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No beating about the bush.
The PIO of the School neither provided any information nor appeared before the Bench for show cause hearings, forcing the CIC to levy a penalty of Rs25,000. This is the 207th in a series of important RTI judgements given by former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi
The Central Information Commission (CIC), levied a fine of Rs25,000 on the Public Information Officer (PIO) of SD Hari Mandir Girls Senior Secondary School for refusing to provide information despite orders and failing twice to appear before the Bench for a show cause hearing.
While giving the judgement on 9 August 2010, under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner, said, "As per the provisions of Section 20 (1) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005, the Bench finds this a fit case for levying penalty on Pawan Kumar Bhatia, Manager and PIO. Since the delay in providing the correct information has been over 100 days, the Bench is passing an order penalising Pawan Kumar Bhatia for Rs25,000, which is the maximum penalty under the Act."
New Delhi resident, Vinod Bharti, on 1 August 2009, sought from the PIO information regarding teachers availing special leave. Here is the information the appellant had sought...
1. No. of teachers that had availed special leave (abortion leave) from 1 April 1995 till date (31 July 2009).
2. Certified copies of the relevant papers on basis of which such medical leave was sanctioned by the school authorities to the teachers including medical prescription, ultra sounds & urine report and fitness certificate and any other relevant information/documents etc.
3. Period of special leave of the above mentioned teachers.
There was no immediate response from the PIO. Bharti received reply from the PIO only after filing his first appeal.
In his reply, the PIO stated, "The requested information was of a confidential nature and therefore they were not in a position to furnish the same and that the teachers had also refused to provide their personal details in this regard."
There was no mention of any order passed by the First Appellate Authority (FAA).
Bharti, the appellant then approached the CIC with his second appeal.
During the hearing on 10 December 2009, the Bench of Mr Gandhi, observed that the PIO has refused the information without giving any exemption under Section 8 (1) of the RTI Act. "However, the Appellant’s asking for certified photocopies of various medical records of the individual teachers was certainly inappropriate," the Bench noted.
While allowing the appeal, Mr Gandhi then directed the PIO to provide information on query-1 & 3 to the Appellant before 26 December 2009 and the list of documents, which were submitted by the teachers to avail of the special/ abortion leave.
However, the PIO did not provide the information in the stipulated time. Bharti, the appellant, then sent a letter to the CIC on 15 January 2010 complaining about non-compliance of the CIC's order by the PIO.
On 4 February 2010, the PIO sent a letter to the CIC, stating that the School had decided to challenge the decision of the Commission in a writ petition.
The CIC, then sent a show cause notice to the PIO. It said, "...you have only moved a Writ Petition, but there is no stay order issued by a Court on the order of the Commission, the order of the Commission remains in force and has to be complied with. Section 19(7) of the RTI Act provides that the decision of the Commission 'shall be binding'."
"Non-compliance of the Commission’s order which is still in force, may lead to initiation of penalty proceedings in accordance with the Right to Information Act, 2005. The Commission is hereby directing you to provide the complete information to the Appellant before 6 March 2010. You are further directed to appear before the Commission on 12 March 2010 along with written submission to show cause why penalty should not be imposed on you under Section 20 (1) and (2) of the RTI Act, 2005," the CIC said.
However, the PIO did not appear before the Bench on 12 March 2010 for the show cause hearing. The Bench, then decided to give one more opportunity to the PIO to present himself along with his written submission on 27 April 2010.
Again, the PIO did not appear before the Bench on 27 April 2010. The Bench, then spoke with Pawan Kumar Bhatia, manager and PIO, who stated that he was unable to come to the Commission without giving any reasons. The appellant, Bharti stated that he still had not received any information from the PIO.
"It is evident that the PIO is determined not to follow the law and the directions of a statutory authority. It appears that the PIO has no reasonable cause to offer for refusing to obey the directions of the Commission for providing the information," Mr Gandhi noted.
He said, "It appears that the PIO does not wish to give any explanation for his defiance of statutory order. He has not sent any written submission nor given any reasons for not appearing before the Commission."
The Bench then directed the PIO to send complete information before 15 May 2010 warning that if the information was not provided then it may consider recommending to the Department of Education to take appropriate action against him.
Mr Gandhi said, "The Bench therefore decides that Pawan Kumar Bhatia, Manager and PIO has no reasonable cause for refusing to give information. Since the delay has been for over 100 days the Bench imposes the maximum penalty of Rs25,000 leviable under Section 20(1) of the RTI Act."
The Bench also directed the chairman of SD Hari Mandir Girls Senior Secondary School to recover Rs25,000 at the rate of Rs5,000 per month from the salary of Bhatia and remit it to the CIC before 10 October 2010.
Even then, the PIO neither provided any information nor the School remitted the penalty amount. The Bench again, gave the PIO an opportunity to appear before it for a show cause hearing on 26 July 2010. The PIO again did not appear before the Bench.
In addition, the CIC received a letter dated 22 July 2010 from Abha Joshi, PIO, deputy director of education, Central District, New Delhi, stating that the respondent school was unable to deduct the penalty sum from the salary of Pawan Kumar Bhatia, PIO/Manager as the post of ‘Manager’ was honorary and no salary/ allowance was being paid to him.
Mr Gandhi then issued a summons on 27 September 2010 asking the PIO/Manager and the Chairman to appear before the Bench for an inquiry. The Chairman was also directed to bring a demand draft for the penalty amount of Rs25,000 on 28 October 2010. The PIO/ Manager was also directed to bring all relevant records on that date.
The school Chairman did not respond to the summons. Even the Manager, who appeared before the Bench stated that he did not consider it necessary to bring the information. When the Bench asked the school principal did not offer any explanation.
Mr Gandhi noted that the Chairman and the Manager of the School appear to be determined to flout instructions given by statutory authorities. He then directed the manager, chairman and Khan Chand, deputy director of education at New Delhi to appear before the Bench along with the records and requisite information and a banker's cheque or demand draft of Rs25,000 for the penalty.
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2009/002597/5818/Adjunct-I
Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2009/002597
Appellant : Vinod Bharti
Respondent : Pawan Kumar Bhatia
Public Information Officer & Manager
SD Hari Mandir Girls Sr. Sec. School
Des Raj Bhatia Marg, Nabi Karim,
New Delhi – 110055