Due to the carelessness of the officials or the poor functioning of IITK, the complainant had to wait for five months for two simple and straightforward queries. The CIC fined the registrar and deemed PIO Rs15,000 each and also asked the PIO to pay a compensation of Rs5,000 to the RTI applicant. This is the 52nd 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 stating that it was unfortunate that a professor and registrar of India's premier Institution were trading charges of the other not being truthful, fined the registrar and deemed Public Information Officer (PIO) Rs15,000 each besides providing a compensation of Rs5,000 to the applicant, as per the provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
While giving this important judgement on 28 May 2010, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner said, "From the various discussions during the hearing it was evident that Dr TK Ghosal (registrar and PIO) and TK Mukherjee (officer on special duty and deemed PIO) were acting in concert and hence, both were equally responsible for not providing the information.”
The case of replying two simple queries saw various levels of allegations between the authorities while trying to fix the blame on each other for the delay.
Kharagpur (West Bengal) resident Prof Rajeev Kumar, on 4 October 2009 sought information related to Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property Law (RGSIPL) from IIT Kharagpur. Here is the information he sought...
1. List of all Adjunct/ Visiting/ Guest/ Contractual Faculty (including those who were called for guest/invited lectures) in RGSIPL from July 2006 till date.
a. Kindly include name, designation, affiliation, qualification, working experience, period of stay in RGSIPL nature of work, total amount of remuneration/honorarium paid including other expenditures for each of the members in the above list.
b. Kindly include other members/dignitaries, who are associated with the academic/legal work of RGSIPL and who are not included in the above list. Kindly exclude those persons who are working in RGSIPL as regular faculty members.
Since Prof Kumar did not receive the information within the mandated time of 30 days, he filed a complaint under Section 18 of the RTI Act with the Commission on 25 December 2009. On 1 January 2010, the Commission directed the PIO to provide the information and also explain the delay for not furnishing the information within stipulated time.
The PIO sent a reply on 2 February 2010 to the Commission. He stated that he had provided the information to Prof Kumar on 6 January 2010 and on 1 February 2010. He also gave an explanation for the delay. However, the Commission felt that the explanation did not appear reasonable.
The Commission observed that both the PIOs (A Patra—the current PIO and Dr Ghosal—the earlier PIO) were guilty of not providing information within the time specified under sub-section (1) of Section 7 of the RTI Act and the PIOs’ actions and attract penal provisions and disciplinary action under Section 20 (1) and (2). The CIC then issued a show-cause notice to the PIOs.
During a hearing on 19 March 2010, the PIO stated that after receiving the application on 6 October 2009, under Section 5(4) of the RTI Act, on 7 October 2009, he sought assistance of Dr VC Vivekanandan, the then dean and professor of Law at RGSIPL. He stated on 23 November 2009, he sent a reminder to Dr Vivekanandan. On 23 November 2009, Prof S Matilal forwarded an email reply with a request to cross check the data with accounts department. But the PIO stated that he could not open the attachment sent with the email. SO on 6 January 2010, Dr Vivekanandan, sent the information, which was forwarded to Prof Kumar.
On 15 January 2010, Prof Kumar complained about receiving incomplete information. Then the PIO requested accounts department to provide the information and gave a reminder on 1 February 2010 to the Assistant Registrar, Accounts. On 1st February, the amount of honorarium paid to those who worked in RGSOIPL was provided to Prof Kumar which ran into 48 pages.
However, Prof Kumar pointed out that this list did not tally with the list, earlier provided to him, in terms of the names of the persons. In the first list Justice Pratap Ray and Anjan Sen had been mentioned but their names do not occur in the list showing the honorarium paid. There were a very large number of names to whom honorarium has been paid which did not occur in the first list.
The Commission then asked the PIO to explain these anomalies and give the complete list to the complainant before 30 March 2010.
Mr Gandhi, the CIC, noted that from the statements of the PIO, it appeared that Dr Vivekanandan was guilty of not providing information within 30 days. In addition the PIO knew that the amount of honorarium paid was not supplied to him and that he should have sought the assistance of the accounts department at least on 6 January 2010, when he forwarded the list to the complainant. However, he sought assistance of the accounts department on 15 January 2010.
“Information from a computerized accounts system about amount paid to people whose names are known should be available within minutes. Yet it is claimed that the accounts department took 15 days and a reminder from the PIO to give this information. The Commission recommends to the Director of IIT, Kharagpur to train people within the IIT who are dealing with RTI and setup some proper system where people understand what information is to be given and how it can be obtained,” Mr Gandhi noted.
During the hearing, Prof Kumar pointed out to the Commission that Dr Ghosal has during the discussions told him that “by doing this you are cutting your hand”. Prof Kumar felt that this was a threat. Dr Ghosal stated that it was not intended as a threat.
In its adjunct decision, the Commission directed the PIO to explain the anomalies and give complete list to Prof Kumar before 30 March 2010. The CIC also directed Dr Vivekanandan to present himself before the Commission along with his written submission on 19 April 2010.
During the show-cause hearing on 19th April, Dr Vivekanandan, in his written submission, stated that his office did not receive the RTI application on 6 January 2010 as claimed by the PIO. He stated that he received the RTI application only on 16 November 2009 and gave the information on 23rd November. Dr Vivekanandan also stated that he had written to the PIO on 6 January 2010 that the information was provided on 23 November 2009 and he again gave the information duly authenticated.
Dr Vivekanandan also stated that the actual amount of honorarium and other payments is dealt by central accounts department and that this information can only be provided by the accounts department and he clearly had no role to play in giving information about the amounts paid to visiting faculty. Though he had given the information to the PIO on 23 November 2009 the same was not sent to the information seeker till 6th January, he said.
In a letter sent to the PIO and also copied to the director of IITK and Dr Ghosal on 15 March 2010, Dr Vivekanandan mentioned that he should be informed if his presence was required during the Commission's hearing on 19th March.
He also alleged that on 17 March 2010, one Narayan Chandra Sarbajna, assistant at legal office entered his office and forcefully searched the drawers to access the seal of RGSIPL. He alleged that after procuring the stamp Sarbajna affixed the stamp on some papers. He has complained to the registrar of IIT Kharagpur about this on the same day.
According to Dr Vivekanandan, Dr Ghosal, the registrar and respondent in this case, called him on telephone to inform that RGSIPL or Dr Vivekanandan have not delayed any information and hence he (Dr Ghosal) would like to apologize for issuing the notice. Dr Ghosal also said that he would represent himself and Dr Vivekanandan can travel as per his program. “I come to understand from the (Commission's) order that respondent had suppressed the fact of my detailed note given on 15 March 2010 and had implicated me for the delay,” Dr Vivekanandan said.
The Commission said, it was evident that the statements of the Dr Vivekanandan, A Patra, PIO & assistant registrar (Audit), TK Mukherjee, OSD and Dr Ghosal, registrar (FAA) are contradictory. “The CIC is indeed distressed at the fact that the truth has not been revealed before the Commission,” Mr Gandhi noted.
He then directed all of them to appear together before the Commission on 24 May 2010. Dr Vivekanandan informed the Commission that he would be leaving IITK on 28th April. The Commission then asked Dr Ghosal, the registrar of IITK to provide an air ticket to Dr Vivekanandan for coming to Delhi and going back.
During a hearing on 24 May 2010, the Commission said it received written submissions from A Patra and Dr Ghosal. Mukhejee also sent a sworn affidavit. They all claimed that the submissions of Dr Vivekanandan were not correct while contending that the RTI application reached Dr Vivekanandan on 7 October 2009. The main conclusions of these submissions were...
“(a) RTI Application dated 04.10.2009 of Prof Rajeev Kumar was dispatched from the office of the PIO and it was received by the office of the Dean, RGSIPL. The proof of receipt and the proof of dispatch are with the PIO. Declarations to that effect have been taken from the persons who dispatched, who carried the document and who received the document and placed the same before the holder of the record.
(b) Documentary evidence showing that claims are generated from the RGSIPL, checked by the official of RGSOIPL and approved by Head, RGSIPL and cheques are disbursed through RGSOIPL office and payments are made from the Operating Grant of the Department. This conclusively proves that the holder of the records possessed the information as asked by the information seeker and could be provided on single window basis. Instead of that for the better reason known to them, the information holder suggested to give a different idea before the CIC through his e-mail dated 18.03.2010 (Copy enclosed. Since it was not correct information it was not placed before the Information Commissioner, CIC on 19/03/2010.)
The Commission is considerate and merciful enough to pardon and or condone the unintentional delay owing to the fact that PIO and other Institute Authorities are overburdened with workload, failed to meet the deadline, which is neither malafide nor a purposeful act on behalf of the PIO as he is dependent upon the supply of information/ documents from Holder of the Records."
Dr Vivekanandan stated that he had not received the RTI Application on 6 October 2009 but received a reminder on 16th November stating that the office of the PIO had sent him a letter on 6th October. He further stated that he had contacted the office of the PIO and explained that his office had not received any such letter that was sent on 6 October 2009 and the letter was brought to his notice only on 16th November. He further, submitted that he had asked his colleague Dr Shreya Matilal to collate and prepare the information required and the information had been provided to the PIO through an e-mail sent on 23 November 2009 with the attachment. He has also stated that after intimation from the office of the PIO about some problems about the software compatibility in opening the e-mail, he had again sent a fresh e-mail on 25 November 2009. He has further submitted that the other part of the information sought was about the remuneration paid to the contractual/ visiting experts, which was dealt by the accounts section of IIT Kharagpur, hence his office had no record of the same.
Dr Vivekanandan and Mukherjee both claimed that the other was not being truthful on the issue of the RTI application having been received by Dr Vivekanandan on 6 October 2009. “Considering the various charges and counter charges it was not possible for the Commission to determine who was telling the truth. However, there is no dispute that on 25 November 2009 the email with the names of the visiting/contractual faculties was received by the PIO. It was clear from that the email that the details of remuneration paid to them was not available with the Dr Vivekanandan, dean of RGSIPL and hence this information would only have been available from the accounts department,” Mr Gandhi, the CIC, noted.
The Commission said as per its observation, Dr Vivekanandan claimed he had received the RTI application only with the reminder dated 16 November 2009 from the PIO and had provided the information which pertains to his office on 23 November 2009 and again on 25 November 2009 and had also advised to cross check the information with the accounts department. “But neither the PIO Dr Ghosal nor the OSD and the deemed PIO, Mukherjee had tried to cross check the same and provide it to the complainant. It is clear that the other part of information regarding the remuneration was available with the accounts department. Dr Ghosal and Mukherjee had never tried to contact the accounts department to obtain the information. Moreover the PIO had sent another reminder to the Dean, RGSIPL to again provide the information with ‘authentication’ and further to provide the other part of information. Only when the complainant (Prof Kumar) complained that the details of remuneration had not been provided on 15 January 2010, they asked the accounts department to provide the details of the remuneration paid and give it to the complainant on 1 February 2010. This information did not tally with the list of names provided earlier and hence after the Commission's direction dated 19 March 2010, the complete information including the remuneration amount had been provided to the complainant on 30 March 2010, the CIC noted.
Mr Gandhi said, "During the hearing, Mukherjee, the OSD and the deemed PIO, did not give any reason to explain why he did not approach the accounts department to obtain the details of the remuneration paid to the adjunct/visiting/ guest/contractual faculty. Even if he did not realize this initially on 4 October 2009 when he received the RTI application, he should have sought the details of remuneration on 25 November 2009 when he realized that the details of remuneration were not available with the Dean, RGSIPL.”
The PIO submitted affidavits by Narayan Chandra Sarbjana, junior superintendent who claimed that he had received the RTI application on 7 October 2009 and that he was working with RGSIPL. Dr Vivekanandan however claimed that Sarbjana was not reporting to him and Sarbjana took the seal of the department on 17 March 2010 without authorization.
Matilal's email of 25/11/2009 with which the information was attached states...
“Dear Mr Mukherjee,
Please find attached wherewith the information available with us. I would advise you to kindly cross-check the information with the accounts department before sending the information to the RTI-applicant. The accounts department also needs to enter the remuneration/honorarium amount in column specified.
I am marking a copy of this email to our Dean for information.”
“Yet Mukherjee or Dr Ghosal made no effort to get the details of remuneration/honorarium from the accounts department but waited until the complainant pointed out on 15 January 2010 that the details of remuneration had not been provided. It appears from the evidence adduced during the hearing that Dr Ghosal who was the PIO and Mukherjee were jointly responsible for the delay in providing the information,” the Commission noted.
“However,” Mr Gandhi, the CIC, said, "neither of them was willing to admit that they were personally responsible. From the various discussions during the hearing it was evident that Dr Ghosal and Mukherjee were acting in concert and hence both were equally responsible for not providing the information.”
The Commission then reserved its decision.
While announcing the decision on 28 May 2010, Mr Gandhi said, “The Commission comes to the conclusion after looking at all the written and oral submissions of the complainant and the Respondents present during the hearing that there is no reasonable cause that has been advanced by the respondents, Mukherjee, OSD and Dr Ghosal, PIO & registrar for not providing the information to the complainant after it was received on 25 November 2009 from Dr Vivekanandan. The claim that ‘authentication’ was being sought for an e-mail sent by a faculty member for nearly 40 days until 6 January 2010 before the information could be disclosed to the Complainant does not sound reasonable.”
“From the serious allegations made by Dr Vivekanandan on one side and Patra, Mukherjee and Dr Ghosal on the other, it is difficult to arrive at the truth with regard to whether Dr Vivekanandan received the RTI Application on 6 October 2009. In view of this, the Commission is unable to fix any blame for this period. Since the evidence against Dr Vivekanandan is not very clear, the Commission does not consider it appropriate to impose a penalty on him. However, no reasonable cause has been provided for the complete failure by Dr Ghosal and Mukherjee to provide the complete information from the period of 25 November 2009 to 1 February 2010,” Mr Gandhi said.
The Commission said it found that the complainant (Prof Kumar) has been unnecessarily harassed by the PIO and the deemed PIO after he filed the RTI application. “For two simple and straightforward queries, the complainant has had to wait for almost five months. The complainant has certainly suffered from this harassment and the Commission has decided that a compensation of Rs5,000 should be awarded to the complainant for the loss and detriment suffered by him,” the CIC said.
“As per the provisions of Section 20 (1) RTI Act 2005, the Commission finds this a fit case for levying penalty on Dr Ghosal, the then PIO and registrar and TK Mukherjee, OSD and deemed PIO. Since the delay in providing the complete information has been for 60 days from 1 December 2009 to 1 February 2010, the Commission is passing an order penalizing Dr Ghosal and Mukherjee at the rate of Rs250 per day of delay, i.e. 60xRs250= Rs15,000 each,” the Commission said.
Mr Gandhi, the CIC directed the director of IITK to recover Rs15,000 each from the salary of Dr Ghosal and Mukherjee. “The amount may be deducted at the rate of Rs5,000 every month from their salary for three months. The first two cheques of Rs5,000 will be sent before 10 July 2010 and complete amount will be remitted before 10 September 2010,” the Commission said in its order.
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Decision No. CIC/SG/C/2010/000001/6934Penalty
Complaint No. CIC/SG/C/2010/000001
Complainant : Prof Rajeev Kumar
Kharagpur, West Bengal-721302
Respondents (1): A Patra
Public Information Officer (from 7/1/2010) &
Assistant Registrar (Audit)
Indian Institute of Technology
Kharagpur, West Bengal-721 302
(2) Dr TK Ghosal,
Registrar and PIO (upto 7/1/2010)
Indian Institute of Technology
Kharagpur, West Bengal-721 302
(3) TK Mukherjee
OSD and Deemed PIO
Indian Institute of Technology
Kharagpur, West Bengal-721 302
(4) Dr VC Vivekananandan,
Professor of Law Director and deemed PIO
University of Law Hyderabad
Hyderabad – 500027
According to sources, IDFC has filed a petition in the Madras High Court to quash an FIR filed by Photon Infotech in the Deccan Chronicle case
Infrastructure Development Finance Company (IDFC) has reportedly filed a petition before the Madras High Court to quash a first information Report (FIR) filed by Chennai-based Photon Infotech Pvt Ltd against the company, its senior executives and Deccan Chronicle Holdings (DCHL).
While IDFC has not confirmed the development, according to sources, there is a hearing scheduled on 11th March on the petition before the high court.
Earlier in an email reply, a spokesperson from IDFC had said, “We are taking all the legal recourse that we should in order to protect our interest. There is no merit in the case filed by Photon.”
In December last year, Photon Infotech filed an FIR against IDFC, its managing director (MD) and vice-chairman Rajiv B Lall, Vikram Limaye, deputy MD and Pravin Devcheli, deputy head of fixed income and treasury. Photon also named DCHL, its chairman and director T Venkatraman Reddy and PK Iyer, director in its FIR for indulging in a criminal conspiracy to cheat genuine investors through issuance of commercial papers (CP) in the trade market despite knowing the precarious financial conditions of DCHL.
Separately, both IDFC and Photon have initiated legal proceedings against DCHL and its promoters in the Andhra Pradesh High Court and before the Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT).
Photon in its FIR has alleged that on 1 June 2012 it was sold a CP worth Rs5 crore by an agent through IDFC and DCHL. It also alleged that ratings agency CARE was also duped by both DCHL and IDFC by portraying “sound financial condition” of DCHL through “fabricated and inflated” reports. At that time, CARE has assigned a credit rating of A1+ to DCHL.
IDFC also bought non-commercial debentures and CPs worth Rs300 crore issued by DCHL. “However, when IDFC came to know about the bankruptcy of DCHL, it obtained additional security from the company. Before the maturity of its CPs, DCHL executed deed of guarantee and hypothecation of all assets in favour of IDFC,” Photon alleged in the FIR.
“IDFC and its senior executives fraudulently created a fabricated financial assistance of Rs25 crore of indeterminate date and attached security comprising of all assets of DCHL, including its contract with the Board of Control of Cricket In India (BCCI) for the Indian Premier League (IPL) franchisee Deccan Chargers, pledge of an indeterminate number of shares of DCHL held by T Venkatraman Reddy and PK Iyer,” Photon said.
In other case, Mumbai-based IDBI Trusteeship Services also filed a petition in the AP High Court seeking liquidation of DCHL after the company failed to repay Rs100 to HDFC and HDFC Bank that bought the non-convertible debentures in the Hyderabad-based company.
Meanwhile according to media reports, the Hyderabad police are yet to complete the investigation into a criminal case filed against DCHL promoters by Karvy Stock Broking
The SBI Life Smart Income Protect advertisement claims to give tax-free returns with fine print saying “consult your tax advisor for details”. Find out what kind of returns you can expect and whether the product will really give tax-free benefits?
SBI Life Smart Income Protect is a traditional life insurance plan which gives guaranteed annual payouts of 11% of Sum Assured (SA) over a period of 15 years after plan maturity. While the guarantee itself is insignificant considering that assured returns will be less than 2.5% per annum (pa). A lot will depend on the non-guaranteed bonuses to give decent returns. But, will your returns really be tax-free as claimed in the advertisement?
There is fine print which says “consult your tax advisor for details”. It seems to be a standard disclaimer from insurance companies which want to claim tax-free returns, but don’t want to be held responsible for it. The ad claims "Delights guaranteed. Year after year". You don't want "Regrets guaranteed. Year after year". Moreover, in this product, SBI Life probably knows that policy term of five and 10 years can never give tax-free returns, but will not make such an open declaration as it helps them to remain vague about it.
It is only in the case of a policy term of 15 years that the product will qualify for tax benefits under Section 10 (10D). This is because only in this case the insurance cover is more than 10 times of the premium to be paid. The caveat here is standard health. If you are not healthy, your premium will be loaded and you may not even meet the requirement of tax-free benefit.
The Finance Bill 2012 had made it mandatory that the sum assured should be 10 times the annual premiums (the earlier limit was five times) for insurance policies to enjoy the tax benefits on contributions under Section 80C and on maturity under Section 10(10D).
The product offers policy terms of five, 10 and 15 years. At the policy maturity the customer will get vested bonuses and terminal bonus, but both are non-guaranteed. The payout period will pay guaranteed 11% of SA every year for 15 years. Considering just the guaranteed payout, the returns will be less than 2.5% pa. Assuming 6% pa non-guaranteed returns during the policy term, the real returns will be less than 4% pa; with 10% pa non-guaranteed returns, the real returns will be 5% pa. This is in sync with traditional products wherein the actual returns will be low.
Even 80C tax benefits at entry cannot be claimed in full for SBI Life Smart Income Protect policy term of five and 10 years. If the insurance cover is less than the minimum amount specified, the amount that can be claimed for tax savings under Section 80C reduces proportionately. It means your premium has to be sufficiently higher to be able to claim Rs1 lakh 80C taxable income deduction.
For example, a customer of age 33 years buying the product for policy term of 10 years will have annual premium of Rs119,390 for a SA of Rs10 lakh. The SA is only 8.37 times the premium and hence the amount claimed under 80C will be Rs99,929 for premium payment of Rs119,390. But, you will not get any tax benefit on maturity under Section 10 (10D).
Read the latest Moneylife cover story (issue dated 21 March 2013) “Pension & Life Plan: Tax-traps?” for some secrets on pension and life insurance taxation that insurers will not tell you about. The magazine will be available in the market on 7 March 2013.