CIC Rejects Application Seeking Penal Action Against CPIO

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Excerpt

The Central Information Commission, dated 31st December 2020, dismissed the RTI applicants filed by the complainant by stating that the Complainant could not establish malafide/ unreasonable conduct on the part of the CPIO, which is beyond the definition of information and right to information as per the RTI Act, 2005. The RTI applicant was regarding seeking information on follow-up action on the petition from the concerned respondent authority.

Facts of the Case

The Plea was filed, by the complainant Radha Raman Tripathy, RTI applications seeking for information regarding follow-up action on the petition from the concerned authority in the Ministry/ Department/ State Government to which the grievance has been forwarded. It was stated that the status of a grievance can be checked by a citizen on PG Portal by using the registration number of his petition.

The authorities take further gist of actions, like telephonic inquiries and the copy of the reply to the applicant are also uploaded on the portal.  Further, the applicant may, for more information, also refer to the relevant FAQ on the website of the office i.e., http://www.pmindia.gov.in- Right to Information (from the drop-down menu)- Frequently Asked Questions- FAQ relating to public grievance.

The other details of the petitions are already accessible by the Petitioners on the online PG portal. Thus, there was no need to seek such information by petitioners through applications under the RTI Act, 2005.

Petitioner’s Arguments

The Petitioner’s representative Shri Varun Krishna made an argument before the Commission that CPIO has been provided an incorrect and misleading response in all these matters. Thus, penal action should be initiated by him. Furthermore, it was contended that the decision of the CPIO not to respond to the remaining RTI applications was against the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005. 

Furthermore, he stated that the issues related to multiple issues including a bogus IT refunds scam amounting to Rs 30 Crores for the assessment years mentioned in the Complaints filed with PMO. Thus, these issues are raised in the large public interest.

Respondents’ Arguments

The Respondent is represented by Shri Praveen Kumar, US, PMO through an audio conference. He stated before the Commission that the issues that rose in all the complaints essentially revolved around the larger issue of delayed refunds processed by the officers of ACIT Circle-3, Bokaro Steel City. 

He thereafter stated that the CPGRAMS mechanism is already in existence for the matters relating to grievance redressal of the Complainant. 

The Public Grievance mechanism within the PMO deals with several such complaints periodically and action taken is intimated to all the complainants including the information seeker.

 Thus, there is no malafide intention to deny the information. Also, the respondent contended that the complainant should have mentioned the same in the RTI application based on which an appropriate reply would have been provided to him. 

Analysis

The Commission referred the case of C.I.T Madras V. TV Sundram Iyengar by stating that if the parties do not have the copies of the documents to retain the information available within the knowledge of the petitioner then he cannot seek those details as a matter of right before the High Court.

Court’s Observations

After hearing the contentions from both sides, the Commission favors the contention of the respondent that no malafide can be attributed to the conduct of the CPIO in this case. The Commission observed that the queries are interpretative in nature as it is beyond the definition of information and right to information as per the RTI Act, 2005. Moreover, RTI applications should be available to him.

Court’s Decision

The Chief Information Commissioner, Shri Y.K. Sinha dismissed the application of the Complainant by stating that the Complainant could not establish malafide/ unreasonable conduct on the part of the CPIO.

Click here to view full Judgement.


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