RTI applicants face the problem of language of reply, especially if the information is sought from other states. I had sought information from BBMP [municipalcorporation] Bengaluru and had requested that information be supplied in English. However, I received a reply in Kannada and I had to email to my relative to translate it.
I append below relevant extract from a judgment of High Court of Uttarakhand.
I infer that information supplied in language which the applicant does not understand is no information. PIO should supply either in English, Hindi or State language of PIO as per the choice of the applicant.
Recently, in Gujarat entire land acquisition process was declared invalid because notices were published in Gujarati newspapers, but notices were in Hindi which most of the affected farmers do not understand.
I hope this will be useful to applicants.
LANGUAGE OF REPLY.doc
Most of PIOs deny information by just quoting sub-sections of section 8.1 of RTI Act, without giving meaningful justification for arriving at that reason for denial. This is against letter and spirit of RTI Act. I attach decisions of CIC and court judgments, which can be quoted in first and second appeals
Download the following file to prepare your Grounds of Appeal on -
PIO to give Justifications & Reasons for Denial of Information under RTI.
JUSTIFICATION FOR DENIAL.doc
I attach some of extracts from judgements of Hon'ble High Courts and Supreme Court relating to accountability of public servants. After getting information under RTI, citizens need to pursue the matter administratively or legally to fix accountability of public servants who wronged the common citizens. Unless accountability is fixed, public servants will continue to harass common men of India. There extracts may be quoted in petitions to public authorities and also in writs. Non-compliance with judgements or observations too have serious consequences for public servant, if matter is taken to logical conclusion.
My RTI queries have revealed that out of Rs.1.79 crore penalty imposed from 2005 to 16-12-2013 by CIC only Rs.1.09 crores are recovered so far. Nearly 39.10% are unrecovered and there is no effective follow-up for recovery. I am attaching details and my comments.
Of late, PIOs are denying information sought under RTI Act with the reason that matter is sub-judice i.e. matter is pending with a court of law or tribunal or consumer forum/commission etc. To counter this, please peruse and use attached note.
Attachment link: Information relating to sub-judice matter under RTI Act.
WHY DO INFORMATION COMMISSIONERS NOT IMPOSE PENALTY?
ICs are under the wrong impression that it is their discretion to levy or not to levy penalty at their will. In fact, once the breach of RTI Act is committed and not reasonably explained, the penalty must follow.
ICs are afraid because if they levy penalties, the serving govt officers may dig out their [ICs] misdoings when ICs were in service and ICs may have to face investigating agencies post-retirement.
ICs want to follow the line of action and guidance given by political appointees.
ICs are attitudinally conditioned not to displease other govt officers and politicians, as they have been doing while in service, lest some day ICs may be exposed.
Conceptually ICs have no respect for common citizens since they were uncommon citizens while in active service for a very long period of their lives.
Heart in heart, ICs believe that govt servants and politicians are borne to rule in India and common Indian [mango] citizens are their subjects.
ICs do not appreciate and internalize their own duties and responsibilities under RTI and continue to function as an administrative entity.
ICs lack training in knowledge and attitude to effectively act as ICs.
ICs treat appointment as post-retirement paid holiday time to enjoy bypassing routine and stereo-type orders [clerical or fill-in the blanks] without much taxing their minds. Imposing penalty requires the application of mind.
ICs may have tie-up arrangement to absolve PIOs for a “fee”, as the majority of govt offices have in India [agents or touts].
ICs do not believe that common Indians deserve transparency and time is not ripe for opening up governance to such immature mango citizens.
Very few appellants will move higher courts [due to the prohibitive cost of litigation and exorbitant delay ] for information and penalty, while PIOs will challenge at public cost, any order of penalty and if it is not upheld, ICs may lose face.
RTI appellants or complainants have not so far moved vigilance machinery of Govt against ICs absolving PIOs of penalties even in serious RTI violations, alleging corruption.
Citizens do not move petitions to remove ICs to President or Governors for not imposing penalties in many cases, where it should have been definitely imposed.
ICs are aware that they are totally overprotected by law for whatever decisions they take including not imposing penalties even in deserving cases.
ICs psychologically want to retain their image of being very good, understanding and kind among govt staff, even at the cost of making RTI defunct affecting fundamental rights of common citizens.
ICs know that after demitting post, they will be common men/women and will have to approach the same govt. staff for their mercies. Hence they do not risk offending govt staff for RTI violation by imposing the penalty.
Some ICs believe that penalties will have a demoralizing effect on govt staff and may reduce their efficiency. ICs also know that poor PIOs are under pressure for not meticulously following RTI provisions, lest many of PIOs’ bosses [including politicians] and colleagues would land in trouble.
ICs hasten to levy penalties when their authority is challenged by PIOs by being absent in hearing or not complying with ICs orders. However, ICs forget that in a democracy citizens are the supreme authority.
ICs are under impression that getting information is important and not the penalty, irrespective of breach of provisions or harassment to information seekers.
Some ICs believe that at least now citizens are getting information, which was not available to them prior to RTI enactment, hence he should not think of penalty, whether imposed or waived.
ICs feel that appellant or complainant has no right to insist upon penalty. It is ICs exclusive domain.
ICs still hope that they may get some govt post even after demitting post of IC .
India is a soft State even when it comes to terrorists and criminals. ICs give benefit to PIOs for civil violations of RTI, even when it affects fundamental rights.
Many ICs are afraid of govt officers who hold high posts or are well connected.
Appellants or complainants do not even insist in writing after the decision is pronounced, that penalty should have been imposed by IC by giving their justification for the penalty.
There is no social audit of decisions of ICs nor is feedback given by RTI activists to concerned IC with a copy to Chief IC. Hence ICs do not improve.
There are certain ICs and Chief ICs whose past record is full of misdeeds and they could escape penalties by manipulations and secrecy. Hence they have special love for defaulting [brother-like] PIOs.
Politicians select only such ICs who cannot be attitudinally strict for benefit of common men at the cost of govt employees.
Most of ICs are with govt. service background and mentally carry that baggage even after retirement.
ICs are not adversely commented upon by auditors of CIC or SIC, even when the penalty is not imposed in very deserving cases.
There is no system to effectively recover penalties even when imposed by ICs. This discourages ICs from penalizing. 41.68% of penalty is not recovered by CIC and situation in most SICs may be worse than this.
PENALTY -WHY NOT.doc
Many times, PIO casually replies that record has been destroyed or weeded out by referring to record retention schedule of public authority. In fact the record may not have been actually destroyed despite lapse of specified retention period. In most of cases, record is destroyed after a very long time of expiry of period stated in record retention schedule. For example if a register in a bank is required to be retained say for 5 years from date of last entry, but in practice it is destroyed after 7 or even 10 years from date of last entry when destruction is undertaken for cluster of branches. Similar is the case with most of public authorities. PIO is bound to supply information which still exists [irrespective of its age in record retention schedule] in whole of public authority.
Under these circumstances, information seeker should file another RTI with the same PIO seeking information as per attachment.
Many a times, PIO redirects applicant to website for getting information rather than himself supplying it in hard copy. You can file first appeal based on attachment.
Alternate link to the attachment: INFORMATION ON WEBSITES UNDER RTI ACT 2005
REFUSAL OF INFORMATION U/S 8.1.d OF RTI ACT
Section 8.1.d of RTI Act reads as:
“information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information;”
To invoke above reason, information should have following characteristics:
1. Information should relate to third party, including public authority.
2. Its disclosure should be harmful for competitive position of third party or public authority.
3. Applicant is not in a position to prima-facie prove larger public interest in disclosure. This cannot be invoked when frauds or scams have been committed with public money.
4. Information should relate to/constitute commercial confidence or trade secret or intellectual property of third party [including pubic authority].
5. PIO provides meaningful justification on how disclosure would harm competitive position of third party or public authority and how it constitutes commercial confidence, trade secret or intellectual property. Just stating sub-section is not sufficient.
Please also note:
A] “Through this Order the Commission now wants to send the message loud and clear that quoting provisions of Section 8 of the RTI Act ad libitum to deny the information requested for, by CPIOs/Appellate Authorities without giving any justification or grounds as to how these provisions are applicable is simply unacceptable and clearly amounts to malafide denial of legitimate information attracting penalties under section 20(1) of the Act.”CIC/OK/A/2006/00163 dated 7 July, 2006.
B] “The PIO has to give the reasons for rejection of the request for information as required under Section 7(8)(i). Merely quoting the bare clause of the Act does not imply that the reasons have been given. The PIO should have intimated as to how he had come to the conclusion that rule 8(1)(j) was applicable in this case.”CIC/OK/C/2006/00010 dated 7 July, 2006.
Refer: CIC/SG/A/2011/003607/17371 dated 10-03-2012
Of late defiance of orders of Information Commissioners has become rampant. The only remedy with the information seeker is to lodge a complaint with Chief Information Commissioner, who routinely issues another order for compliance that too after a delay ranging from 6 to 36 months depending upon efficiency and pendency of CIC/SIC. Commissions hardly invoke powers of Civil Court vested in it u/s 18.3 to ensure speedy compliance with its own orders.
Hence I suggest that if after two months of filing complaint of non-compliance [with copy to PIO, FAA, and Head of public authority], as suggested in my separate article posted at http://www.rtiindia.org/blogs/338-non-compliance-orders-cic-sics.html, you do not get information or compliance, please send letter as per attachment, after making suitable changes to suit your case. It may sensitize the machinery.
It is to be addressed to Chief /Principal Secretary heading ministry at Delhi under which public authority works for central govt information. In case of state govt information, it should be addressed to Chief/Principal Secretary of the Department which oversees the department of SPIO/PIO. Details are available on the website of Ministry or Department.
Download: NON COMP IC DECI - COMPT 2 GOVT.doc
Appellants or complainants have experienced that ICs order supply of information, but they do not penalize PIO or FAA. Under such circumstances I would request aggrieved appellants or complainants to address attached letter to concerned IC. Suitable changes can be made to suit individual case. If large numbers of information seekers address such letters, over a time it will have positive and desired effect. After all in democracy, numbers count.
Please also refer
http://www.rtiindia.org/forum/blogs/jps50/3137-court-judgements-penalty-under-rti-act-2005.html and you may attach this list with this letter.
Please also mark one copy to Chief Information Commissioner of CIC/SIC
Of late, many govt. offices are refusing to accept envelope containing RTI application or appeal under one pretext or other. I suggest following steps:
1. Retain returned envelope and get photocopies of both sides of returned envelope.
2. Lodge complaint u/s 18.1.a to SIC/CIC with copy to PIO and Head of Office or Transparency Officer of public authority, if any designated. Attach photocopies of both sides of returned envelope. Please refer:
HOW TO COMPLAIN U/S 18 [CENTRAL/STATE]
3. Send the contents of returned envelope in another envelope by mentioning only address of that office to which RTI relates, without mentioning PIO/CPIO etc on envelope, so that receiving person does not know that it contains RTI matter. Also send copy of above complaint in the same envelope.
4. In addition to above, after a week you may send copy of complaint by email to SIC/CIC and also head of the office, if email ID is available.
Of late I am receiving messages seeking clarification as to how to calculate period within which information should be received, where other charges are payable. I clarify as under:
Suppose an RTI application contains following types of queries:
a. Queries which require no other charges:
Information should be mailed within 30 days from the date of receipt by PIO. These queries should not be delayed for other charges payment.
b. Queries pertaining to other public authorities:
They should be transferred within 5 days of receipt by PIO to other public authorities.
c. Queries which require payment of other charges:
Following calculation has to be worked out to know if the information is supplied within the stipulated time of 30 days.
No. of days from the date of receipt by PIO to date of dispatch of information minus no. of days from the date of dispatch of intimation to pay other charges to date of receipt of other charges = should not exceed 30 days.
If this period exceeds 30 days, then applicant can claim refund of other charges through first appeal.
This issue is clarified in section 7.3.a of RTI Act.
Date of letter may differ from date of dispatch and hence envelopes should be preserved.
01. District Consumer Forums are headed by judicial officers [retired Dist. Judge], while most of ICs are from bureaucracy. Thus there is difference of mind frame and approach and hence results.
02. Decision is taken by 3 member bench of consumer forum. It has two [one male and another female] other members from common citizens, while at CIC/SIC it is single IC. Hence in consumer forum complaint is looked at from common man’s perspective by two members. This improves quality of decisions.
03. There are 2 to 10 ICs per state, while in each district there is one or more consumer forums. In big cities there are 2 to 4 benches. Circuit benches of consumer forums at Taluka level is being contemplated under amendment pending in parliament.
04. IC’s decision can be challenged in High Court only, which is a costly and time consuming procedure. In case of judgement of Consumer Forum, it can be challenged in State Consumer Commission, which is less costly and fast if it is argued by applicant himself.
05. Information seeker can proceed with CIC/SIC and simultaneously consumer forum, since consumer forum is concerned with deficiency of service and unfair trade practice, while CIC/SIC looks at from RTI perspective only.
06. In case of consumer forums, compensation is a rule while in case of CIC/SIC it is rare. Hence part of cost of litigation/travelling is recovered in most cases decided by consumer forums.
07. In most of SICs and CIC waiting period is 12 to 60 months, while in case of consumer forums it is 12 to 36 months.
08. In case of non-compliance of ICs orders, he can at the most penalize Rs.25000/- and/or recommend disciplinary action against PIO to head of public authority. Non-compliance of orders of consumer court can land govt officers in jail. As per news items top heads of two business groups were ordered to be arrested for non-compliance of orders of district forums in two different cases.
09. Fee up to claim of Rs.100000/- is only Rs.100/- in consumer forum.
10. In majority of consumer forums’ decisions supply of information, payment of compensation and expenses have been ordered.
11. In consumer forum you get adequate time to place your arguments, while in case of information commission time given is too short to properly argue your case.
12. However, consumer forums have some negative sides also:
a. Applicant has to visit consumer forum at least 2-3 times. In case of SIC information seeker may or may not remain present at hearing. Only CIC has facility for video conferencing from district head quarters.
b. Complaint in consumer forum has to be filed at the place of office of PIO, it may not be convenient for information seeker, unless he can afford advocate or can be represented by friend/relative well versed in RTI and consumer matters residing at the place of consumer forum.
c. Inter-state RTI matters have language problem also, since proceedings in consumer forums are in regional language, though complaint can be filed in English/Hindi also. This may be true of some SICs also.
New Delhi: Delhi High Court has ruled that vehicles of India’s top constitutional authorities like the President, the Vice President, Governors and Lieutenant Governors will have to be registered with the authority. According to the ruling, all vehicles need to clearly display the registration numbers. A petition, filed by an NGO Nyayabhoomi, claimed that the practice of displaying the state emblem, instead of the registration numbers, make the dignitaries become easy targets for terrorists and anyone with malicious intent.
In December last year, the Delhi High Court had asked the Centre and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in the national capital to place before it the rules regarding display of just the State Emblem of India on the cars of the constitutional authorities and dignitaries, such as the President, instead of their registration numbers, PTI had reported.
The petitioner also sought direction to the Delhi government and Delhi Police to seize the cars used by the Rashtrapati Bhawan, Vice President, Raj Niwas and Protocol division of the Ministry of External Affairs for not being registered under the Motor Vehicles Act, PTI reported.
After the petition was filed, a bench of acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar had directed both the governments to check the position and inform it about the same.
The plea was based on an RTI response by the Ministry of External Affairs which stated that none of its 14 cars maintained were registered.
Last year, the Rashtrapati Bhawan had refused to provide the registration numbers of all the presidential vehicles on the ground that disclosure of such information would endanger the security of the state and life of the President.
In our area, Corporation started laying new roads for sub-streets.They uprooted all the ballast in the sub street to prepare the street for laying new road.After heaping the ballast, they stopped the work midway causing life miserable for residents. A child playing on the street got her head broken on the ballast and got treated in a Private hospital.MLC registered.We are unable to take our vehicles out.Raised a complaint with Corporation and they did not take action till date ( more than 2 months elapsed since the date of complaint ).I would like a draft a complaint with proper exhibits.I need MLC information from police such as doctor MLC report.wound certificate etc to prove the mishap due to negligent conduct of the contractor,engineer and supervisor of corporation.Also need information on the contractor who left the work midway and the AE incharge of the ward.Also, in the main street,they re-laid the road with tar and within 2 months, a huge hole has come up.We have temporarliy closed it with boxes to prevent accidents.
Strongly advocating the need for political parties to willingly come under the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005, Sridhar Acharyulu, Information Commissioner, Central Information Commission said parties in power must be answerable to the people.
“On the use of the RTI Act in our country, a lot to be done as the Act can be used much more effectively by the people,” he said.
Mr. Acharyulu was addressing a workshop organised by RTI warriors from the All India Professionals Congress (AIPC) and Belson and Belson Advocates. Highlighting the features of the RTI Act 2005, he said it was the Congress government that introduced the Act, but it was the Bharatiya Janata Party that had used it effectively.
“Information procured through the RTI Act exposed scandals across various levels in the functioning of the State before the elections,” he said.
He initially spoke about the lack of knowledge among people about knowing and being aware of their rights. “We also need to examine the access to critical information available and the mechanisms in place to disseminate it to the people,” he noted. The workshop was attended by law students, IAS aspirants, members of the general public and activists. Swapna Sundar, a member of the AIPC, said that while the RTI Act was a good tool, it was necessary to help people learn the nuances and pertinence of the requests for documents
“With awareness of the Act being the key, workshops like these need to go more out into rural spaces as well. The mechanism in place as a part of the RTI Act too needs to be made easier for people — both to file petitions and receive information,” he said.
DoPT issued clarifications, revisiting its previous instructions on uploading RTI Applications, Appeals and decisions on official website of public authorities vide its OM No. 1/1/2013/IR dated 07/10/2016. DoPT Clarified that the personal details of RTI applicant/appellant should not be disclosed as they do not serve any public interest. It is further clarified that the personal details would include name, designation, address,e-mail id and telephone no. including mobile no. of the applicant.
Copy of the OM can be accessed here >> http://ccis.nic.in/WriteReadData/CircularPortal/D2/D02rti/1_1_2013-IR-07102016.pdf