Can First Appellate Authority bring in fresh provisions of RTI Act to deny information?

First Appellate AuthorityWhile Public Information Officer denied the information on a question asked regarding steps taken for implementation of the DOPT guidelines regarding proactive disclosure of tours of officials of the rank of Joint Secretaries and above to implement and copies of all tour orders issued and details of TA/DA paid for each of Joint Secretaries of Central Vigilance Commission by quoting Section 7(9) of the RTI Act, however, on the other hand First Appellate Authority (FAA) has brought in a totally new provision by denying information u/s 8(1)(g) by quoting a CIC decision. FAA denied the information without giving a hearing to the RTI Applicant. What are your views? Use the comments in the article to post. You can discuss it at our forum too.

The Appellant had argued in front of the CIC that the FAA by doing this, has brought in a totally new provision for denial of information which is not tenable as he was not allowed an opportunity to question this and he was not given a hearing. He further submitted that the CPIO vide letter dt 2.8.13 has already provided information relating to foreign and domestic travel of officers of the rank of JS and above. When such information has already been provided, he would be satisfied if similar information is provided in respect of the remaining staff also.

Can First Appellate Authority bring in fresh provisions of RTI Act to deny information?

The Commission remanded the case to the FAA with directions that he should provide a hearing to the appellant in terms of the Commission’s earlier orders and to provide information in respect of queries.

CIC further recorded that

“We also take an adverse view of the fact that the designated CPIO/FAA of the CVC failed to attend the hearing. A copy of this order be marked to Shri Pradeep Kumar, CVC, who may like to issue appropriate orders to his officials dealing with RTI matters to ensure that officials of the CVC, of an appropriate level, attend the hearings of the Commission.”

While going through the CIC decision quoted by FAA case no. CIC/AT/A/2009/000100 in the case of Shri Nihar Ranjan Banerjee, CVO and Shri Bidya Nand Mishra, DGM(Vig), Coal India Ltd Vs Shri MN Ghosh, it is found that CIC while reviewing it’s own order has denied the information about the tour details, vehicle logbooks, purpose of visits, overtime payments of vigilance officer on following grounds:

  1. No public interest is served by their disclosure. On the contrary, there is a distinct possibility that disclosure of this information will compromise the functioning of the Vigilance Officers ⎯ the review-petitioners ⎯ and not only expose them to physical risks and intimidations, but impair their ability to carry-out their sensitive assignments. Information should be declined within the meaning of Section 11(1) of the RTI Act
  2. During the hearing, it was submitted by the review-petitioners that the type of information which appellant had requested has always been held ⎯ insofar as it related to the officers of the Vigilance Department ⎯ as confidential within the meaning of Section 124 of the Indian Evidence Act. Section 124 of the Indian Evidence Act was designed for such contingencies and is entirely consistent with the provisions of RTI Act (Section 11(1)).
  3. Now, while the RTI Act, no-doubt, takes precedence over the Indian Evidence Act in a matter of inconsistency between their provisions, when the provisions of two Acts are consistent, the RTI Act and the Indian Evidence Act provisions should be harmoniously construed. I find that there is ample consistency between Section 124 of the Indian Evidence Act and Section 11(1) of the RTI Act read with Section 2(n) of the same Act.
  4. In the circumstances and the atmosphere in which they work and the specificity of their sensitive assignment, the requested information had the potentiality of endangering the officers’ life and their physical safety, apart from leading to identification of the source of information or assistance given in confidence for discharge of their law-enforcement functions as Vigilance Officers. (in terms of Section 8(1)(g) of the RTI Act)

The citation is available here:  Shri R.K. Jain Vs Central Vigilance Commission, File No: CIC/SM/A/2013/001325/RM dated 30.07.2014

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