Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): Information Commissioner, Suresh Chandra, partly allowed a second appeal filed before him in an issue related to non-receipt of the information raised by the appellant through his RTI application.

The appellant filed an application on 25-08-2015 under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) before the respondent-Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), Andhra Bank, Jaipur seeking information under twenty-five points related to tender for the service of the generator in the bank, to which CPIO replied on 24-09-2015. The appellant being dissatisfied with the response, preferred the First Appeal but the First Appellate Authority did not pass any order. Aggrieved thereby, the appellant filed a Second Appeal dated 16-12-2015, before the State Information Commission (SIC), Jaipur which was transferred to this Commission on 12-01-2017 for consideration.

The appellant contended that the reply given by the respondent was unsatisfactory and therefore requested the Commission to direct him to provide complete pointwise information and to take the necessary action as per Section 20 of the RTI Act. The respondent submitted that he had taken the facility of the generator from a person, other than the appellant, by following due procedure and the appellant’s agreement was terminated as per the terms of the agreement, aggrieved by which, the appellant filed the subject RTI.

The Commission in its order noted that most of the information sought by the appellant was in the form of queries which did not qualify for ‘information’ as defined under Section 2 (f) of the RTI Act. The Commission found that the reply given by CPIO was ‘evasive’, hence it directed the respondent to provide the information sought by the appellant on points 2, 3, 9, 13, 18, 19, 20 23 and 24 of his RTI application within 10 days from the date of receipt of the order.[Rajendra Sharma v. CPIO, Andhra Bank, 2019 SCC OnLine CIC 299, Order dated 03-05-2019]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): The Bench of Sudhir Bhargava, CIC, while dealing with an issue in respect of Electronic Voting Machine stated that EVM (Electronic Voting Machine) is information under RTI Act.

In the present case, the appellant had filed the application under Right To Information Act, 2005 before the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), Election Commission of India seeking an Electronic Voting Machine. Appellant filed the second appeal on the grounds that the respondent wrongly denied the information.

Contentions placed by the appellant:

Appellant stated that as per Section 2(f) and 2(i) of the RTI Act, the definition of ‘information’ and ‘record’ includes model or any sample which ultimately qualifies EVM as “information” and should be provided to him under Section 6(1) of the RTI Act. Appellant further requested the commission to direct CPIO, ECI to provide the desired information to him free of cost and impose a penalty against CPIO under Section 20 of RTI Act.

Conclusion [Decision taken by CIC]

CIC Bench concluded its order by stating the definition of information under Section 2(f) of RTI Act, i.e.

Section 2(f) – “Information” means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, order, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force.”

Therefore, noting the above, the Commission stated that EVM is available in a material form and also as samples, as admitted by the respondent during the hearing, is information under the RTI Act. The contention that the software installed in the EVM is an intellectual property of a third party, disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of the third party concerned, commission directed the CPIO, ECI to provide an appropriate reply, as per the provisions of the RTI Act, since it could not have been denied under Section 6(1) of the Act.

With the above position of facts and circumstances along with the conclusion pronounced, the appeal was disposed of. [Razak K. Haidar v. CPIO, Election Commission of India, Order dated 11-02-2019]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): Sudhir Bhargava, Chief Information Commissioner, directed the Registry of the Bench to issue a Show Cause Notice to the respondent to explain as to why action under Section 20(1) of the RTI Act should not be initiated against him.

The facts of the case are that the Commission directed DPS NALCO to provide a copy of the Record Retention Schedule as well as the order of the Competent Authority for the destruction of the attendance register for the year 1989-90, to the appellant within a period of four weeks from the date of the order, and grant one more opportunity to the appellant to inspect all the relevant records pertaining to the information sought in her RTI application on a mutually decided date and time as per the provisions of the RTI Act. The appellant again submitted an application alleging non-compliance of the directions of the Commission by the respondent. The respondents denied the same.

The Commission held that in the view of such evident contradiction in the submissions of the respondent, leading to non compliance of specific directions of the Commission and deliberate obstruction to the flow of information, a show cause notice is to be issued to the respondent for explaining as to why action under Section 20(1) of the RTI Act should not be initiated against him. [Puspalata Rout v. CPIO, 2019 SCC OnLine CIC 1, Order dated 07-02-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Rajiv Sharma and Harinder Singh Sidhu, JJ., allowed a petition made against the order by the Central Administrative Tribunal which allowed the demotion of the petitioner after the completion of his probation period.

The facts of the case are that the petitioner was promoted to the post of the Assistant Food & Supplies Officer. As stated in the Court, the probation period was of one year. Though one year probation period was over, the same was extended by another six months. Thereafter the petitioner was issued show cause notice on the basis that petitioner had maintained an association with a party that had staged various protests against the department. It was also stated in the show cause notice that he was seeking information from the Department under the Right to Information Act. This was viewed as a question mark on his integrity. Thus he was reverted to the post of Inspector, Food & Supplies Grade-I. CAT also dismissed his appeal.

The Court held that if the petitioner was found indulging in any misconduct, the regular inquiry could have been instituted against him. The petitioner had the absolute right to get the information under the Right to Information Act. Seeking information under the Right to Information Act cannot put a question mark on his integrity. The Tribunal overlooked the basic principles of service jurisprudence while dealing with the probation period. The petition was thus allowed. [Pardeep Kumar v. State (UT of Chandigarh), 2018 SCC OnLine P&H 2389, dated 17-12-2018].

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): The present matter was taken up by Sudhir Bhargava (Information Commissioner), under the Right to Information Act, 2005.

Appellant had sought information primarily on two points under the Right to Information Act, 2005, which was:

  • Total number of currency notes of Rs 2000 printed daily from 09-11-2016 to 30-11-2016; and
  • Total Number of currency notes of Rs 500 printed daily from 09-11-2016 to 30-11-2016.

Further, a second appeal was filed on the grounds that the CPIO concerned denied information under Section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act.

According to the respondent and the submissions made on his behalf, he had submitted response to the RTI application and explained that the nature of currency printing and allied activities call for utmost exclusivity and confidentiality. He further stated that the information cannot be shared with the public at large, lest this result in proliferation of counterfeit currency and economic chaos. Disclosure of the details as regards quantity manufactured during specific period of printing need not be made known to the general public so as to safeguard the integrity of currency and to guard against counterfeiters, such information is exempted from disclosure under Section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act.

However, the Commission on perusal of the records and submissions made, noted that the information i.e. the total number of currency notes printed daily is not so sensitive so as to attract the exemption provisions under Section 8(1)(a), RTI Act as it relates to a past event and it cannot be presumed that its disclosure would lead to divulging the other non-disclosable information pertaining to the printing of currency notes.

Thus the CPIO was directed to furnish information as asked in point number 1 & 2 within 4 weeks from the receipt of order. [Harinder Dhingra v. CPIO, Bhartiya Reserve Bank Note Mudran (P) Ltd.,2018 SCC OnLine CIC 1607, Order dated 05-12-2018]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission: In response to appeal filed seeking information on all the files related to operation “Blue Star”, CIC disposed of the appeal by stating that “the disclosure of information would have been prejudicial to internal security of the nation”.

The appellant had initially sought information on all files related to operation blue star with CPIO, PMO. Appellant contended that disclosure of information at such belated stage in no way could prejudicially affect the security or strategic interests of the State, unless the Indian Army had done any injustice.

Commission had asked the CPIO for written submissions, in which the CPIO stated that disclosure of these records at any point would have severe implications on the integrity of the State and invariably enable anti-national elements. By keeping in mind the current scenario, where the electronic media has reached every nook and corner, the said information would have an instantaneous effect. CPIO by stating the instance of assault of Lt. Gen K S Brar (Retd.) of Z plus category of security only for his involvement in the conduct of operation blue star, wanted to bring out the gravity of disclosing the information asked upon.

Therefore, Commission after keeping in mind the above contentions of the appellant found no merits in it and had further conceded with the view of CPIO that disclosure of the records would be a potential cause for the incitement of offences of varied nature and a threat to the internal security of the State. [Navdeep Gupta v. CPIO, CIC/IARMY/A/2017/602079/SD, dated, 27-03-2018]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): The Commission recently dealt with an appeal seeking information regarding ‘Mann ki Baat’ program which was further disposed of by the commission on no additional scope of intervention.

The RTI application filed sought information regarding ‘Mann ki Baat’ program which included the information of the total number of video, audio and in writing messages received from the start by the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India. For the said issue, appellant was responded by the CPIO on 04-12-2017.

The respondent stated in response to the appeal that various suggestions and grievances are received under the said program from several sources and based on the nature of communication, they are forwarded to the concerned departments. Due to such voluminous data being received and forwarded to different departments based on the issue, it gets all scattered and retrieving all the information to be served would eventually require the resources from the office to work on this instead of the normal discharge of its functions attracting Section 7(9) of the RTI Act. It was also stated that no particular officials have been assigned to handle the communication received under ‘Mann ki Baat’.

Therefore, noting and observing the stated reasons filed by the respondent, Commission was satisfied and was in its favour which further lead the appeal to be disposed of. [Aseem Takya v. CPIO, PMO,2018 SCC OnLine CIC 391, order dated 05-06-2018]

 

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission: The appellant had requested the following information regarding the disciplinary case against him, from the CPIO, Dept. Of Posts:

1. When was his representation addressed to SPO, Nanded forwarded to the SPO by the Regional Office (“RO”), Aurangabad and how many times did the RO Aurangabad remind the SPO, Nanded to complete disciplinary proceedings against the appellant in time?

2. When was the disciplinary case submitted to the Directorate of CPMG, Mumbai and what was the present status of the case?

The CPIO in his reply stated that since the disciplinary proceedings were pending at that time, the same could not be disclosed under Section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act (“the Act”), which reads:

“8. Exemption from disclosure of information-

(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen-

(a)-(g) …

(h) information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders;

(i)-(j) …”

This response of the CPIO was upheld by the First Appellate Authority, hence the appellant approached the Central Information Commission (“the CIC”), which directed the current CPIO to furnish requested information and issued a show-cause notice to the erstwhile CPIO. The CPIO, Dept. of Posts upon the information being requested replied that since the information sought included questioning the actions of the Investigation Officer, details of opinions and notings by various persons and authorities involved in the proceedings, and the appellant’s knowledge of the same would adversely affect the case, it was hit by Section 8(1)(h) of the Act and there was no obligation on the CPIO to furnish the requested information.

The CIC, however, was of the view that the appellant only wished to inquire about the number of reminders sent to the authorities and the status of his case. He neither sought any information which would impede the proceedings nor any personal information about the investigating officer and hence the CPIO should not have blatantly denied the request.

The CIC referred to the case of Bhagat Singh v. Chief Information Commissioner, 2007 SCC OnLine Del 1607 where the Delhi HC had held:

“[M]ere existence of an investigation process cannot be a ground for refusal of the information: the authority withholding information must show satisfactory reason as to why the release of such information would hamper the investigation process.”

Further, in Shri Sathya Narayanan v. Reserve Bank of India, CIC/SM/A/2010/001239/SG/14214) the CIC had also held that:

“[U]nless the CPIO establishes that the disclosure of the information would impede the process of investigation, the information cannot be refused.”

Hence the CIC found the denial of the request by the erstwhile CPIO as improper and imposed on him a penalty of Rs. 15,000 under Section 20 of the Act. [Prabhakar R Shinde v PIO, Department of Posts,2018 SCC OnLine CIC 313, decided on 21.05.2018]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission: An appeal from the response of CPIO, Ministry of Human Resource and Development, was dismissed by Bimal Julka, Information Commissioner.

The appellant, in his RTI application, sought information on eight points regarding the guidelines issued by the Government in regards to education fees levied by private schools, re-admission to private schools, etc. However, no response was provided by the CPIO. Dissatisfied by the same, the appellant filed the instant appeal. The respondents claimed that a response had been provided to the appellant in each point mentioned in his application. They also submitted a receipt of written submission. A copy of reply was also presented.

The Commission perused Sections 2(f) and 2(j) of the RTI Act 2005 and also referred to the Supreme Court decision in CBSE v. Aditya Bandopadhyay, (2011) 8 SCC 497, wherein it was held that the reference to ‘opinion’ or ‘advice’ in the definition of ‘information’ in Section 2(f) only refers to such material as is available in the records of public authority. Further, under the Act, an applicant is entitled to get a copy of opinion, advice, circular, etc. but he cannot ask as to why such material had been passed. Since the appellant was not present to contest the submissions of the respondents, the Commission accepted the submissions made by the respondents and dismissed the appeal. [Javed Ahmed v. CPIO, Ministry of Human Resource and Development, 2018 SCC OnLine CIC 312, dated 10-5-2018]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission: The Commission recently addressed a second appeal on the grounds that the appellant had not been provided the desired information by the CPIO that was spught in certain paragraphs of the RTI application.

The CPIO contended that he had already given the available copy of the document that would provide the person  concerned with the information sought out for in one of the paragraphs in question. For another such paragraph, the CPIO contended that the list of persons who attended the hearing had been provided.

The Commission held that there remained no scope of intervention for the information the informant sought in the first paragraph in question. As for the other paragraph that the complainant sought clarity on through the second appeal, the Commission held that the appellant had originally sought for a copy of the attendance sheet and not simply the names. The Commission put forth the condition that the attendance sheet would only be furnished after blacking out of the personal contact information of all the persons concerned, which if not followed would lead to contravention of Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act. [T.K. Roy v. CPIO;  CIC/CICOM/A/2017/314723/SD, order dated 18/1/2018]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission: The Commission recently dealt with an appeal wherein the appellant contended that the information he seeked through 6 points regarding implementation of second MACP scheme in All India Radio by the 6th Central Pay Commission, had not been provided to him by the CPIO.

The complainant had not appeared before the Commission to plead his case in the present appeals case. The Commission decided that there was no scope for its intervention in the present case. It held so because despite the CPIO having grossly erred in not providing a reply on certain paragraphs of the RTI application, the FAA had done so instead in its own reply. Besides, the Commission also noted that the information that was being sought by the complainant was rather and in an extremely unspecified manner, which would in turn require immense deduction and collation of information while disproportionately diverting the resources made available to the public authority. The Commission also warned that further such applications be replied with due care. [Paban Sharma v. CPIO, File No. CIC/DGAAR/A/2017/131451/SD, order dated 18.1.2018]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): CIC has directed Chief Minister Office, Delhi to provide all relevant documents before the Chief Minister to facilitate him to consider a uniform policy of providing compensation to families of government employees including doctors killed on duty. Said directions of CIC came upon an appeal filed by the mother of a doctor who met an untimely death due to exposure to swine flu during his service. She sought information about compensation for death of her son. Earlier on March 3, 2015, the son of appellant who was a Senior Resident (Anaesthesia) at Chacha Nehru Bala Chikitsalaya, died because of exposure to swine-flu while on duty. The appellant was earlier denied information in the matter by Health & Family Welfare Department as well as by the Chief Minister Office. The Commission noted that Delhi State Government has enhanced compensation to Rs 1 crore for officers in uniform if killed on duty but it is not clear whether the policy of the Delhi State covers a doctor’s family to get compensation for his death due to decease. “Like a police officer a doctor is also risking life by exposure to deadly deceases, which is no less than facing bullets. For any family, loss of doctor son will be an irreparable damage. Either police or doctor, both serve and sacrifice for state and thus need to be treated equally. No policy can discriminate life of a doctor from that of soldier for purposes of compensation,” the Commission further noted. After perusing the documents and hearing both the parties, Commission observed, “Deadly decease like swine flu is as worse as a killing assailant. If there is no such security measure, it is difficult to give moral strength to young doctors to treat suffering citizens. The state has a duty to form uniform policy and inform the people about it to provide compensation to the family for unforeseen death of employee during service.” While observing that, “In this case the young doctor’s family has right to know whether they are entitled to compensation, if so, why not one crore rupees as given to officer killed on duty? State has to explain reasons for not treating a doctor on par with police,” CIC directed Chief Minister Office to provide the information sought by the appellant and in case her application is rejected, the reasons for rejection. CIC also directed Chief Minister Office to help the Chief Minister of Delhi to consider forming a uniform policy of providing compensation to families of government employees. [Anita Singh v. Health & Family Welfare Department, GNCTD, 2016 SCC OnLine CIC 7169, decided on May 31, 2016]

Banking and Negotiable InstrumentsCase BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the present matter the question arose that whether Reserve Bank of India can deny giving information to the respondent under RTI Act, 2005 on the ground of economic interest, commercial confidence, and fiduciary relationship with other banks, the Division Bench of  M.Y. Eqbal and C. Nagappan,JJ., held that the RBI is duty bound to give information sought by the respondent and shall comply with the provisions of RTI Act, 2005 and that there is no fiduciary relationship of the RBI with other banks.

In the present case, the Court clubbed eleven petitions which were pending before different High Courts. The common fact in all the petitions was that the respondents sought information from the petitioner under the provisions of Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 and the petitioner denied to give information to them by relying on provisions  under the Banking Regulation Act, 1949, Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934 etc. T.R.Andhyarujina on behalf of petitioner contended that petitioner is exempted to give information under Section 8(1) (a), (d),and (e) of the RTI Act, 2005, as disclosure of information would effect the public interest and economic interests of the country and that the RBI receives information from banks under its fiduciary capacity. RTI Act being general legislation cannot overrule the specific legislations related to confidentiality. On the contrary, Prashant Bhushan, on behalf of the respondent, contended that the right to information is a fundamental right enshrined in Article 19 of the Constitution. It was further contended that there is no fiduciary relationship of RBI with other banks. The Exceptions provided under Section 8(1) of RTI Act, 2005 can only be used in exceptional cases.

The Court while analyzing the relationship of RBI with other banks concluded that, RBI can not deny  giving information under the RTI Act, 2005 by taking the plea of its fiduciary relationship with other banks, because the reports of inspection, statements of the bank and information related to business obtained by the RBI from banks, does not come under information which is obtained on confidence or trust. RBI is the statutory body which is constituted to keep a check and regulate the activities of the banks.The Court further observed that inspection reports, documents etc. fall under the definition of ‘information’ as defined under Section 2(f) of the RTI Act, 2005. [Reserve Bank of India v. Jayantilal N. Mistry, 2015 SCC Online SC 1326, decided on 16-12-2015]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): “Voice transcripts/CDR of a subscriber fall under the category of personal information and cannot be disclosed to third party,” observed CIC while rejecting an appeal filed by a person who sought call details of his BSNL post paid mobile for a particular period. Earlier, the appellant approached CPIO, BSNL stating that he wants the voice transcripts of his mobile no.944***259 for the period 20/02/2014 to 31/03/2014. The appellant pointed out that his brother-in-law is using the said mobile phone for the last five years and as certain miscreants in collusion with the police were trying to take over his properties, he is entitled to the information. The CPIO stated that as per their records the mobile telephone was registered in the name of his brother-in-law and not the appellant. CPIO further submitted that the information was personal in nature and cannot be disclosed being exempted under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act. Before Commission, it was submitted by CPIO that voice transcript/CDR of a subscriber cannot be furnished to third party as it would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the subscriber. While concurring with the viewpoint of CPIO, the Commission noted that voice transcripts/CDR of a subscriber fall under the category of personal information and cannot be disclosed to third party being exempted under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act unless the seeker of information is able to show larger public interest to justify the disclosure. “In the matter at hand the appellant has not succeeded in establishing that the information sought is for larger public purpose. It being so, there is no need to interfere with the respondent’s decision,” observed CIC while closing the matter. [S. Sathiya Narayanan v. BSNL, 2015 SCC OnLine CIC 12992, decided on October 27, 2015]