Compensation under Section 19(8) (b) of RTI

CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
BLOCK IV, OLD JNU CAMPUS, NEW DELHI 110067

Appeal No.30/ICPB/2006
June 13, 2006

In the matter of Right to Information Act, 2005 – Section 19.

Appellant: Ms. M.N. Trivel, Pune

Public Authority: Central Government Health Scheme, Pune
Shri J.P. Gupta, CPIO
Dr. G.T. Thawani, Appellate Authority.
Facts
The father of the appellant who is a CGHS beneficiary pensioner was admitted in Ushakiran Hospital which is a recognized hospital under CGHS Scheme on 1.12.2003 as an emergency case. On paying the hospital charges, the appellant submitted a claim application for Rs.4272.64 to CGHS, Pune on 9.12.2003. His claim was rejected on the ground that the treatment was not of an emergency nature and as such the patient could not have been admitted without the prior permission of CGHS. Aggrieved with the decision of CGHS, on 18.7.2005, the appellant filed a case in Pune District Consumer Forum against CGHS, Pune, CGHS, New Delhi and one Dr. Gaikwad of Ushakiran Hospital, Pune. Stating that to gather evidence in connection with that case, she filed an application under the Act seeking for certain documents on 24.10.2005. In the application, the appellant had sought for the following information:

(1) Details of hospitalization of her father from 1.12.1995 to till date giving details like hospital name, duration of hospitalization, admitted for which ailment, claim admitted by hospital or amount reimbursement to pensioner.

(2) Copies of memo issued by Dispensary-III on 27.12.1995 and 28.12.1995.

(3) Copy of local purchase, indent for medicines prescription provided by Shri Narayan on 6.12.2003 and received by pensioner’s son on 9.12.2003.

(4) Whether Ushakiran Hospital had admitted the claim or not of her father’s admission in the hospital from 26.12.2003 to 28.12.2003 and if admitted the amount of claim paid towards the bill and the details thereof.

2. By a letter dated 10.11.2005, CPIO advised the appellant to remit Rs.10/- being the application fee which was remitted by the appellant on 14.11.2005. By a communication dated 30th November, 2005, the CPIO requested the appellant to furnish the details of hospitalization of her father i.e. names of hospitals and month/year in which admitted etc. to trace out and retrieve relevant records so that details of payment made to the hospitals could be provided to her. By a letter dated 2nd December, 2005, while expressing difficulties in furnishing the exact details as no records relating to the hospitalization of her father was available with her, the appellant informed the CPIO that her father had been admitted in Rubi Hall Clinic, KM Hospital, Ushakiran Hospital etc. By a letter dated 16th January, 2006, the CPIO informed the appellant that since she had failed to give the details and particulars of the period of treatment taken in different hospitals, it was not possible to give correct information and as such requested her to give the correct period and details of hospitals. By a letter dated 24.1.2006, the appellant furnished the details of the period of hospitalization in different hospitals from 1995 to 2003. In that letter, she had also asked for the name and address of the appellate authority. By a letter dated 24.1.2006, the CPIO asked the appellant to remit a sum of Rs.50/- for providing a copy of the local purchase indent dated 8.12.2003 and bill copy of Ushakiran Hospital for the month December, 2003. By a letter dated 30.1.2006, the appellant pointed out to the CPIO that as per RTI Rules, only a sum of Rs.2/- per page of copy supplied is to be paid and sought for clarification as to why a sum of Rs.50/- was being demanded. By a letter dated 2.2.2006, the CPIO informed the appellant that in the guidelines received from CGHS headquarters, a sum of Rs.25/- per page of copy has been fixed and accordingly requested the appellant to remit the sum. The appellant paid the sum of Rs.50/- on 30.1.2006. With a letter dated 16.2.2006, the CPIO furnished to the appellant, a copy of the bill of Ushakiran Hospital for the period 2003 and also a copy of the local purchase indent dated 8.12.2003. Again by a letter dated 21.2.2006, the CPIO informed the appellant that other information sought could not be supplied as the matter was sub judice in the Consumer Court. In the same letter, he had also furnished, the name and address of the appellate authority.

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3. The appellant filed an appeal before the appellate authority on 6.3.2006 complaining that only part information has been received by her and that she has been charged Rs.25/- per page as against Rs.2/- per page as prescribed by the rules. By a decision dated 21.3.2006, the appellate authority disposed of the appeal stating that the stand taken by the CPIO was just and fair and that there was no willful delay in replying to appellant’s letters or charging high fee. In the meanwhile, the appellant has been corresponding through e-mail with the Joint Secretary of this Commission who had taken up the matter with the CGHS, Pune. In response, by a letter dated 22.2.2006, the appellate authority informed this Commission that part information had already been furnished to the appellant and that since the information sought was for self interest and had no relationship with any public interest, the information cannot be given in economic interest of Government.

The appellant filed this appeal before the Commission on 1.4.2006.

Decision

4. Comments were called for from CPIO. The substance of the lengthy comments of the
CPIO is that CGHS does not have the details of hospitalization of CGHS beneficiaries.
Whenever patients are referred to private hospitals for indoor treatment or investigation, the
same is endorsed in the case paper of the patient and handed over to them for safe custody.
When a patient is discharged from the hospital, they are given a discharge card by the hospitals
indicating therein the summary of the disease, treatment given and the medicine prescribed.
These records are to be kept with the patients only and CGHS does not come into the picture
except for forwarding the bills raised by the private hospital to the Pay and Accounts Officer for
payment. In the present case, the appellant had asked for various details relating to the treatment
of her father from 1995 onwards, which information is not available with the CGHS. It is also
stated that copies of two documents available with the CGHS were provided to the appellant on
receipt of Rs.50 as prescribed by the headquarters. It is also stated that the matter is sub-judice
and all available information would be provided in the Court, if called for. In so far as the delay
is concerned, it is explained that every one of the letters of the appellant was responded to within
30 days and CGHS has no intention to cause mental or physical harassment to any of the
beneficiaries. Finally it is stated that this is a case of much ado about nothing and deserves to be
dismissed.

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5. From the facts of the case, it is abundantly clear that the application and the appeal of
the appellant have been badly handled respectively by the CPIO and the appellate authority.
From the original application dated 24.10.2205 of the appellant, the CPIO knew that she had
asked for hospitalization details from 1995, and if CGHS does not keep the details, there was no
reason for the CPIO to ask the appellant to furnish further details vide his letters dated
30.11.2005 and 16.1.2006. These letters not only created a false hope in her, the appellant also
responded to the same by giving further details. Further, there was no need to inform her by his
letter dated 21.2.2006 that the information could not be furnished as the matter was sub-judice,
which prompted her to make an application to the Consumer Court for a direction to the CPIO
to furnish the records in the Court. Atleast, the appellate authority could have taken the correct
decision to state that the information was not available. Instead while concurring with the
decision of the CPIO, the appellate authority also justified the charge of Rs.25 per page of the
information which is contrary to the RTI Rules. Most surprisingly, by a letter dated 22.2.2006
addressed to this Commission, the appellate authority had invented a new and novel justification
that the information cannot be given in economic interest of the Government.

6. Even from the comments, I cannot form a definite opinion about the availability of the information sought, as while on the one hand the CPIO has stated that the information is not available but on the other hand he has also stated all available information would be furnished to the Court if called for. In view of this indefiniteness, I deem it fit to refer the matter back to the appellate authority who shall examine/review the case once again and inform the appellant whether the information sought for by her is available or not. In case, any information is available, the appellate authority shall direct the CPIO to provide the same to the appellant without any cost, not withstanding the pending case in the Consumer Forum. The whole exercise should be completed by 30th June 2006.

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7. Considering the fact that non-application of mind by both the CPIO and the appellate authority has resulted in the appellant’s having to interact with CPIO and this Commission repeatedly, causing mental harassment to her, I consider that it is a fit case, wherein, in exercise of the powers conferred on this Commission under Section 19(8)(b) of the Act, the appellant should be compensated. Accordingly, I direct CGHS, the public authority, to pay a sum of Rs.5,000 (five thousand) to the appellant as compensation. It will also refund to her, the sum of Rs. 60/- paid by her as fee and towards supply of copies of information. The total amount of Rs.5060/- should be paid to her by 30th June 2006 under intimation to this Commission. In so far as the medical claim of the appellant is concerned, this Commission has no jurisdiction to deal with the same.

8. The appeal is disposed of accordingly.

9. Let a copy of this decision be sent to appellant and CPIO.

Sd/-
(Padma Balasubramanian)
Information Commissioner

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