than making a huge payment to the consultant. If yes, then provide detailed information of the same;
(iii) If any note sheet was prepared by SIDBI after receiving this report for its implementation either in part or in toto, then provide a certified copy of the same. If no note sheet has been prepared till date, then inform the appellant accordingly;
(iv) Provide a certified copy of the voucher through which payment was made to the consultant;
(v) Names and designation of the officers who examined the HR consultant's report;
(vi) If this report is still pending for action, then inform about the names and designation of the officers with whom the report is pending action.
(vii) If SIDBI has decided not to take any action on the HR consultant's report, the same must be informed to the appellant;
(viii) Date on which the HR consultant's report was received in SIDBI. If this report was not in warded, the same must be informed to the appellant;
(5) An endorsement to letter dated nil written in the name of Durgesh Pandey, AGM and addressed to the appellant, stipulates: “Copy forwarded to The Assistant General Manager, SIDBI, Jammu. He is advised to monitor the quality of work and productivity of Amit Pande, AM in the office and forward a confidential report, on a monthly basis, to HRDD, HO, Lucknow/ NZO”. In this regard, provide a certified copy of all the monthly reports submitted by the AGM to HRDD, HO, Lucknow/ NZO.
(6) In relation to letter no. 1573 dated 30/07/2009 issued by the Reserve Bank of India and addressed to the CMD, SIDBI, Mumbai, inform:
(i) The date of receiving of this letter by SIDBI;
(ii) The inward number given by SIDBI to the letter, if any;
(iii) Provide a certified copy of the note sheet that was prepared by SIDBI on this matter;
(iv) Provide a certified coy of the reply that was sent by SIDBI to RBI in connection with the above letter dated 30/07/2009.
(7) In relation to the show cause notice dated 16/04/2008 issued by SIDBI to the appellant for starting disciplinary proceedings further to which a writ petition is pending against SIDBI in the Lucknow High Court (No. 1641 of 2009) for the appellant's illegal dismissal by SIDBI management, inform:
(i) How many advocates along with names have been consulted by SIDBI from time to time during the period 01/01/2008 till date?
(ii) How many times the fees were paid to the advocates along with the amount paid on each of these occasions? Certified copy of the payment voucher through which payment was made to the advocates and note sheet through which the advocates were hired and payment was released to them.
(8) In relation to three pages of the note sheet prepared by Reserve Bank of India, inform:
(i) Whether SIDBI has initiated any action on the advice of RBI. If yes, provide a certified copy of the relevant documents.
(ii) If SIDBI has not initiated any action in the matter till date, then inform
(9) In relation to letter HRDD No. 6314/ RBI (Corres) dated 18/02/2010 issued by SIDBI, inform:
(i) Whether any note sheet was prepared before issuing the above mentioned letter. If yes, then provide a certified copy of the same.
(ii) Names and designation of the officers who signed on the note sheet. If note sheet was not prepared before the issuance of the said letter, then inform the Appellant accordingly.
(iii) Provide a certified copy of SIDBI's advertisement as mentioned. Provide the name of the newspaper in which the said advertisement was published. If any note sheet was prepared before placing the advertisement, then provide a certified copy of the same. Inform the amount spent in placing this advertisement.
(10) In relation to one page, inform:
(i) Whether SIDBI has submitted its reply to the court;
(ii) Names and designation of the officers who are responsible to file the reply;
(iii) Role played by the COM (HRDD) and legal department till date. If they have not taken any initiative/action in filing the reply, then inform accordingly.
(iv) Total fees amount that has been given by SIDBI to the advocate till date. A certified copy of the note sheet prepared for making the payment.
(11) Since the introduction of RTI Act, how many times advocates were consulted by SIDBI for anything related to RTI Act. For example, inform whether any advocate was ever engaged by SIDBI for replying to any query of the information seekers or for solving any intricacy of the RTI Act. If yes, then provide the names of such advocates, fees paid to each one of them at different occasions and note sheet prepared for engaging such advocates. If no advocate was ever consulted/engaged for RTI related matters, then inform accordingly.
While denying to provide the information, the PIO said, “It is observed from the captioned application that you have sought information regarding 11 distinct items and you have sent only Rs10 (Rupees Ten only), as fee, therefore you are requested to deposit further fees of Rs100.”
The applicant Pande vide letter dated 1 August 2010 paid additional Rs100 under objection as he stated there was no basis under the RTI Act to charge extra money.
The PIO, in his reply on 9 August 2010 stated the applicant may approach the First Appellate Authority (FAA), if he was dissatisfied with the reply.
Pande then filed his first appeal. In the appeal, he stated that the PIO did not provide any information and sought additional fee of Rs100 from him without any basis under the RTI Act.
The FAA, however upheld the reply of the PIO and noted that it was in true spirit of the provisions of the RTI Act. The FAA observed that as per the decisions of the Commission, bundling of series of requests in one application is not open to the information seeker unless he pays for each request of information separately.
Not satisfied with the reply of the PIO and the order from the FAA, the appellant approached the CIC with his second appeal.
During the hearing, the CPIO and FAA of SIDBI argued that since there were 11 different items for which information was sought, the PIO was right in demanding Rs10 as application fee for each.
The respondents contended that the order of the Commission in Appeal No. CIC/SM/A/2010/001272/SG/14283 dated 26 August 2011 was erroneous since it should have referred the matter to a larger bench in the event a single Bench of the Commission disagreeing with another single bench on the same issue. They further argued that if the PIO has refused to provide information on technical grounds, the Commission should not issue an order to provide the information but remand the matter to the PIO. The respondent also relied on the Commission's decisions in TK Roy vs Department of Legal Affairs (CIC/AT/A/2009/000802) dated 15 January 2010 and Wasi Ul Haque vs UPSC (CIC/WB/A/2008/01256) dated 9 February 2010.
Mr Gandhi then reserved the bench’s order.
During the next hearing on 7 September 2011, Mr Gandhi noted in the instant case the main issue before the Commission was whether information sought by an applicant from a public authority pertains to different topics or heads, whether a separate application fee of Rs10 is required to be furnished in relation to each topic or head. In other words, is there a legal requirement on an applicant’s part to restrict the scope of her RTI application to only one subject matter?
Mr Gandhi said this issue came before his bench earlier as well in DK Bhaumik vs CPIO of SIDBI case (CIC/SM/A/2010/001272/SG). Both the CPIO and FAA were respondent in this matter as well. In the DK Bhaumik case, the respondents had relied on the Commission's decisions in Rajendra Singh vs CBI (CIC/WB/C/2007/00967 dated 19 June 2009), S Umapathi vs State Bank of India, Mumbai (CIC/SM/A/2010/000460/AT dated 12 November 2010) and Suryakant B Tengali vs State Bank of India, Mumbai (CIC/AT/A/2010/000501 dated 22 October 2010) in support of their contention. This Bench, vide order dated 26 August 2011, had held that there was no legal requirement on an applicant’s part to restrict the scope of her RTI application to only one subject matter, Mr Gandhi said.
In the present case, the PIO and FAA cited some additional decisions of the Commission in support of their contention. Both also contended the order of the Commission in the DK Bhaumik case was erroneous since it should have referred the matter to a larger bench in the event a single bench of the Commission disagrees with another single bench on the same issue.
Mr Gandhi said, in view of the same, this bench would consider all the decisions cited by the respondents in the DK Bhaumik case as well as the present matter.
In Rajendra Singh vs CBI (CIC/WB/C/2007/00967), Wajahat Habibullah, the then Chief Information Commissioner observed as follows:
“The issue hinges around the application required to be made for obtaining information u/s 7 (1). Under this clause a CPIO, on receipt of 'a request' is expected to deal with it expeditiously when with accompanied with a fee. It is, therefore not open to the applicant under the RTI Act to bundle a series of requests into one application unless these requests are treated separately and paid for accordingly.”
Mr Habibullah, the then Chief Information Commissioner, however, conceded that a request may be comprised of a question with several clarificatory or supporting questions stemming from the information sought. Such an application shall be treated as a single request and charged for accordingly.
Thereafter, in TK Roy vs Department of Legal Affairs (CIC/AT/A/2009/000802), AN Tiwari, Information Commissioner held that “In the Commission's decision in Rajendra Singh vs CBI; (Complaint No. CIC/WB/C/2007/00967; Date of Decision: 19 June 2009), it was held that the provision of Section 7(1) obligated an applicant to register in his RTI-application only one request or one type of request, which may have multiple facets. The Act doesn’t entitle an applicant to include in his application queries on myriad subjects and then expect the CPIO to despatch each part of the multiple queries to the point where the information was known to be or likely to be held”.
In Wasi Ul Haque vs UPSC (CIC/WB/A/2008/01256) case, Mr Habibullah, the then Chief Information Commissioner relied on the Rajendra Singh Case and observed that “…as per Section 6 (1) read with Section 7 (1) of the Act a request means that the questions and the answers must share an embryonic relationship, the genus of the application must be one and sub questions can constitute different species of the same genus”.
Subsequently, in Suryakant B Tengali vs State Bank of India, Mumbai (CIC/AT/A/2010/000501), Mr Tiwari, the then Central Information Commissioner interpreted the principle used in the Rajendra Singh Case as follows:
“In Rajendra Singh vs CBI (Appeal No. CIC/WB/C/2007/00967; Date of Decision: 19 June 2009), it has been the decision of the Commission that an application for information under the RTI Act should conform to the requirement of Section 6(1), which was that the application should contain either one request or a single category of request. It is not open to any applicant to ask for every single information under the sun through a single RTI application and to expect that the information would be collected, collated and furnished to him within the time limit of 30 days.”
The Rajendra Singh case was also relied upon in S Umapathi vs State Bank of India, Mumbai (CIC/SM/A/2010/000460/AT) wherein Mr Tiwari, the then Central Information Commissioner observed that “Under Section 6(1) an applicant is required to file RTI- application for either one or one category of information”.
“From a combined reading of the decisions mentioned above,” Mr Gandhi said, “it appears that the then Information Commissioners have interpreted the term ‘a request’ used both under Sections 6(1) and 7(1) of the RTI Act to mean one category of information. In other words, in a given RTI application, only one request i.e. one category of information may be sought on payment of the requisite fees; if information sought pertains to different categories, then each request shall be treated separately and paid for accordingly.”
Mr Gandhi said, this bench has perused the provisions of Sections 6(1) and 7(1) of the RTI Act. It is relevant to mention that the Supreme Court of India in Gurudevdatta Vksss Maryadit & Ors vs State of Maharashtra & Ors (Appeal (Civil) No2298/2001 judgment dated 22 March 2001) has clarified as follows:
“…it is a cardinal principle of interpretation of statute that the words of a statute must be understood in their natural, ordinary or popular sense and construed according to their grammatical meaning, unless such construction leads to some absurdity or unless there is something in the context or in the object of the statute to suggest to the contrary. The golden rule is that the words of a statute must prima facie be given their ordinary meaning. It is yet another rule of construction that when the words of the statute are clear, plain and unambiguous, then the courts are bound to give effect to that meaning, irrespective of the consequences. It is said that the words themselves best declare the intention of the law giver. The courts have adhered to the principle that efforts should be made to give meaning to each and every word used by the legislature and it is not a sound principle of construction to brush aside words in a statute as being inapposite surpluses, if they can have a proper application in circumstances conceivable within the contemplation of the statute.”
The principle laid down above has been reiterated time and again by the apex court. The golden rule of statutory interpretation, as laid down by the Supreme Court of India, has the force of law. If the said rule is to be applied, then the term ‘a request’ must be given its natural and ordinary meaning, which certainly does not appear to mean ‘one category of information’. If at all a meaning is ascribed to the term ‘a request’, it would mean "an application" seeking information under the RTI Act. Even from a plain reading of Sections 6(1) and 7(1) of the RTI Act, there does not appear to be any embargo on the scope of such request or application. In other words, this bench rules that there is no legal requirement on an applicant's part to restrict the scope of her RTI application to only one subject matter.
“In view of the above,” Mr Gandhi said, “this bench is of the considered view that the decisions cited by the Respondents are per incuriam inasmuch as these decisions were rendered in ignorance of a rule having the force of law laid down by the Supreme Court of India. Given the same, these decisions are not binding on this Bench. It is important to mention that no legal basis has been given by the then Chief/ Information Commissioners for interpreting that the term ‘a request’ used under Sections 6(1) and 7(1) of the RTI Act means only one category of information.”
“At this juncture, it would be pertinent to mention that what constitutes a ‘single subject matter’ has neither been defined in the RTI Act, the rules and regulations framed thereunder and not even by the then Chief/ Information Commissioners in the said decisions. No parameters have been laid down by the then Chief/ Information Commissioners by which an applicant and the PIO can determine whether the information sought pertains to one- subject matter,” the CIC said.
Mr Gandhi said, “In the absence of any means to determine what tantamount to 'one subject matter', the PIO can, at his discretion, furnish part information claiming that the remaining information sought in the RTI application pertains to a different subject matter for which a separate RTI application is required to be filed. The exercise of such discretion by the PIO is likely to be subjective resulting in arbitrary curtailment of the fundamental right to information of citizens and unnecessary expenditure of money.”
The CPIO and FAA also contended that if the PIO has refused to provide information on technical grounds, the Commission should not issue an order to provide the information but remand the matter to the PIO.
Mr Gandhi, however, said, this contention was not tenable in view of Section 19(8)(a)(i) of the RTI Act. This section provides that while deciding an appeal, the Commission has the power to require a public authority to provide access to information to secure compliance with the RTI Act. In view of the above, the contentions of the respondents are rejected, the CIC said.
While allowing the appeal, Mr Gandhi directed the PIO to provide complete information free of cost to the appellant before 5 October 2011, subject to the provisions of the RTI Act.
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Decision No. CIC/SM/A/2010/001398/SG/14462
Appeal No. CIC/SM/A/2010/001398/SG
Appellant : Amit Pande
Thatipur, Gwalior- 474011
Respondent : US Lal,
CPIO & General Manager (Legal),
Small Industries Development Bank of India,
SIDBI Tower, 15, Ashok Marg,
The Chinese have engaged in an economic aggression by sending a consignment of fake Indian currency, worth Rs37 lakh, which, most shockingly has been apprehended in New Delhi, addressed to a restaurant
In the last couple of months, we have had the ‘pleasure’ of being hosts to the Chinese premier officially and the members of the PLA (Peoples Liberation Army) in our territory, which came and went at its discretion!
Their foreign office had played down the intrusion, occupation of the Indian territory, dismantling of our property, and having called it ‘Chinese’ in banners, and then removed their camps, etc saying the misunderstanding at the borders should not really cause trouble in our centuries-old relationship!
A few air-space violations were similarly treated as small indiscretions due to poor weather conditions.
The third incident in the series is not only the intrusion, but ‘capturing’ the Indian camera in our barracks and later on returning it. Who knows if they have not bugged it with some electronic device that we still don't know about? If this be the case, that will be yet another issue that we may have to face and tackle at a later date.
Now, the Chinese have engaged in an economic aggression by sending a consignment of fake Indian currency, worth Rs37 lakh, which, most shockingly has been apprehended in New Delhi addressed to a Delhi restaurant. That this lot has travelled all the way to the capital without being detected itself is a feat to accomplish which speaks so well of our inefficient security agencies and systems in place. What a shame?
An identical lot but valued at about Rs30 lakh was found hidden in electronic dolls, piano and a cradle, imported from Hong Kong, but originally from Pakistan (well, that’s natural, right?), but caught in Nepal as one Ranjit Jha received the consignment in Birganj, on the Indo-Nepalese border. Should we continue to encourage imports of various small items from China that Indian industry can make?
We are helping China to set up medium and small factories to produce these and employ their population, while killing our own industry and making thousands jobless in the process. We should truly ban import of items that can be made in India.
The senders and God knows how many such consignments have already crossed the borders and how many more are in transit. A similarly valued consignment was caught in Motihair on 22nd June with a courier. This means that the courier company concerned did not strictly enforce the rule of x-raying the consignment before accepting it for onward carriage. What action has the government taken against the courier company would be of interest to the pubic.
All these are sad state of affairs that occur on a regular basis and only a few are caught; perhaps, these are allowed to be ‘captured’ consignments as they may be intended as ‘decoys’ with the main lots escaping the watchful eyes of the security agencies.
Such acts by unfriendly neighbours are to be expected but what is more relevant is our action plan to stem this rot from happening.
Why is the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) not making public on the progress made, if any, in regard to the introduction of polymer-based rupee currency notes. Please refer to Moneylife articles on this subject...
It is now certain that elections are around the corner that may actually occur sooner than later, and this sort of moves to introduce counterfeit currency by Pakistan and China would greatly hinder our democratic process.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)
As per the bourses, the move is part of the “surveillance review and with a view to ensure market safety and safeguard the interest of investors”
Leading bourses BSE (Bombay Stock Exchange) and NSE (National Stock Exchange) on Monday decided to shift securities of several firms, including Vijay Mallya-led Kingfisher Airlines and United Breweries (Holdings), to the restricted trading category from 19th July.
The scrips of Reliance MediaWorks and Ramco Systems, among others, would also be moved to the restricted group on both stock exchanges.
The BSE would shift 62 securities to the trade-for-trade or ‘T’ group, while NSE would transfer 36 stocks to this segment, the stock exchanges said in separate notifications yesterday.
The stocks would be shifted with effect from 19th July.
In the trade-for-trade segment no speculative trading is allowed and delivery of shares and payment of consideration amount are mandatory.
As per the bourses, the move is part of the “surveillance review and with a view to ensure market safety and safeguard the interest of investors”.
The stock exchanges have advised the trading members to take “adequate precaution” while trading in these scrips “as the settlement will be done on trade-to-trade basis and no netting off will be allowed”.
However, they added the transfer of these securities for trading and settlement on a trade-to-trade basis “is purely on account of market surveillance and it should not be construed as an adverse action against the concerned company”.
These stocks would attract a price band of 5% which would be the maximum permissible limit within which the share price can move.