Treating denial of information under Right to Information (RTI) Act can be termed ‘deficiency in service’ under the Consumer Protection Act, as payment of Rs10 fee makes you a client of the public authority, from whom you are seeking information. Thus, you can knock at the door of the Consumer Redressal Forum, like it has successfully been done by several RTI applicants and claimed compensation for denial of information.
Mumbai based lawyer, activist and expert in housing and realty matters, Advocate Vinod Sampat, had filed a RTI application with the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the Sub-Registrar Office, Mumbai city, seeking information on names of officers handling documents, number of anti-corruption cases filed, a copy of a registration document and so on. The PIO, however, declined the information.
Mr Sampat experimented with an ingenious solution that worked well for him. He says, “Instead of appealing with the Appellate Authority, I decided to approach the Consumer Redressal Forum as it amounts to ‘deficiency in service’.”
A case was filed before the Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Mumbai Suburban District, making the Inspector General of Registration, headquartered at Pune, a party to it. He sought nominal compensation for denial of information.
The Consumer Redressal Forum sent summons to the Pune office, directing the PIO of the IG Registrar’s office to file his say within 30 days from the date of the receipt of this notice. The summon asked the PIO to file an affidavit, attested before a Competent Authority supporting his say and list of documents he would be relying on, for his defense.
Lo and behold, the IG Registrar’s office promptly sent Adv Sampat a reply stating that “the said document has been searched on priority and has been found.” Thus, Adv Sampat got the information he had sought for, promptly.
He says, “Government officers are used to working within the comforts of their offices. The PIO from IG Registration office in Pune, would have to come to the Mumbai Consumer Redressal Forum. Before that he would have to seek advice of his legal department, where he would have to be answerable to various questions. So, it is clear that the IG Registrar must have used his good offices to promptly procure the information within a week of the summons and give it to me under RTI.”
Though this case pertains to 2012, there have been several instances wherein RTI applicants have rushed to the Consumer Court. In fact, Punjab based RTI activist, Surendera M Bhanot has compiled a list of such cases, which have met with positive results for the RTI applicants turned Complainants to the Consumer Court. (See the list below in Box 1).
In fact, in 2013, the Ernakulum District Consumer Redressal Forum, had passed a landmark judgment, that if the RTI applicant is denied information, it will be considered deficiency of service and the applicant will be entitled to compensation under the RTI Act. In this case, the RTI applicant had sought information on names of councilors who had failed to hold Ward sabhas in Kochi Municipal Corp. The Ernakulum District Consumer Redressal Forum referred the matter to National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, which stated that the RTI Act does not provide remedy to the applicant if he or she is denied information; disciplinary action is taken only against the competent authority. The applicant does not get any compensation for deficiency of service. The Consumer Forum therefore directed the officer to pay compensation of Rs5,000 to the complainant as compensation as Rs1,000 as cost.
However, in 2015, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission held that “no complaint by a person alleging deficiency in services rendered by the CPIO or PIO is maintainable before a Consumer Forum.”
Nevertheless, it surely puts pressure on the public authorities under RTI, as it did in the case of Adv Sampat.
List provided by Punjab based RTI activist, Surendera M Bhanot (the writer has not checked each and every link):
Before National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
1. NCDRC Iin RP No. 2774 of 2004 IN Usha Rani Aggarwal Versus Nagar Palika Parishad, Haldwani
2. NCDRC IN RP No. 1975 OF 2005 IN Dr. S.P. Thirumala Rao Vs. Municipal Commissioner Mysore City Municipal Corporation
Before Various District Consumer Fora
District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Mandi H.P . CC No.14/2009 IN Lawan Thakur Vs PIO-cum-Additional Distt Magistrate, Kullu, H.P.
1. District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum South Mumbai CC No. SMF/MUM/301/2009 Shrikant Yeshwant V/s Public Service Commission , Mumbai
2. District Consumer Disputes Redressal ForumVizianagaram C.C.NO:118/2010 IN MATTER OF Barla Venkata Rao VS PIO Tahsildar, Vizianagaram
3. District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum Tuticorin CC No. 57/10 Rajakumar vs PIO (Registrar) Manomaniam Sundaranar University & ors
4. District Consumer Disputes Redressal ForumVizianagaram C.C.NO:116/2010 IN MATTER OF Vaka Venkata Narasimham VS Commissioner Endowments
5. District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum , Nuapada CC/11/8 in Yado kumr Sahu Vs. PIO,O/o BDO,Nuapada
6. District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum FARIDKOT Punjab CC No. : 102 /11 Ashu Mittal Versus PIO cum District Transport Officer, Faridkot
7. District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum NIZAMABAD C.C.No.41 of 2010 R.Rammohan Rao vs I O (Divisional Engineer Operation), NPDCL
8. District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum Mohali CC No. 249 of 2011 Dr. Sanjeev Malhotra vs Estate Officer GMADA Mohali
9. Medak Dist. Consumer Forum (AP) Sangareddy Chandra Reddy vs District Education Officer
10. DCDRF Mohali-2 Balraj Kalra vs APIO Rural Development Punjab.
11. DCDRF Ludhiana dated 09.11.2011 in matter of Sanjeev Malhotra vs Deputy Commissioner Ludhiana and ors.
12. Decision dated 30-11-2011 of Consumer Forum, Bangalore II additional ordering supply of information and compensation also.
13. Pune decision is attached herewith.
14. 2 decisions of Namakkal [TN]Dist Consumer Forum for information of our members.Complaints have failed for technical reasons.
15. Excellent Order dated 10-02-2012 by Hon'ble DCDRF Mohali in Consumer Complaint in matter of Sh. Balraj Kalra vs APIO Director Rural Development and Panchayats & ors.
16. Won a case in Consumer forum against university for not getting my revaluation done. this judgment also throw a lime light that even universities and educational boards are still under the purview of consumer protection Act.
17. judgement of DCDRF Chandigarh-1 in CC/496/2011
18. DCDRF-I Chandigarh in Complaint No.411/2011 in matter of Sh. Sanjay Mishra vs PIO PSIC .The forum has held that that an RTI Applicant is a consumer , eligible for remedy under CPA . Although , the deficiency in service could not be proved in this case , still it is a positive Order for RTI Users .
19. The judgement of DCDRF CHENNAI dated 06/06/2012
20. Another Judgment from Bangalore 3 Addl. DCDRF regarding RTI. Here Complainant is held as not a consumer but still DCDRF granted relief to some extent.
21. Mysore DCDRF has awarded compensation for non furnishing of information.
22. Punjab State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission considers RTI Applicant a Consumer. Case No. A/11/1323
23. State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Punjab, decides another case in faour of RTI Consumer.
24. "The power of the commission under s. 19 8 b is limited and can only be exercised on exceptional cases where an applicant has suffered ....". Further, the supreme court judgment of civil appeal 7543 of 2004 (already attached in the thread) in the paras 24, 29, 30 and particularly para 31 "In our view.................additional or alternative remedy". These observation are clear that rti can be filed in cpf. Any other specific cases for rti not covered in cp or covered in cp in high or supreme courts can be loaded for more awareness.
LINKS TO VARIOUS ORDERS:
Definition of Consumer under Consumer Protection Act:
(d) "consumer" means any person who—
(i) buys any goods for a consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment and includes any user of such goods other than the person who buys such goods for consideration paid or promised or partly paid or partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment when such use is made with the approval of such person, but does not include a person who obtains such goods for resale or for any commercial purpose; or
(ii) hires or avails of any services for a consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment and includes any beneficiary of such services other than the person who 'hires or avails of the services for consideration paid or promised, or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment, when such services are availed of with the approval of the first mentioned person but does not include a person who avails of such services for any commercial purposes;
Explanation.— For the purposes of this clause, “commercial purpose” does not include use by a person of goods bought and used by him and services availed by him exclusively for the purposes of earning his livelihood by means of self-employment
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and 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