The public information officer (PIO) of the Life Insurance Company (LIC) of Agra, who defended himself by stating that documents regarding its pension & group scheme policy (P&GS) of employees of St Clare's School, Agra were destroyed in a fire, has been directed by the central information commission (CIC) to file an affidavit “deposing categorically that relevant records are destroyed in fire accident of December 2016 duly supported by documentary evidence.”
Central information commissioner (IC) Vinod Kumar Tiwari has also issued an advisory under Section 25(5) of the RTI Act to the chief vigilance officer (CVO) of the LIC, instructing him to investigate the cases related to this specific policy as it concerns larger public interest and the alleged serious irregularities in this matter need to be investigated.
The matter relates to an alleged corruption scam of St Clare’s School trustees who, in collusion with the LIC officials, have illegally withdrawn the teacher’s gratuity fund amount against employee group gratuity scheme policy (No.102472) without the consent of the intended beneficiary. A criminal case in this regard has also been filed by the teachers’ association against the school.
RTI applicant George Thomas, a former employee of the School, sought information on a particular employee’s policy under the P&GS of St Clare's School, Agra from 2008 to 2010. He sought a copy of the certified copy, its current status, the date when the policy was terminated and how much money was transferred to St Clare's School trustees in connection with this policy.
Mr Thomas also asked for details of a sum of Rs1,45,044 given to St Clare's School, Agra in the name of the peon, who passed away on duty. This amount was withdrawn through cheque number 826194 on 9 July 2009 from the St Clare's School, Agra account. Lastly, he asked for the documentation submitted by the St Clare's trustee of Agra to LIC P&GS for the withdrawal of funds in the name of the peon.
The second appeal hearing, which was conducted early this week on 29th January, was attended by the CPIO of LIC, Jagdish Prasad in person and Mr Thomas through video conferencing.
Regarding the policy of the peon who is no more, Mr Thomas argued before the CIC that the peon, who was an employee of St Clare's School, Agra, died on 3 October 1998 but his gratuity money was remitted on 9 July 2009 through bearer cheque. As he has no legal heir to claim the gratuity, the money could not be withdrawn. He argued that although this information pertained to another individual, he sought information in the larger public interest which is applicable under the RTI Act.
PIO Jagdish Prasad defended by explaining that, due to a massive fire accident in December 2016, entire records of information sought have been destroyed in the office. However, on thorough search, he could locate the particular policy that Mr Thomas had requisitioned. This had already been surrendered on 8 March 2013, against which Rs60,02,399 was disbursed in favour of the trustees of St Clare’s Senior Secondary School, Agra. He also stated that he only has a list of claimants whose claims had been settled which he agreed to furnish to Mr Thomas but the name of the peon was nowhere reflected in his list.
IC Tiwari observed in his order that “The commission, after adverting to the facts and circumstances of the case, perusal of the records and considering the gravity of issue flagged by the appellant during hearing, deems it fit to direct the respondent to revisit the contents of the RTI application and provide a revised point-wise reply along with relevant available information keeping in view the applicability of proviso to Section 8(1) of the RTI Act.”
He has also directed the CPIO to provide information as well as the affidavit (documentary evidence that fire had destroyed some documents) within two weeks of the order which was given on 29 January 2024.
Details of the RTI application filed in November 2022
- Kindly provide me a certified copy of a Pension & Group Scheme (P& GS) of the employees of St Clare's School Agra policy no GGCA 102472 from 2008 to 2010.
- What is the present status of policy no GGCA 102472?
- On which date St Clare's school employee's Pension & Group Scheme policy no GGCA 102472 was closed down, and what amount was transferred to St Clare's school trustees in the policy no GGCA 102472?
- Kindly tell the date when the sum of 1,45,044 rupees was given to St Clare's School Agra, in the name of Ramnath a peon who died on duty, which was withdrawn through cheque no 826194 on 9th July 2009 from the St Clare's School Agra account.
- Kindly provide the document of Ramnath submitted by the St Clare's Trustee of Agra to LIC Pension & Group Scheme for withdrawing funds.”
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife. She is also the convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting, which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain Award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book "To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte" with Vinita Kamte and is the author of "The Mighty Fall".)