People facing criminal charges can use RTI

CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
F.No.CIC/AD/A/2010/000033AT

Dated, the 10th December, 2010.

Appellant : Shri B. Ashoka
Respondents: Prasar Bharti

This matter came up for hearing on 29.11.2010 through videoconference (VC) pursuant to Commission’s notice dated 22.11.2010. Appellant was present at NIC VC facility at Bangalore, while the respondents ¾ represented by Dr.Mahesh Joshi, CPIO ¾ were present at the same venue. Commission conducted the hearing from its New Delhi office.

2. This secondappeal,
which originated in appellant’s RTI application dated 29.08.2008 was originally listed before the Central Information Commissioner, Mrs.Annapurna Dixit. She also held a hearing in this matter on 21.04.2010, but later, on her advice, the then Chief Information Commissioner transferred the secondappeal to the undersigned.

3. The matter has been at the various stages of processing since August 2008 when the appellant filed his RTI application before the APIO, Doordarshan Kendra, Bangalore. As no reply was received by the appellant, he filed a petition on 14.10.2008 before the CPIO, Dr.Mahesh Joshi to expedite the reply. When no response was received from the CPIO, appellant filed his firstappeal on 18.09.2009, which was transferred to Shri R.Venkateswarlu, Deputy Director General and Appellate Authority, Doordarshan, New Delhi against deemedrefusal on 06.10.2009. However, as the Appellate Authority of the public authority’s Delhi office noted that the information was held by the Bangalore office,on 05.11.2009, transmitted appellant’s RTIpetition to Dr.Mahesh Joshi,Director, Doordarshan Kendra, Bangalore for processing and reply to the appellant.

4. Through a communication dated 20.11.2009, Dr.Mahesh Joshi informed Appellate Authority, Delhi that he was writing to the Central Information Commission seeking its advice regarding whether the information should be supplied to the appellant.

5. At the same time, Dr.Joshi informed the appellant on 26.11.2009,that 9120 pages of information was ready to be provided to him and called upon the appellant to pay an amount of Rs.18,240, which was workedout as perpagecost of the information to be provided.
On 25.11.2009, appellant filed his complaint before the bench of the CIC headed by Smt.Annapurna Dixit.

6. When the matter stood thus, on 04.12.2009, CPIO sent a revised estimate to the appellant demanding payment of Rs.31,920/,which was to be added to the original estimate of Rs.18,240/.
Appellant was,therefore, required to pay Rs.50,160/received the information.

7. On 05.03.2010, Dr.Joshi wrote to CIC for advice and on
21.04.2010, he received a reply from the Deputy Registrar in the office of
the Central Information Commissioner, Mrs.Annapurna Dixit that no such
advice was required to be given under the RTI Act, especially when the
Commission was adjudicating a given matter.
8 The Bench comprising Smt.Annapurna Dixit heard the matter on
21.04.2010 and on 28.04.2010 she transferred the case to the
undersigned.

9. Upon receipt of these documents, the directive was issued by the
Deputy Registrar to this Bench on 19.05.2010 to the Appellate Authority
to process the matter as per the appellant’s request and to provide the
requested information. On 07.06.2010, a communication was received by
the Registry of this Bench that CPIO would provide the information to the
appellant provided he paid the estimated amount as already intimated to him.

10. On 26.10.2010, this Bench issued a show cause notice to the
CPIO, Dr.Mahesh Joshi, Sr. Director, Prasar Bharti, calling upon him as
to why complaintproceedings under Section 18 should not be drawn up against him for delaying transmission of the information to the appellant.
The reply to the showcause notice from Dr.Joshi was received on 02.11.2010.

11. In his response to the Commission’s notice, the CPIO, Dr.Mahesh
Joshi acknowledged that he had received on 08.09.2008 five RTIapplications,
all dated 29.08.2008, from the APIO, Doordarshan,Bangalore.
Action by CPIO beginning 08.09.2008:

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12. Dr.Mahesh Joshi, CPIO, acknowledges that the present RTIapplication
of the appellant, dated 29.08.2008 was received by him via
the APIO, on 08.09.2008. It is quite obvious that no action was initiated
by him in processing that application under the RTI Act. The reasons for
this, as stated by the CPIO, Dr.Joshi, is that this he received information
from his Upper Division Clerk (UDC), Shri J. Shivakumar on 08.08.2008
about the applicant demanding from the former, money and threatening
that if no money was paid the appellant would expose Shri Shivakumar.

13. On receiving the complaint from Shri Sivakumar, the public
authority sought legal opinion from the Central Government Counsel, who
apparently advised that a private complaint could be filed before the
Jurisdictional Magistrate or a complaint be lodged with the jurisdictional police station.

14. On 30.09.2008, CPIO, Doordarshan Kendra, Bangalore wrote to
CIC about the blackmailing tactics of the applicant, seeking advice on the future course of action.

15. On 03.10.2008, Dr.Joshi wrote to CPIO, Doordarshan Directorate,
New Delhi seeking his advice about lodging a formal police complaint
based upon the legal opinion received.
16. While the matter stood thus, on 18.09.2009, the applicant filed his firstappeal
before the Appellate Authority bringing to his notice the
various RTIapplications he had filed before the CPIO, Bangalore to
which he had received no reply.

17. On 05.11.2009, Appellate Authority wrote to the CPIO,Doordarshan Kendra, Bangalore, Dr.Joshi to provide the requisite information to the appellant.

18. Rather than comply with the orders of the Appellate Authority, quite
inexplicably, CPIO, Dr.Joshi wrote to Appellate Authority that he was
seeking CIC’s advice in the matter. Impliedly, although not directly, CPIO
was telling Appellate Authority that he will receive the advice of CIC and
would not comply with his orders. At the same time, CPIO, Dr.Joshi was
corresponding with the appellant for payment of the page cost and
additional cost for disclosure of the information. He wrote to the appellant
on 26.11. 2009 and again on 04.12.2009, for payment of the projected cost.

19. It is seen that while corresponding with the appellant to pay the perpagecost
and further fee for supply of information, CPIO was also
corresponding on the onehand with the Appellate Authority and on the
other with the CIC in the same matter seeking directions from the CIC
about how to proceed with the case and informing the Appellate Authority
that CPIO was awaiting CIC’s advice in this matter. The purpose of this twolane
communication by the CPIO, Dr.Joshi has not been fully
explained. If CPIO had decided to provide information to the appellant
then it made very little sense for him to corresponding with the CIC about
advice about disclosure of information and with the Appellate Authority in
the same matter. This confused behaviour of the CPIO was at the root of
the complications that appeared in these proceedings.

20. What seems obvious is that CPIO was conscious about his
responsibilities under the RTI Act to provide information to the appellant
and hence was requesting him to receive information on payment of the
fees and cost. At the same time, he was corresponding with the CIC
about, what he believed was, arm twisting and extortionist actions by the appellant visàvis
certain subordinates in the office. At one point, in his
reply, CPIO even states that he initiated action against appellant for
alleged extortion on the directive of the Commission Bench chaired by
Smt.Annapurna Dixit. At other points, he mentions legal opinion he
received for filing such complaint. Whatever that may be, it is unrelated
to processing of this case and this Commission is unwilling to factor these
aspects of the submission of the CPIO into its decision about the action
for disclosure of information to the appellant corresponding to his RTIapplication.
CPIO could well be reminded that appellant’s personal
credentials could not be cited as reasons for his entitlement to receive
information under the RTI Act. If the appellant was found culpable in a
criminal proceeding already initiated against him, he will face
consequences, but that could not be the reason for withholding
information from him under the RTI Act.

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21. Reverting to the processing of appellant’s RTIapplication,the following aspects standout:(i) Timelag from the date of the receipt of application on 08.09.2008 by CPIO, Dr.Joshi ¾ it is seen that CPIO made no efforts to provide information to the appellant even though the RTIapplication had reached his hands on the 08.09.2008.
Action by CPIO, Dr.Joshi following orders from the Appellate Authority:

22. The Appellate Authority on 05.11.2009 directed CPIO, DDK,Bangalore to provide the requisite information to the appellant. On 26.11.2009, CPIO, Dr.Joshi wrote to the applicant to make payment of Rs.18,244 for 9120 pages of documents.

23. On 04.12.2009, CPIO wrote to the applicant to make the payment along with additional cost to enable the CPIO to transmit the requested information to the appellant.

24. Seen in the above light, the CPIO, Dr.Joshi, did following the Appellate Authority’s order to arrange to provide information to the appellant and intimated to him the perpage cost, whose payment is demanded before the information could be transmitted.

25. The CPIO, therefore, could not be faulted for noncompliance of the Appellate Authority’s orders.

26. Much confusion arose because of the CPIO, Dr.Joshi aimlessly
corresponding with the Commission, which made it appear as if he was
defying the Appellate Authority’s order pending such advice from the
Commission. In actual fact, it was not so.

27. The complaint which the appellant filed on 09.11.2009 before the
Commission made no mention of the receipt of communication of the
CPIO, dated 26.11.2009 demanding from him the cost of communication
of the information. This was possibly due to the fact that appellant filed
his complaint on 09.11.2009 whereas the CPIO’s demand notice to him
was dated 26.11.2009 and 04.12.2009.

28. I am not very sure whether in the Commission’s hearing before the
bench of Commissioner, Smt.Annapurna Dixit, the fact that CPIO had
indicated his willingness to comply with the Appellate Authority’s order on
the appellant paying the estimated cost of the supply of information, was
brought up by either side. The entire proceeding seems to be under an
overhang of CPIO’s seeming unwillingness to provide information to the
appellant even after the Appellate Authority’s order. The actual fact was different.

29. It is, therefore, my conclusion that the CPIO, Dr.Joshi could not be
faulted for not complying with the Appellate Authority’s order regarding
disclosure of information to the appellant.

30. The events which followed the receipt of appellant’s RTIapplication
on 08.09.2008 by CPIO, Dr.Mahesh Joshi are somewhat confusing.
31. It is to be noted that appellant’s RTI application dated 29.08.2008
reached the APIO, DDK on 02.09.2008 (as recorded in the reply of the
CPIO, dated 02.11.2010). The APIO sent the petition to the CPIO, who received it on 08.09.2008.

32. Although there was some delay at the level of the APIO, it was not
significant. After CPIO received the RTIapplication from the APIO on
08.09.2008, he had 30 days time, i.e. up to 07.10.2008 to reply. From
what emerges from the records filed before me, CPIO, Dr.Joshi took no
action whatsoever in processing the RTIapplication of the appellant. He
acted only after appellant, on 08.09.2009, filed his firstappeal
petition ¾ after over oneyear after the RTIapplication had reached the CPIO’s
hand. Following the Appellate Authority’s order dated 05.11.2009, CPIO,
Dr.Joshi first wrote to the appellant only on 20.11.2009 to deposit
Rs.18,240 to receive the documents.

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33. The delay between the period 08.09.2008 and 20.11.2009 is
entirely attributable to inaction on the RTIpetition
of the appellant by the CPIO, Dr.Mahesh Joshi. His reason that he was in correspondence with
the CIC seeking advice about whether to give information to the
applicant, who he believed, was an extortionist who was intimidating
CPIO’s lower staff, cannot be cited as the reason for withholding the
information within the meaning of the RTI Act.

34. I, therefore, hold the CPIO, Dr.Mahesh Joshi responsible for deliberately causing delay in disposing of the appellant’s RTIapplication between 08.09.2008 and 20.11.2009. He is, therefore, liable to be penalised for this long and unconscionable delay.

35. It is accordingly directed that the maximum penalty of Rs.25,000/( Rupees twenty five thousand) under Section 20(1) be imposed on the CPIO, Dr.Mahesh Joshi presently working as Deputy Director General,DDK, Bangalore. It shall be the personal responsibility of Dr.Joshi to make sure that the above recoveries from his monthly salary bills are made and he should give necessary instructions to the Accounts Officers preparing the bills.

36. The penalty amount shall be recovered from his monthly salary beginning January, 2011 at Rs.5000/per month in five monthly instalments.

37. The head of the public authority, Director General, Doordarshan Directorate, New Delhi is directed to ensure that the above recoveries are affected from Dr.Joshi’s salarybills
from January to May 2011.

38. The Controller of Accounts attached to the office of Doordarshan Directorate is also directed to ensure the above recoveries.
39. Appellant had also made a demand for a compensation for being made to attend the hearing before the bench of Information Commissioner, Smt.Annapurna Dixit. In consideration of the totality of the events in this matter, I am not inclined to grant him any compensation.

40. The complaint is disposed of accordingly.

Appeal:

41. Appellant stated in his submission before the Commission that now that the CPIO has admitted that the information requested needed to be disclosed to the appellant as directed by the Appellate Authority, he (appellant) should be provided the information.

42. CPIO, Dr.Mahesh Joshi is directed to provide the information to the appellant, as requested through his RTIapplication dated 29.08.2008,addressed to the CPIO. Time ¾ two weeks.

43. Appellant also made a plea that the payment of fee as demanded by the CPIO should be waived under Section 7(6) as there was delay in the CPIO acting on the appellant’s RTIapplication dated 29.08.2008.

44. Now that it has become obvious that there was serious delay in the CPIO processing appellant’s RTIapplication on its receipt by him from the APIO, under Section 7(6) appellant is entitled to receive the documents free of charge.

45. It is accordingly directed that the information now be provided to the appellant by the CPIO shall be without any charge, free of cost.

46. Appeal disposed of accordingly.

47. Copy of this direction be sent to the parties.

( A.N. TIWARI )
CHIEF INFORMATION COMMISSIONER

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