RTI – Reasons for rejection of requests and Penalty

CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION

No. CIC/OK/A/2006/00163
Dated, the 19th October, 2006

Name of the Appellant : Shri Dhananjay Tripathi
D-25/21-22, Ganga Mahal,
Varanasi – 221 001.

Name of the Public Authority : Banaras Hindu University

NOTICE
WHEREAS the Report by Prof. Harikesh Singh relating to the inquiry into various
aspects of incidents on 11-12 January 2005 when Shri Yogesh Roy, a student of the
Banaras Hindu University, died at Sir Sunder Lal Hospital attached to the University
was submitted on 31.03.2005;

2. WHEREAS Shri Dhanajay Tripathi applied to the P.R.O., B.H.U., on 11th
November 2005 under the RTI Act for access to Prof. Harikesh Singh Inquiry Report
into the incident;

3. WHEREAS the Registrar, BHU, is both In-charge of administration and Appellate
Authority under the RTI Act, overruled the submissions of the PIO and thus became
deemed PIO under Sub-Section 5 of Section 5 of the RTI Act 2005.

4. WHEREAS reply was sent to the Requester on 31.01.2006 under instruction
from the Registrar denying him the information, thus, disposing of both, Appellant’s
application dated 11.11.2005 and his first Appeal dated 26.12.2005;

5. WHEREAS the Applicant received the reply on 06.02.2006 i.e. 86 days after the
date of the application and 56 days after the expiry of statutory period of 30 days
without any reasonable cause;
6. WHEREAS the Appellant filed with the Central Information Commission on 25th
April 2006 against denial of information by the public authority.

7. WHEREAS the Central Information Commission in its hearing on 7th July 2006
directed the deemed PIO and Registrar, Banaras Hindu University to provide a copy of
the Inquiry Report of Prof. Harikesh Singh to Shri Dhananjay Tripathi, within 15 days;

8. WHEREAS Prof. Punjab Singh, Vice-Chancellor of the Banaras Hindu University,
informed the Commission on 17th July 2006 that the Executive Council of the BHU had
resolved not to accept the findings of the Inquiry Report instead of complying with
the clear orders of this Commission;

9. WHEREAS the Commission decided to call the Vice-Chancellor and the Registrar
of the University for hearing on 31st August 2006;

10. WHEREAS the Vice-Chancellor requested the Commission for permission to
make the report public with the proviso that the University had rejected it and it was
disowned by it;

11. WHEREAS the Commission agreed for the incorporation of the said proviso;

12. WHEREAS it is understood that the report has not been made public till date
despite the Commission’s directions.

13. WHEREAS the Central Information Commission in its order dated 7th July 2006,
directed the Registrar, BHU, to show cause within 30 days as to why penal action may
not be taken against him under Section 20(1) of the RTI Act.

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14. WHEREAS the Registrar, BHU, submitted his explanation on 29th August 2006,
which was duly considered by the Commission and rejected as per the reasons given
in the Annexure.

15. WHEREAS blatant disobedience of the directions of this Commission has been
viewed very seriously by the Commission.

14. NOW in exercise of powers conferred by Section 20(1) of the RTI Act 2005, the
Commission imposes a penalty of Rs.25,000/- (Rupees twenty five thousand only) on
Shri N. Sundaram, Registrar, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi for denial of
information despite the Commission’s clear directions and directs him to remit the
penalty by D.D. in favour of the Pay & Accounts Officer, DP&AR, payable at New
Delhi, to Shri Pankaj K.P. Shreyaskar, Assistant Registrar, Central Information
Commission, within 15 days of issue of this order.

15. The Commission further authorises and directs the Vice-Chancellor, Banaras
Hindu University, Varanasi, in case the Registrar fails to comply with orders at S.
No.14above, to cause the recovery of the amount of penalty from the salary of Shri
N. Sundaram and remit the amount by Demand Draft/Banker’s Cheque drawn in
favour of the Pay & Accounts Officer, DP&AR, payable at New Delhi, to Shri Pankaj
K.P. Shreyaskar, Assistant Registrar, Central Information Commission, 4th Floor, Block
No. IV, Old J.N.U. Campus, New Delhi – 110067, by 20th November 2006.

16. The Commission ordered accordingly.
Sd/-
(O.P. Kejariwal)
Information Commissioner
Authenticated true copy:
Sd/-
(L.C. Singhi)
Additional Registrar
Cc:
1. Prof. Panjab Singh, Vice-Chancellor, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi
2. Shri N. Sundaram, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi
3. Shri Dhananjay Tripathi, D-25/21-22, Ganga Mahal, Varanasi – 221 001.
4. Officer Incharge, NIC
5. Press E Group, CIC

CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION

No. CIC/OK/A/2006/00163
Dated, the 19th October, 2006
Name of the Appellant : Shri Dhananjay Tripathi
D-25/21-22, Ganga Mahal,
Varanasi – 221 001.

Name of the Public Authority : Banaras Hindu University
Submissions made by the Registrar, Banaras Hindu University, for not imposing the
penalties against him:

1. While the initial application dated 14.10.2005 was disposed of on 15.10.2005
itself, the final application after submission of the required fee was forwarded
to the Registrar by the PRO & CPIO only on 22.11.2005 leaving only 19 days for
processing and disposal. This shows the prejudiced mind of the PRO & CPIO.
Fact: It is not correct to state that the PRO/CPIO acted in a prejudicial manner. In
fact, he acted with utmost responsibility and took full care to examine the
case. The PIO sought reply within 15 days (i.e. by 7th December 2005) as the
deadline to reply to Shri Dhananjay Tripathi’s application was 10th December
2005.

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2. When the actual information was not available with the PRO & CPIO, he should
in good faith have obeyed the legitimate decision taken by the competent
authority in the matter and communicated the same to the applicant. Instead,
he denied to comply with the orders repeatedly in writing and in person also
the Registrar.
Fact: It is observed that the PIO’s query was not answered by the Registrar but by
the Deputy Registrar instead on 15th December 2005 and therefore it had no
valid authorization. The Registrar did not dispose of the appeal under his
signatures. Moreover, the P.I.O wanted valid reasons to be given while
rejecting the application under Section 8(1)(g) of the Act. He never
questioned the authority of the Registrar.

ANNEXURE

3. The above attitude on the part of the PRO & CPIO is mainly responsible for a
little delay (6 days) in disposing of the appeal submitted by the applicant.
Fact: It is incorrect to say that the attitude of the PIO was mainly responsible for the
delay in disposing the Appeal. In fact, the PIO has been very careful in
processing the case.

4. A decision on the first appeal was disposed on 31.01.2006. Under Section 19(3)
of the RTI Act, 2005, a second appeal shall lie with the Central information
Commission within ninety days from the date of which the decision should have
been made or was actually received. The second appeal was actually
submitted in the Commission’s office only on 25.04.2006 i.e. after the expiry
of the prescribed ninety days. Nothing prevented the Appellant to file the
second appeal within 90 days. Obviously, the second should not have been
entertained at all.
Fact: It is not for the Registrar to counsel the Commission whether to entertain the
appeal after the expiry of 90 days or not. The Commission has power to
accept the Appeals beyond this period as per the proviso Sub-Section 3 of the
Section 19 of the Act.

5. Besides, Dr. O.P. Kejariwal, Information Commissioner, Shri S.D. Kumar,
Consultant and Shri Pankaj K.P. Shreyaskar, Assistant Registrar also heard the
case on 30.06.2006.

6. Registrar, BHU has neither blamed the CPIO nor the Vice-Chancellor in the
matter during the hearing on 30.06.2006. Only the facts were narrated and
communicated to the Commission in person in its hearing on 30.06.2006.
Fact: Both points 5 & 6 made by the Registrar are quite superfluous and explain
nothing.

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7. At every stage, a positive attitude only was taken by the Registrar in
processing the case of the applicant keeping in view of the interest of the
public service. Rejection of the application/appeal and/or interim denial of
information on valid grounds for cogent reasons can’t be termed as the
negative mindset of the authority. Meekly following the provisions of any Act
by the CPIO without application of mind and non-weighing of the pros and cons
of parting with the Information asked for can’t be termed as neither
“…understanding…” nor “…sincere in applying the provisions of the RTI Act…”
in the present case.
Fact: The only contribution of the Registrar in meeting the requirement of the
applicant was delay and denial of information. He has never spelt out the
valid grounds for rejection of the applicant’s request.

8. It is not, repeat not, the fact that the Enquiry Report was with the Registrar
since 27.04.2005. The fact is, it was received by the Registrar only on
27.04.2005. It is also a fact that since the new Vice-Chancellor took over
charge on 03.05.2005 i.e. within a week of receipt of the report by the
Registrar, it was felt necessary to pass on the report to the new Vice-
Chancellor for his perusal before further action was taken. Accordingly, the
said report was passed on in person by the Registrar to the new Vice-
Chancellor sometime in June/July 2005. Obviously, there was no shortcomings
on the part of the Registrar nor this can be attributed as “…shifting the blame
on the Vice-Chancellor…”
Fact: The notes recorded in the BHU’s own file clearly point to the shortcomings on
the part of the Registrar which he tries to deny now.

9. When the PRO & CPIO had no knowledge about the contents of the Enquiry
Report, he was not competent to take any conscious decision in the matter and
accordingly should have relied upon the wisdom of his higher authorities and
obeyed their orders. Accordingly, “…the question of considering his remarks in
refusing to communicate the decision in the capacity of CPIO…” does not arise.
Fact: The Registrar’s remarks in this para have no relevance as he had admitted that
the query by the PIO was not answered by him.

Sd/-
(O.P. Kejariwal)
Information Commissioner

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