7Bimal Julka#10CI500MiscellaneousMANUBimal Julka,TRIBUNALS2017-12-1555488,55502,55487,55503,55484 -->



Appeal No. CIC/CCABH/A/2017/312453-BJ

Decided On: 11.12.2017

Appellants: K.K. Garg
Respondent: CPIO & Assistant Commissioner (Hqrs.)

Hon'ble Judges/Coram:
Bimal Julka


Bimal Julka, Information Commissioner


1. The Appellant vide his RTI application sought information regarding the date of payment and cheque number with amount against each bill submitted by the Transport Operator in Col. 6 and 7 of the detail of bills submitted by the Transport Operator as per the Annexure "A" annexed with the RTI application and issues related thereto.

2. The CPIO/Jt. Commissioner of Income Tax, Gwalior, vide its letter dated 29.07.2016 denied disclosure of information as per Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, 2005. Dissatisfied by the response of the CPIO, the Appellant approached the FAA. The FAA and Pr. CIT, Gwalior, vide its order dated 06.09.2016, concurred with the response of the CPIO.


Facts emerging during the hearing:

The following were present:

Appellant: Mr. K.K. Garg through VC;

Respondent: Mr. Puneet Sehgal, Inspector through VC;

3. The Appellant reiterated the contents of his RTI application and stated that the details sought by him had not been provided despite specific provision under the RTI Act, 2005 for proactive disclosures in such matters. It was alleged that there was a large scale corruption in the Public Authority Office as a result of which such details were intentionally, deliberately and mala fidely withheld by the Respondent. It was further argued that payment details of Transport Operator were public records not exempted from disclosure. In its reply, the Respondent reiterated that no larger public interest was established by the Appellant and therefore the information could not be disclosed. On being queried by the Commission for invoking Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, 2005, no satisfactory reply was given. Drawing attention of the Respondent on the preamble of the Act "requiring an informed citizenry and transparency of information vital to its functioning and to contain corruption and to hold government and instrumentalities accountable to be governed", it was agreed by the Respondent that they had nothing to hide and that the details could be placed in the Public Domain.

4. In his written submission dated 27.11.2017, the Appellant while re-iterating the contents of the RTI application stated that he had sought generic information of statistical nature regarding date of payment and cheque number with amount against each bill submitted by the Transport Operator and to furnish the information in accordance with the guidelines issued by the DoP & T vide circular dated 17.03.2015. While referring to the reply of the CPIO, it was stated that it was not clear as to how he concluded that Section 8(1)(j) of the Act was applicable in his case. Merely citing the exemption u/s. 8(1)(j) would not absolve the Public Authority from discharging its onus as required to claim such exemption and reply on Point 2.2 was furnished in rustic manner against the guidelines furnished by the DoP & T. It was also stated that the FAA had concurred with the response of the CPIO claiming a blanket exemption u/s. 8(1)(j) without providing any opportunity of being heard to the Appellant to adduce evidence in support of his claim. While stating that the FAA had not acted as Appellate Authority but as a senior officer, the Appellant referred to guidelines of the DoP & T in O.M. No. 1/3/2008-IR dated 25.04.2008 and several decisions of the Commission. The FAA had also not complied with section 19(5) of the RTI Act, 2005. It was further stated that the information seeker under the Act was not required to state the reasons for seeking the information. The Appellant further referred to the decision of the Hon'ble High Court of Delhi in UPSC vs. R.K. Jain Para 24 of W.P. (C) 1243/2011 and C.M. No. 2618/2011 dated 13.07.2012. In view of the above submissions, the Appellant requested to direct the Respondent to supply complete information in accordance with Section 7(6) and 7(9) of the RTI Act, initiate penalty proceedings u/s. 20(1) of the RTI Act against the CPIO, direct the competent Administrative Authority to initiate disciplinary proceedings under the CCS (Conduct) Rules r/w Section 20 of the RTI Act against the CPIO, recommend the matter to the competent Public Authority to initiate disciplinary proceedings against the delinquent FAA under CCS (Conduct Rules), grant suitable compensation and damage u/s. 19(8)(b) of the RTI Act to him and pass appropriate strictures against the Respondent.

5. The Complainant vide his another written submission dated 23.11.2017 informed the Commission that the notice for hearing had not been served upon the FAA, against the order of which the Appeal/Complaint had been listed. Moreover, it was alleged that the then FAA, Mrs. Saroj Deswal had meted out to him in an insulting manner which was in violation of the guidelines laid down in O.M. issued by DoP & T dated 24.06.2008 and narrated an incident whereby he was allegedly not allowed to enter the office premise of the Respondent Public Authority on the oral instructions of the FAA. it was informed that a complaint in this regard had been made by him to the Pr. CIT, Bhopal and Police. Moreover, it was stated that the FAA did not give him an opportunity of personal hearing which was in contravention to the principles of natural justice. A reference was made to the decision of the Commission in Appeal No. CIC/AT/A/2007/01502 dated 24.10.2008 to substantiate his contention.

6. The Commission was also in receipt of a written submission from the Respondent dated 07.12.2017 wherein it was stated that the information sought by the Complainant was exempted from disclosure as per Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, 2005. However, during the hearing, the Respondent expressed his willingness to share the information as desired. It was articulated that the functioning of the Public Authority was transparent and the Transport Agency for which the information was sought was hired by the Respondent Public Authority and that they had nothing to hide.

7. In this context, the Commission referred to the observations made by Hon'ble Courts in the light of disclosure of information in "public interest", keeping in view the true spirit behind the promulgation of the RTI Act, 2005, which are as under:

8. The Hon'ble Supreme Court of India in SLP(C) No. 7526/2009 (CBSE & Anr. Vs. Aditya Bandopadhyay & Ors.) had observed as under:

"37. The right to information is a cherished right. Information and right to information are intended to be formidable tools in the hands of responsible citizens to fight corruption and to bring in transparency and accountability. The provisions of RTI Act should be enforced strictly and all efforts should be made to bring to light the necessary information under Clause (b) of Section 4(1) of the Act which relates to securing transparency and accountability in the working of public authorities and in discouraging corruption"

9. As observed by the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India in the decision of R.B.I. and Ors. V. Jayantilal N. Mistry and Ors., Transferred Case (Civil) No. 91 of 2015 (Arising out of Transfer Petition (Civil) No. 707 of 2012 decided on 16.12.2015

"The ideal of 'Government by the people' makes it necessary that people have access to information on matters of public concern. The free flow of information about affairs of Government paves way for debate in public policy and fosters accountability in Government. It creates a condition for 'open governance' which is a foundation of democracy."

10. The High Court of Delhi in General Manager Finance Air India Ltd. & Anr. v. Virender Singh, LPA No. 205/2012, Decided On: 16.07.2012 regarding the disclosure of information for public interest, held:

"8. The RTI Act, as per its preamble was enacted to enable the citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. An informed citizenry and transparency of information have been spelled out as vital to democracy and to contain corruption and to hold Governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed. The said legislation is undoubtedly one of the most significant enactments of independent India and a landmark in governance."

11. Moreover, the purpose and object of the promulgation of the RTI Act, 2005 was to make the public authorities more transparent and accountable to the public and to provide freedom to every citizen to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, consistent with public interest, in order to promote openness, transparency and accountability in administration and in relation to matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

12. With regard to the imposition of penalty on the CPIO/PIO under Section 20 of the RTI Act, 2005, the Commission took note of the ruling of Hon'ble Delhi High Court in W.P.(C) 11271/2009 Registrar of Companies & Ors. v. Dharmendra Kumar Garg & Anr. (delivered on: 01.06.2012) wherein it was held:

"61. Even if it were to be assumed for the sake of argument, that the view taken by the learned Central Information Commissioner in the impugned order was correct, and that the PIOs were obliged to provide the information, which was otherwise retrievable by the querist by resort to Section 610 of the Companies Act, it could not be said that the information had been withheld mala fide or deliberately without any reasonable cause. It can happen that the PIO may genuinely and bona fidely entertain the belief and hold the view that the information sought by the querist cannot be provided for one or the other reasons. Merely because the CIC eventually finds that the view taken by the PIO was not correct, it cannot automatically lead to issuance of a show cause notice under Section 20 of the RTI Act and the imposition of penalty. The legislature has cautiously provided that only in cases of mala fides or unreasonable conduct, i.e., where the PIO, without reasonable cause refuses to receive the application, or provide the information, or knowingly gives incorrect, incomplete or misleading information or destroys the information, that the personal penalty on the PIO can be imposed. This was certainly not one such case. If the CIC starts imposing penalty on the PIOs in every other case, without any justification, it would instill a sense of constant apprehension in those functioning as PIOs in the public authorities, and would put undue pressure on them. They would not be able to fulfill their statutory duties under the RTI Act with an independent mind and with objectivity. Such consequences would not auger well for the future development and growth of the regime that the RTI Act seeks to bring in, and may lead to skewed and imbalanced decisions by the PIOs Appellate Authorities and the CIC. It may even lead to unreasonable and absurd orders and bring the institutions created by the RTI Act in disrepute."

13. Similarly, the following observation of the Hon'ble Delhi High Court in Bhagat Singh v. CIC & Ors. W.P.(C) 3114/2007 are pertinent in this matter:

"17. This Court takes a serious note of the two year delay in releasing information, the lack of adequate reasoning in the orders of the Public Information Officer and the Appellate Authority and the lack of application of mind in relation to the nature of information sought. The materials on record clearly show the lackadaisical approach of the second and third respondent in releasing the information sought. However, the Petitioner has not been able to demonstrate that they mala fidely denied the information sought. Therefore, a direction to the Central Information Commission to initiate action under Section 20 of the Act, cannot be issued."

14. Furthermore, the High Court of Delhi in the decision of Col. Rajendra Singh v. Central Information Commission and Anr. WP (C) 5469 of 2008 dated 20.03.2009 had held as under:

"Section 20, no doubt empowers the CIC to take penal action and direct payment of such compensation or penalty as is warranted. Yet the Commission has to be satisfied that the delay occurred was without reasonable cause or the request was denied mala fidely.

......The preceding discussion shows that at least in the opinion of this Court, there are no allegations to establish that the information was withheld mala fide or unduly delayed so as to lead to an inference that petitioner was responsible for unreasonably withholding it."

15. The Appellant was not able to contest the submission of the Respondent or to substantiate his claims further regarding mala fide denial of information by the Respondent or for withholding it without any reasonable cause.


16. Considering the facts of the case and the submissions made by both the parties, the Commission directs the Respondent to disclose the details sought by the Appellant within a period of 15 days from the date of receipt of this order.

17. The Commission also instructs the Respondent to convene periodic conferences/seminars to sensitize, familiarize and educate the concerned officials about the relevant provisions of the RTI Act, 2005 for effective discharge of its duties and responsibilities.

18. The Appeal stands disposed with the above direction.

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