In an order issued on 20 August 2010, the CIC asked a public authority to pay a compensation of Rs50,000 to a patient suffering from serious illness for not providing information within 48 hours under Section 7(1) of the RTI Act. This is the first in a series of important judgements given by Shailesh Gandhi, former CIC that can be used in an RTI application
The public information officer (PIO) is bound to furnish information sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, within 48 hours if it concerns life or liberty of a person. This was one of the most important decisions given by Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner (CIC).
“The life or liberty provision can be applied only in cases where there is an imminent danger to the life or liberty of a person and the non-supply of the information may either lead to death or grievous injury to the concerned person,” the CIC said in his order in the Puran Chand Vs Directorate of Health Services (DHS), Government of NCT of Delhi case.
Puran Chand, who belongs to the below poverty line (BPL) category, was suffering from compression of spine and needed urgent surgery. He filed an RTI under Section 7(1) after the India Spinal Injury Centre (ISIC) denied him freeship facility that he was entitled to. The ISIC gave him an estimate of Rs1.75 lakh for the operation.
The government has allotted land to certain private hospitals at nominal rates on the condition that they will provide 10% of the beds to patients from the economically weaker section. Puran Chand claimed that he should be given treatment free of cost as he was a BPL card holder. However, the hospital authorities refused to give him admission for free treatment. He said he could not afford to pay Rs1.75 lakh and then on 31 August 2009, filed an application under the RTI seeking information within 48 hours as the matter was involved with his life.
However, the PIO claimed that he received the application only on 2 September 2009 and sought assistance from the Nursing Home Cell. Dr JN Mohanty, MS, Nursing Home Cell received the RTI application on 9 September 2009. He obtained the information from ISIC and sent it on 11 September 2009 to the PIO. The PIO, in turn, sent the information to Puran Chand on 16 September 2009.
In the meantime, Puran Chand needed to undergo the surgery at the earliest. So, he borrowed money from his relatives and friends and got himself admitted in Ganga Ram Hospital. He was operated on 10 September 2009.
After verifying the facts, the Commission, in its order in August 2010, said it appears that the medical condition of the Complainant (Puran Chand) was grave and required immediate medical attention. “The compression in the spinal cord was serious in nature and if allowed to deteriorate, could have led to the complainant going in a coma. An analysis of the queries in the RTI application reveal that the replies thereto would have enabled the complainant to know whether he would be provided the urgent medical attention at ISIC or would he have to approach some other hospital. The fact that within four days of filing the RTI application, the complainant was forced to approach another hospital for treatment is reflective of the serious nature of his disease. Given the urgent need for medical attention, the Commission finds that the information sought for in the RTI Application does concern the life of the complainant and therefore information should have been provided within 48 hours of receipt of the RTI Application,” the Commission said.
“Further, the complainant belongs to the BPL category and irreparable loss, both physically and financially, was incurred by him due to the careless and insensitive attitude of the PIO. The instant case represents the failure of the delivery system to the poor. The Commission feels that unless all officers and systems can respond in a time bound manner, governance cannot deliver to those who need it the most,” the order said.
Due to the failure of the PIO to provide information sought under Section 7(1) within 48 hours, the Commission asked him to pay a compensation of Rs50,000 to Puran Chand and also provide complete information.
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Decision No. CIC/SG/C/2009/001628/9090 Date 20 August 2010
Complaint No. CIC/SG/C/2009/001628
Complainant : Mr. Pooran Chand
S/o of Shri Narayan Chand,
D-44, West Vinod Nagar,
Respondent : Dr. G. Kausalya
Public Information Officer & Chief Medical Officer
Directorate of Health Services
Govt. of NCT of Delhi,
F-17, Karkardooma, New Delhi.
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