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SANJOG MAHESHWARI posted a blog entry in Sanjog maheshwariIn a R.T.I. Case the P.I.O of the Tis Hazari Courts, refused to supply the certified copies of “suit files and suit records” of a certain judge for the period from26-02-93 to 31-03-93 to one Mr. Vinay Kumar, the Info. Seeker on the grounds that the information/ records may be sought via the processes prescribed under the Evidence Act instead of those under the R.T.I.Act. The Information Commissioner, Shailesh Gandhi, however, trashed the contention of the P.I.O. Deciding in favour of the Info. Seeker, he ruled that the Court will have to provide the information/ documents demanded, unless the same is exempted from disclosure under the RTI Act itself. He held that the RTI Act-the newer Act- will have an over-riding affect on any other law, in this case the Evidence Act, and there is an obligation on the public authority to disclose information requested under it. Accordingly the Commissioner ruled,” If a public authority has a process of disclosing certain information which can also be accessed by a citizen using RTI Act, it is the citizen’s right to decide which route he wishes to use. The existence of another method for accessing information can’t be used to deny a citizen the right to information. It is a citizen’s right to use the most convenient and efficacious means available to him”, and ordered the P.I.O of Tis Hazari Courts to supply the required information etc. To Mr. Kumar in 15 days time. It will be interesting to note that the P.I.Os reasoning that the request should be made under the Evidence Act was upheld by the first appellate authority forcing Kumar to go in for the second appeal to the CIC u/s 19(1) of the RTI Act. Contrast this decision with that of given on in an otherwise identical case No.CIC/PB/A/2008/01322/LS decided by the Central Information Commissioner, M.L.Sharma. The CPIO, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) New , was , inter-alia, requested to (i) indicate the daily progress made BY the applicant’s earlier application dated 05-12-2007 addressed to Hon’ble Mr. Justice M.B. Shah, President NCDRC i.e. the date(s) on which it was received in the Registry of the Commission and perused by the addressee etc. and requested for the supply of copy or print out of the relevant portions of records, which contained details of the receipt and the of the aforesaid application, copies of the file notings, orders, instructions etc passed on it with supporting rule or order on a judicial procedure. In his decision dated 27-04-09, the Information Commissioner M.L.Sharma observed, " The CPIO appears to have rightly held in decision dated 22-4-08, that section 4 (I) (d) of the RTI Act is not applicable in regard to the judicial proceedings held by NCDRC. Needless to say, the relief lies elsewhere and not before this Commission. DECISION 5. In view of the above, the appeal is dismissed being legally unsustainable." The Information Commissioner who decided the earlier case is Mr. Shailesh Gandhi. The commodity called justice must come unpolluted- free from all such clusters of undesirable material. ANY SUGGESTIONS FOR THE INFORATION SEEKER? HOW SHOULD HE PROCEED FURTHER? -SANJOG MAHESHWARI
SANJOG MAHESHWARI posted a blog entry in Sanjog maheshwariComplaint case No. CIC/AT/A/2008/00247 u/s 18 of the RTI Act. disposed of by the Information Commissioner Mr. A.N.Tiwari. Howlers: 1. Complaint u/s 18 (e) of the R.T.I.Act was misconstrued as 2nd Appeal u/s 19(3) of the Act by the I.C., who could not make out the difference between the two in spite of the inscription: “ COMPLAINT UNDER THE R.T.I. ACT-2008” in the bold letters at the top of the document - Complaint dated 12-10-2007- . 2. A very simple case in which the I.C was expected only to determine (a)Whether the Public Authority, represented by the P.I.O. and the 1st Appellate Authority, has or has not supplied the correct, complete and to the point information and the certified copies of the documents requested for by the Info. Seeker (No big deal considering the fact that had they done the needful already, the occasion to file the complaint would not have arisen). 3. Since very clearly there was a dereliction of duty on the part of the public authority which gave rise to filing of the Complaint, the Information Commissioner was required to simply (a) Issue necessary directions to the Public Authority to supply the information and the copies of the requested documents which were very clearly not barred u/s 8 of the Act. (b) Impose upon the Public Information Officer the prescribed penalty besides recommending disciplinary action against him under the service rules applicable to him, inter-alia for (i) not furnishing info. within the specified time,(ii) malafidely denying the request for info. and copies of documents, (iii) knowingly giving incorrect, incomplete and misleading information (iv) destroying information which was the subject matter of the request (v) obstructing in furnishing the information and (vi) for all too obvious dereliction of duty. Instead of taking the obvious course of action as prescribed under the Act, the Information Commissioner conveniently glosses over the P.I.O’s blatant negligence and callousness in not supplying the required info. and documents, relies upon his white lie of not-receiving the Application though sent by the SPEED POST and to cap it all smugly suggests that the Complainant should visit the Public Authority’s office in a wild goose chase- search for the documents etc in the custody of the Public authority which their own P.I.O. was unable to locate in his own office.! And that too in a detestably condescending style enacts a show of considerate attitude, grants to the Complainant a meaningless favour: “ However, considering the fact that (appellant?) seems to be skeptical about the responses from the public authority, he shall be entitled to inspect the documents held by the public authority.” knowing fully well that the Complainant has requested the copy of the document(s) which the P.I.O had not given to him and there is no way that they will ever be shown to the Complainant by the apparently unwilling, reluctant and arrogant Public Authority on his visit to their office. If copies of the documents and information are requested they should be granted. Why should the Complainant himself is required to unearth and locate them at a place where even their custodian has failed to trace them out or rather feigns ignorance about thei whereabouts. In a different context, in another Complaint case No. CIC/AT/A/2008/01329 against the same Public Authority- who perennially remains in the denial when it comes to supplying the requested info or documents in their custody- , the undersigned grossly aggrieved and exasperated Complainant, vide para 6 of his 2nd Appeal cum Complaint dt. 07 March 09, inter-alia, had to submit to the same I.C: “That the Respondents themselves and not, the Complainant-the Information seeker- are the custodian of the requested documents and information and as such asking the latter to visit the office for the purpose of their search, or otherwise, instead of promptly making their duly certified copies available to him after charging the prescribed fee as mandated under the Act, to say the least, is most preposterous, ridiculous, irrelevant, incompetent and does not make any sense.” 4. What takes the cake is that the Information Commissioner, an ex-bureaucrat of long standing himself, does not know the difference between loose sheets of Pension Audit Register and the P.P.O., how the all-too-famous and familiar document known as Pension Payment Order (P.P.O.) looks like, and could not tell it from the loose sheets of the copies of a few pages of Pension Audit Register provided by the P.I.O when requested to provide a certified copy of the P.P.O. If he was so ridiculously feigning ignorance about Pension Payment Order, quite a common document, then for what purpose and for whose benefit? The uncomfortable questions scream for answer. And why such important official document should not be readily traceable? Even if it was not readily traceable, as alleged, then what prevented the Public Authority to recreate it from all other available collateral documents? And what were the compelling reasons to faking it with Pension Audit Register sheets? Was not a period more than two years sufficient enough to recreate such a simple document? What were the immediate compulsions for the Information Commissioner to bail out an hopelessly indefensible P.I.O in this unseemly and untenable manner? Everybody in the govt. service, except perhaps the P.I.O and, sadly enough in this case, the Information Commissioner knows that the P.P.Os come in book form and not in loose sheets. 5 Why should any Information Commissioner exceed his brief in such a ridiculous manner just to put out a genuine Info-seeker who has great stakes in a case but does not have the deep pockets to fight it out in the costly law courts?. 6 The Information Commissioner is simply unable to come out of the skin of the bureaucrat he had always been- neither in this case nor in any other case he has decided so far. My take: 1 The cases reaching to the CIC in 2nd Appeal/Complaint could just be slashed by more than half their present number, if only the P.I.Os are made to work a little more responsibly and the Information Commissioners restrict themselves just to determine whether the sought information and documents, if not otherwise barred by section 8 of the Act, have been provided correct and complete to the last details as per the specifications of the Info-seeker and if not promptly hand out deterrent penalties and punishments to the arrogant Public Information Officers, not yet able to get rid of the colonial mind-set and devil- may-care attitude and behaviour. 2. If only the Complaints/Appeals are gone through a little bit more intelligently, there would be no reason for any info. seeker to attend the hearing unless he himself chooses to do so of his own volition for making some extra point(s) not already covered in the Complaint or 2nd Appeal as the case may be. 3. Effective Social audit should be the aim of the Act which should be amended in such a way that it ensures it to happen with precision and perfection- the Info-seeker acting as a freelance unpaid Social Auditor helping the Government and the Society by helping himself in his pursuit for Information. He should be welcome whole-heartedly and assisted by the Information Commissioners in his noble task of setting the Government records and functioning in proper order, streamlining its systems and operations and force them to be transparent and honest in their dealings.. 4. Though it is impossible to achieve zero-level corruption in the Govt. departments and corridors of power but some effort should be directed towards it through the Act made as an instrument of Social Audit. 5. There should be provision for review of a decision given by a single Information Commissioner by a larger bench who should have the powers to countermand wrong and biased orders/decisions and reprimand the errant and erratic Information Commissioners responsible for such decisions/orders as above.