RTI Judgement Series: Appellant harassed by the PIO gets Rs2,000 compensation
Despite the order from the FAA, the PIO refused to give information. He even tried to mislead the CIC by making false statements. The CIC while issuing a show cause to the PIO, awarded a compensation of Rs2,000 to the appellant. This is 155th in a series of important judgements given by former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi that can be used or quoted in an RTI application
The Central Information Commission (CIC), while allowing an appeal, directed the Public Information Officer (PIO) and assistant officer for value added tax (AVATO), in the Department of Trade and Taxes at Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) to provide complete information. The CIC also asked the PIO to pay Rs2,000 as compensation to the appellant for the loss and detriment suffered by him of having to file the appeals and not getting information in time.
While giving this judgement on 3 June 2011, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner said, “The PIO did not give any justification for refusing to give the information initially and even after the order of the First Appellate Authority (FAA) he did not give the information. Even before the Commission, he was not willing to give the exact position. It does not need too much imagination to guess why there was such a resolute refusal to provide the information.”
Delhi resident LG Dass, on 22 November 2010, sought from the PIO information about action taken on a complaint he filed against a particular dealer who was using different series of retail invoices and not charging VAT on the car accessories. Here is the information he sought under the RTI Act...
1. Please inform the progress in the matter and particulars of action taken by this public authority against the dealer in pursuance of the aforesaid complaint dated 4 October 2010 followed by the, addendum dated 21 October 2010.
2. Please also supply copies of documents, correspondence, replies and file notings etc. in respect of enquiries & investigation initiated and/or conducted by this public authority till date in this regard.
In his reply on 24 December 2012, the PIO said, "This office has received your letter dated 4 October 2010. However, further details in this regard cannot be disclosed as these are prohibited under Section 8(1) (h) of the RTI Act, 2005 which inter alia states:
8 (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, -
h)information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders;"
Again in a reply on 3 March 2010, the PIO stated, "However, in your case the status of enquiry or verification has changed since the date of providing information to you in response to your original application. Now, in this regard, the application has been forwarded to the VATO (KDU)/ Assessing Authority for further necessary action at their end. Since the matter pertains to third party information, a submission of TR Sawhney is being sought as stipulated under section 11 of the RTI Act. After the comments or submissions are received, you will be accordingly informed."
Dass, the applicant, citing information denied filed his first appeal. In his order the First Appellate Authority (FAA), said, "The PIO shall have the re-look into the issue and act in accordance with the law laid down by the High Court of Delhi. He shall furnish the information or respond the appellant as within 15 days."
Even after the FAA's order, the PIO did not provide the information. Dass then approached the CIC with his second appeal.
During the hearing, Mr Gandhi noted that the appellant (Dass) had filed a complaint on 4 October 2010 followed by an addendum on 21 October 2010. He had complained that a particular dealer was using different series of retail invoices and not charging VAT on the car accessories. Thus the appellant had filed a complaint about somebody fraudulently depriving the state of revenue. Through this RTI application he sought the action taken on this complaint, the CIC noted.
Mr Gandhi said, "The PIO has not provided the information as per the order of the FAA and Subhash (the PIO) has been trying to mislead the Commission by making false statements."
The FAA had ordered that the information should be provided within 15 days considering the order of the Delhi High Court in the Bhagat Singh Case.
"It is apparent that the PIO had made up his mind not to provide the information. Initially he refused to give the information claiming exemption under Section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act, without giving any reasons as to how disclosing the information would impede the process of investigation," Mr Gandhi said.
Under Section 19(5) of the RTI Act, the onus to prove the denial of information was justified and is on the PIO. "The PIO did not give any justification for refusing to give the information initially and even after the order of the FAA he did not give the information. Even before the Commission, he was not willing to give the exact position. It does not need too much imagination to guess why there was such a resolute refusal to provide the information," the CIC noted.
The Bench said, "The appellant has been unnecessarily harassed by the actions of the PIO and put to trouble by having to file the first and second appeal. An ordinary citizen instead of complaining and fighting succumbs to the pressure of undesirable functioning in offices instead of standing against it. Therefore, the award of compensation for harassment by public authorities not only compensates the individual, satisfies him personally but helps in curing social evil. It may result in improving the work culture and help in changing the outlook."
While allowing the appeal, Mr Gandhi directed the PIO to provide complete information available on records. Exercising its powers under Section 19(8)(b) of the RTI Act, the Bench awarded a compensation of Rs2000 to Dass for the loss and detriment suffered by him of having to file the appeals and not getting the information in time.
In addition, the CIC also issued a show cause notice to the PIO after finding him guilty of not furnishing information within the time specified under sub-section (1) of Section 7 by not replying within 30 days, as per the requirement of the RTI Act. "He has further refused to obey the orders of his superior officer, which raises a reasonable doubt that the denial of information may also be malafide," the Bench noted.
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2011/000897/12692
Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2011/000897
Appellant : LG Dass,
Respondent : Subhash
Public Information Officer & AVATO (HQ)
Department of Trade and Taxes, GNCTD
O/o Commissioner (Enforcement- I),
Vyapar Bhawan, IP Estate,
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