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CIC Reprimands Officials for Violations in 'Letter & Spirit' of RTI Act

In his order as the First Appellate Authority, Beck directed the then CPIO Yogesh Singhal to provide information. The new CPIO also did not provide satisfactory response and referred the matter to FAA again.

PTI

Updated:February 25, 2018, 7:13 PM IST
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CIC Reprimands Officials for Violations in 'Letter & Spirit' of RTI Act
File photo of the CIC building, New Delhi.

New Delhi: In a rare admonition for the state of affairs in its own backyard, the top appellate authority for RTI matters, the CIC, has pulled up its joint secretary (law) and other officials for a flagrant violation of the transparency law. The rebuke came from Information Commissioner Divya Prakash Sinha when he observed serious violations of the processes and provisions of the RTI Act while hearing an appeal filed by legal and transparency activist R K Jain.

Jain had sought to know from the Central Information Commission the action taken on 113 communications received in its legal cell from its dak (mail) section during April-June, 2013. But he was not provided with any information. "It is indeed mortifying to note that the public authority which ought to be setting examples for other public authorities to follow in matters of RTI Act has lent itself such a disdainful scenario of flagrant violation of the provisions of RTI Act, Sinha said.

During appeal proceedings before Sinha, Jain said he wanted to emphasise on the massive problem of dak receipt management in legal cell of the CIC and expressed serious concern over the "deplorable" projection of the cell before the higher courts. Underlining the absurdity in the case, Sinha noted that central public information officer (CPIO) and the first appellate authority (FAA) were the same person in this case.

According to the RTI Act, however, only a senior official of the department can adjudicate the first appeal against the response furnished by the CPIO. Sinha also said the officers dealing with the case later did not note the trail of the case, ignored the fact and that a timely response was not given. Initially, the case was handled by SP Beck, who acted as the CPIO and later passed the order as the First Appellate Authority.

In his order as the First Appellate Authority, Beck directed the then CPIO Yogesh Singhal to provide information. The new CPIO also did not provide satisfactory response and referred the matter to FAA again...incumbent CPIO ignores trail of a particular case once he takes over charge of CPIO and provides a reply on his own accord and asks the applicant to again approach FAA, he noted.

It is rather preposterous to note that the same CPIO and JS Law i.e SP Beck is later presiding over as the FAA on the First Appeal filed against the RTI Application on which he was supposed to reply as the CPIO, Sinha said.

Sinha said that Beck, Singhal and Achala Sinha, the then Additional Secretary, CIC, have knowingly or unknowingly created a sheer mockery of the letter and spirit of the RTI Act by creating a situation of impasse by their whimsical approach towards the RTI application. Sinha said the case not just indicates failure of individual officers but a "colossal and baffling failure of the system" within which the officers function.

In addition to Beck and Singhal, Sinha also chided K K Pukhral, the section officer in the legal team. Serious concern is expressed over the situation of three-ring circus caused in the matter by all concerned, leaving the scope of taking penal action extremely difficult, Sinha said as he left the officials with a warning to be careful in future.

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| Edited by: Tarun Bhardwaj
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