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RTI >> Judgments >> CIC >> Miscellaneous (Law of Precedence, Compliant and Appeal, Freedom of Speech, Transparency in admission/selection)
Supreme Court(Miscellaneous (Law of Precedence, Compliant and Appeal, Freedom of Speech, Transparency in admission/selection))/ High Courts(Miscellaneous (Law of Precedence, Compliant and Appeal, Freedom of Speech, Transparency in admission/selection))
S.No. CIC CASE DATE OF JUDGMENT JUDGMENT
1 CIC/VS/A/2015/001076
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03 Dec, 2020 Desh Raj Vs. CPIO, Border Security Force, Tripura

Information Sought
Non-confidence of commission’s orders.

Decision

The Commission, after perusing the records, observes that the respondent vide letter dated 18.05.2017 intimated the Commission of the compliance of the Commission’s order dated 28.06.2016. The respondent further intimated the Commission that the requisite information/copies of letters as sought by the appellant consisted of 23 pages (28 sheets) and the same was sent to the appellant on two occasions vide letters dated 11.11.2016 and 30.01.2017. However, in the reply filed by CPIO, the respondent mentioned that such information may be of about 50 pages approximately. The Commission hereby directs the respondent to file an affidavit with the Commission deposing that the letters referred to in para 29 of the CPIO’s reply dated 08.09.2014 were 23 in number instead of 50 as mentioned in the CPIO’s reply. A copy of the affidavit shall also be provided to the appellant. The above directions of the Commission shall be complied with, within a period of four weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order. No further intervention of the Commission is required in the matter. Accordingly, the matter is closed at Commission’s level.

2 CIC/MHOME/A/2019/105249
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14 Feb, 2020 Shri Gajender Singh Yadav Vs. PIO, M/o Home Affairs, North Block, New Delhi - 110001

Information Sought
1. Provide the number of Encounters and number of people who had died in such Encounters from 2012 to 2017 in Uttar Pradesh.
2. Provide the number of Encounters and number of people who had died in such Encounters from April 2017 to May 2018 in Uttar Pradesh.
3. Provide the following details of the persons that were killed in Encounters from 2012 to May 2018: a. Name of the person killed b. Caste c. District d. Thana e. Date of Encounter f. Name of the officer carrying out the Encounters and his caste g. Details of the provisions of IPC under which charges were leveled against the deceased.

Order
The above mentioned case has been filed in this Commission by Shri Gajender Singh Yadav. Perusal of the documents on record reveals that the applicant has sought information from PIO, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. However, as per the submission of the Respondent, the custodian of the information was the UP State Government. Since the subject matter falls outside the purview of the Central list and pertains to the State of Uttar Pradesh, the Registrar of this Commission is directed that the aforesaid case be forwarded to the UP State Information Commission, Lucknow for disposal, under intimation to the Complainant/Appellant. The Appellant is also directed to approach the Uttar Pradesh State Information Commission for any further action in the matter.

3 CIC/LICOI/A/2018/145546-BJ, CIC/LICOI/A/2018/145541-BJ, CIC/LICOI/A/2018/145545-BJ
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30 Jan, 2020 Mr. Murali Govind Bhat vs CPIO / Manager (CRM) DM LIC of India, RTI Department

Information sought:
The Appellant vide his RTI application sought information regarding the non-consideration for his transfer to Udupi DO for the HGA inter divisional transfer despite his seniority.

Decision:
6. The CIC has been constituted under Section 12 of the Act and the powers of CIC are delineated under the Act. The CIC being a statutory body has to act strictly within the confines of the Act and is neither required to nor has the jurisdiction to examine any other controversy or disputes. 7. In the present case, it is apparent that CIC had decided issues which were plainly outside the scope of the jurisdiction of CIC under the Act. The limited scope of examination by the CIC was: (i) whether the information sought for by the respondent was provided to him; (ii) if the same was denied, whether such denial was justified; (iii) whether any punitive action was required to be taken against the concerned PIO; and (iv) whether any directions under Section 19(8) were warranted. In addition, the CIC also exercises powers under Section 18 of the Act and also performs certain other functions as expressly provided under various provisions of the Act including Section 25 of the Act. It is plainly not within the jurisdiction of the CIC to examine the dispute as to whether respondent no.2 was entitled to and was allotted a plot of land under the 20-Point Programme.
4 CIC/DOP&T/A/2018/138507
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01 Jan, 2020 CA Balai Lal Sinha Vs. CPIO, Department of Personnel & Training , North Block, New Delhi- 110001

Information Sought
The appellant sought information pertaining to a DOP&T letter no. 36034/10/2011 Estt. Dated 23.03.2012 on the issue of grant of MACP to those officers who were inducted into Organised Service just before their retirement. He specifically sought for copy of the list; views taken in respect of each case; copies of those representation / proposals received etc. through 3 points.

Decision
Commission on the basis of proceedings during hearing observes that the Appellant has approached the DoPT which is the nodal Ministry of all other Ministries on policy matters. Upon perusal of the documents submitted by the Pradeep Kumar, US & CPIO, Commission is convinced that as per the prevailing policy guidelines, the administrative Ministry/Department is responsible to defend Court cases and that the DoPT is nowhere involved.

Nonetheless, to allay the apprehensions of the Appellant, Commission directs the Pradeep Kumar, US & CPIO to file an appropriate affidavit stating that relevant documents as available in records have been made available to the Appellant. The
affidavit should be sent by the Pradeep Kumar, US & CPIO to the Commission with
its copy duly endorsed to the Appellant.

The aforesaid directions of the commission shall be complied with by the CPIO within 15 days from the date of receipt of this order and a compliance report to this effect be provided to the Commission by the Pradeep Kumar, US & CPIO.
5 CIC/CCABW/A/2018/620235-BJ
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16 Dec, 2019 Mr. Deepak Kumar Acharya Vs. CPIO & Income Tax Officer Office of the Income Tax Officer Dhenkanal Ward, Kunjakanta Dhenkanal – 759001

Information Sought
The Appellant vide his RTI application sought information on 14 points regarding the daily progress on his TEP dated 30.08.2017, till date; a copy of the preliminary assessments/investigation; recorded reasons for the delay; name and designation of the officials concerned; tentative date of completion of the investigation and other details relating to the Income Tax assessments of Mr. Harmohan Sarangi and Mr. Himansu Sarangi, etc.

Decision
Moreover, in a recent decision in Govt. of NCT vs. Rajendra Prasad WP (C) 10676/2016 dated 30.11.2017, the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi had held as under:

6. The CIC has been constituted under Section 12 of the Act and the powers of CIC are delineated under the Act. The CIC being a statutory body has to act strictly within the confines of the Act and is neither required to nor has the jurisdiction to examine any other controversy or disputes.

7. In the present case, it is apparent that CIC had decided issues which were plainly outside the scope of the jurisdiction of CIC under the Act. The limited scope of examination by the CIC was: (i) whether the information sought for by the respondent was provided to him; (ii) if the same was denied, whether such denial was justified; (iii) whether any punitive action was required to be taken against the concerned PIO; and (iv) whether any directions under Section 19(8) were warranted. In addition, the CIC also exercises powers under Section 18 of the Act and also performs certain other functions as expressly provided under various provisions of the Act including Section 25 of the Act. It is plainly not within the jurisdiction of the CIC to examine the dispute as to whether respondent no.2 was entitled to and was allotted a plot of land under the 20-Point Programme.

A similar view delineating the scope of the Commission’s jurisdiction was also taken by the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in Sher Singh Rawat vs. Chief Information Commissioner and Ors., W.P. (C) 5220/2017 and CM No. 22184/2017 dated 29.08.2017 and in the matter of Shobha Vijender vs. Chief Information Commissioner W.P. (C) No. 8289/2016 and CM 34297/2016 dated 29.11.2017.

Keeping in view the facts of the case and the submissions made by both the parties, no further intervention of the Commission is required in the matter. For redressal of his grievance, the Appellant is advised to approach an appropriate forum.

The Appeal stands disposed accordingly.
6 CIC/JIPGR/A/2018/133458-BJ
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16 Dec, 2019 Mr. A. Selvam Vs. CPIO & Nodal Officer, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, Puducherry – 605006

Information Sought
The Appellant vide his RTI application sought information regarding the attested copies of the complete records/documents with supporting documents including the note sheet approval of the competent authority, pertaining to the Order No. Admin-I 27(13)/2018, dated 11.04.2018.

Decision
Moreover, in a recent decision in Govt. of NCT vs. Rajendra Prasad WP (C) 10676/2016 dated 30.11.2017, the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi had held as under:

6. The CIC has been constituted under Section 12 of the Act and the powers of CIC are delineated under the Act. The CIC being a statutory body has to act strictly within the confines of the Act and is neither required to nor has the jurisdiction to examine any other controversy or disputes.

7. In the present case, it is apparent that CIC had decided issues which were plainly outside the scope of the jurisdiction of CIC under the Act. The limited scope of examination by the CIC was: (i) whether the information sought for by the respondent was provided to him; (ii)if the same was denied, whether such denial was justified; (iii) whether any punitive action was required to be taken against the concerned PIO; and (iv) whether any directions under Section 19(8) were warranted. In addition, the CIC also exercises powers under Section 18 of the Act and also performs certain other functions as expressly provided under various provisions of the Act including Section 25 of the Act. It is plainly not within the jurisdiction of the CIC to examine the dispute as to whether respondent no.2 was entitled to and was allotted a plot of land under the 20-Point Programme.

A similar view delineating the scope of the Commission’s jurisdiction was also taken by the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in Sher Singh Rawat vs. Chief Information Commissioner and Ors., W.P. (C) 5220/2017 and CM No. 22184/2017 dated 29.08.2017 and in the matter of Shobha Vijender vs. Chief Information Commissioner W.P. (C) No. 8289/2016 and CM 34297/2016 dated 29.11.2017.

The Appellant was not present to contest the submissions of the Respondent or to substantiate his claims further.

Keeping in view the facts of the case and the submissions made by the Respondent, no further intervention of the Commission is required in the matter. For redressal of his grievance, the Appellant is advised to approach an appropriate forum.
7 CIC/CCITD/A/2018/133552-BJ
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16 Dec, 2019 Mr. Himanshu Awasthi Vs. CPIO (Exam) & ADIT, Directorate of Income Tax, 5th Floor, Mayur Bhawan, Connaught Circus New Delhi- 110001

Information Sought
The Appellant vide his RTI application sought information on 4 points inter alia regarding the certified documents including inter office notes/instructions /policies/ guidelines/e-mail/DO/ or any other document given to the Valuers for Income Tax Examination for the year 2017 and last five previous years by the IT Department, etc.
Decision
The Hon’ble High Court of Bombay in the matter of Sayyed Education Society v. State of Maharashtra, WP 1305/2011 dated 12.02.2014 had held that public authorities are under a statutory obligation to maintain records and disseminate as per the provisions of the Section 4 of the RTI Act, 2005. The High Court in this respect, held as under:

“Needless to state that as observed by the Hon’ble Apex Court in paragraph No. 14 in the case of CBSE and Another (supra), Public Authorities are under an obligation to maintain records and disseminate the information in the manner provided under Section 4 of the RTI act. The submission of the petitioner that it is an onerous task to supply documents, therefore is required to be rejected. The Law mandates preserving of documents, supplying copies thereof to the applicant, in our view, cannot be said to be an onerous task.”

Above all the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the decision of R.B.I. and Ors. V. Jayantilal N. Mistry and Ors, Transferred Case (Civil) No. 91 of 2015 (Arising out of Transfer Petition (Civil) No. 707 of 2012 decided on 16.12.2015 had held as under:

“The ideal of ‘Government by the people’ makes it necessary that people have access to information on matters of public concern. The free flow of information about affairs of Government paves way for debate in public policy and fosters accountability in Government. It creates a condition for ‘open governance’ which is a foundation of democracy.”

Furthermore, in this context a reference was also made to the OM no. No.1/6/2011-IR dated 15.04.2013 issued by the DoP&T pertaining to guidelines for the implementation of suo motu disclosures under Section 4 of the RTI Act, 2005.

The Appellant was not present to contest the submissions of the Respondent or to substantiate his claims further.

Keeping in view the facts of the case and the submissions made by the Respondent and in view of the generic nature of instructions issued for the Income Tax Examination Valuers, the Commission instructed the Respondent to notify the same on its website for information of all concerned, as agreed.
8 CIC/LICOI/A/2018/133523-BJ+
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27 Nov, 2019 Mr. Onkar Ram Vs. CPIO, Manager (CRM), Life Insurance Corporation of India, Allahabad

Information Sought
The Appellant vide his RTI application sought information regarding his Annual Confidentiality Report (ACR) for the year 2017 (details not legible, contents taken from the CPIO reply).

Decision
Furthermore, the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi vide order dated 7/10/2013 in W.P. (C) 4079/2013 Union Public Service Commission vs. G S Sandhu wherein while observing that denial of notings altogether was not justified directed to block the name, designation or any other indication which disclose or tend to disclose the identity of author, it was held as under:

“11. In my view, the apprehension of the petitioner that if the identity of the author of the file notings is revealed by his name, designation or in any other manner, there is a possibility of such an employee being targeted, harassed and even intimidated by the persons against whom an adverse noting is recorded by him on the file of UPSC, is fully justified. Though, ultimately it is for the members of the UPSC who are to accept or reject such notings, this can hardly be disputed that the notings do play a vital role in the advice which UPSC ultimately renders to the concerned department. Therefore, the person against whom an adverse advice is given may hold the employee of UPSC recording a note adverse to him on the file, responsible for an adverse advice given by UPSC against him and may, therefore, harass and sometime even harm such an employee/officer of UPSC, directly or indirectly. To this extent, the officers of UPSC need to be protected.

Furthermore, the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in the decision of KVS v. CIC and Anr. W.P.(C) 6892/2009 dated 15.09.2009 while upholding the decision of the Commission had held as under:

“The only objection raised by the petitioner against the supply of statement of witnesses was under Section 8(1)(g) of the Right to Information Act, 2005. The said provision stipulates that information disclosure of which would endanger life and physical safety of any person or identity, the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement and security purposes need not be supplied. The Information Commissioner keeping in mind Section 8(1)(g) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 has directed that the name of the witnesses need not be disclosed to the respondent No.2.

9 CIC/DTCOR/A/2018/114317
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15 Nov, 2019 Shri Mahabir Singh Pahal Vs. PIO/Dy. Chief General Manager (Tr.) DTC, Scindia House, New Delhi

Information Sought
The Appellant filed RTI application dated 25.10.2017 seeking information on 4 points;
1. Whether the management DTC had sought/applied for exemption from Central Government/State Government, who has power to grant exemption from applicability of the statute of the P.G. Act-1972. Provide certified copy for the same.
2. Whether the management DTC had taken exemption from the Central Government (M/o Labour & Employment, New Delhi) State Government from applicability of the statute under section 5 of the payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 from making payment to its employees/any employees or class of employees employed under the management of DTC provide certified copy of the exemption.
3. If the management DTC has already granted exemption from applicability of statute of PG Act 1972, for the class of employees to cover under CCS (pension rules 1972) if so, provide the certified copy of the proposal submitted by DTC to the appropriate Govt. of India, M/o Labour & Employment.
4. Whether the management DTC is enable to formulate & enforce its own gratuity scheme in exercise of its statutory power, provide certified copy of statutory power.

Decision
After hearing the submissions of both the parties, the Commission hereby directs the PIO/ Sh.R.B.L. Srivatava, HQ, S.C. house, DTC to either make efforts to obtain the information sought by the Appellant in the RTI application and provide the same to the Appellant, under intimation to the Commission or file a duly sworn affidavit before the Commission explaining the factual position regarding the missing/untraceable records and the action taken to restore them, with a copy marked to the Appellant. The above directions shall be complied with within 3 weeks from the date of issue of this order. It is made clear that non-compliance of the stipulated timeline shall attract penal action against the concerned PIO.

Commission notes that the First Appeal of the Appellant was not adjudicated by the FAA. This reflects poorly on the state of affairs in the Respondent public authority with regard to handling of the RTI application. A warning is thus issued to the Respondent public authority to be careful in adherence to the provisions of the RTI Act.

10 CIC/DDATY/A/2018/127726-BJ
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15 Nov, 2019 Mr. Vinod Singhla Vs. CPIO PIO & Asst. Director, Delhi Development Authority, INA New Delhi – 110023

Information Sought
The Appellant vide his RTI application sought information on 04 points in respect of Flat Number C-1, 164, details of payment plan for the said flat along with dates for the payment of installments; the date on which the possession of the said flat would be granted; number of properties for which the possession of flats had been transferred, etc.

Decision
The Commission observed that there is complete negligence and laxity in the public authority in dealing with the RTI applications. It is abundantly clear that such matters are being ignored and set aside without application of mind which reflects disrespect towards the RTI Act, 2005 itself. The Commission expressed its displeasure on the casual and callous approach adopted by the respondent in responding to the RTI application. It was felt that the conduct of Respondent was against the spirit of the RTI Act, 2005 which was enacted to ensure greater transparency and effective access to the information.

Keeping in view the facts of the case and the submissions made by both the parties and in the light of the admission of the Respondent for its utter neglect, casual and callous disregard to the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005, the Commission directs Mr. Rajesh Kumar, Pr. Commissioner (Housing), DDA, to depute an officer of an appropriate seniority to investigate and to fix responsibility and accountability on the concerned official within a period of 30 days from the date of receipt of this order. A copy of the action taken in the matter should be reported to the Appellant with a copy to the Commission for its perusal.

The Commission also instructs the Respondent Public Authority to convene periodic conferences/seminars to sensitize, familiarize and educate the concerned officials about the relevant provisions of the RTI Act, 2005 for effective discharge of its duties and responsibilities.

11 Information Sought The issues under consideration arising out of the second appeal dated 12.02.2018 include non-receipt of the following information raised by the appellant through his RTI application dated 24.11.2017 and first appeal dated 11.12.2017:-
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14 Nov, 2019 Kamalakanta Malik Vs. CPIO, Department of School Education and Literacy, Shastri Bhawan, Dr. Rajendra Prasad Road, New Delhi

Information Sought
The appellant has sought the following information:
1. Whether the certificate issued by government unrecognised private elementary school throughout India is valid or not.
2. Whether such students are eligible or not to get admission in Govt./Govt. recognised private elementary secondary school.
3. If such students are eligible to get admission in Govt./Govt. recognised private elementary secondary school, then what is the necessity of issuing Govt. recognition to private elementary school.
4. And other related information.

Decision
From a perusal of the relevant case records, it is noted that till date no final reply has been provided to the appellant. The CPIO present during the hearing was also not aware what had happened after the transfer of the RTI application to the CBSE. Moreover, the appellant was also not present to submit anything in this regard.

The Commission expresses its displeasure at the conduct of the CPIO for coming unprepared before the Commission regarding the facts of the case which not only wastes the time of the Commission but of the public authority also.

Based on the above observations, the present CPIO is directed to provide the relevant information to the appellant after seeking assistance u/s 5(4) of the RTI Act from the holders of the information. This direction is to be complied

12 CIC/SDMCS/A/2018/113971
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11 Nov, 2019 Shri Shivraj Saini Vs. PIO/Deputy Director (Horticulture), SDMC, Park, Aurobindo Marg, New Delhi

Information Sought
Appellant filed RTI application dated 10.08.2017 seeking information on the following 4 points;
1. Monthly salary being paid to unskilled Gardener appointed on compensatory ground by Horticulture Department, SDMC? How many times salary has been hiked from 2009. Provide details.
2. Monthly salary being paid to semiskilled Gardener appointed on compensatory ground by Horticulture Department, SDMC? How many times salary has been hiked from 2009. Provide details.
3. Number of Gardeners appointed by Horticulture Department as skilled employed, by SDMC on compensatory ground.
4. Number of Gardeners who are being paid the salary of unskilled Gardeners by Horticulture Department, SDMC?

Decision
Upon perusal of the records of the case, the Commission is satisfied that information as available has already been provided by the Respondent. No further action is deemed necessary in this case. The appeals are thus disposed off.

13 CIC/BPCLD/A/2018/122699-BJ
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04 Nov, 2019 Ms. Jyoti Bajaj Vs. CPIO Dy. General Manager, Complaint Redressal LPG – HQ & CPIO, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. Mumbai

Information Sought
The Appellant vide her RTI application sought information regarding the rule/ law which authorized the Sr. Manager LPG, LPG HQ Sales to give personal opinion against Gobind Sales, Punjab.

The CPIO, vide its letter dated 30.01.2018 stated that the query seeking logic/ reason was beyond the purview of Section 2 (f) of the RTI Act, 2005. Moreover, the matter between hotplate vendor and stockist was between two parties and BPCL had no role in it. Dissatisfied by the response, the Appellant approached the FAA. The FAA, vide its order dated 16.03.2018 concurred with the response of the CPIO.

Decision
Furthermore, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Khanapuram Gandaiah Vs. Administrative Officer and Ors. Special Leave Petition (Civil) No.34868 OF 2009 (Decided on January 4, 2010) had held as under:

6. “...Under the RTI Act “information” is defined under Section 2(f) which provides:

“information” means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, emails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, report, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force.”

This definition shows that an applicant under Section 6 of the RTI Act can get any information which is already in existence and accessible to the public authority under law. Of course, under the RTI Act an applicant is entitled to get copy of the opinions, advices, circulars, orders, etc., but he cannot ask for any information as to why such opinions, advices, circulars, orders, etc. have been passed.”

7. “....the Public Information Officer is not supposed to have any material which is not before him; or any information he could have obtained under law. Under Section 6 of the RTI Act, an applicant is entitled to get only such information which can be accessed by the “public authority” under any other law for the time being in force. The answers sought by the petitioner in the application could not have been with the public authority nor could he have had access to this information and Respondent No. 4 was not obliged to give any reasons as to why he had taken such a decision in the matter which was before him.”

The Commission observed that the framework of the RTI Act, 2005 restricts the jurisdiction of the Commission to provide a ruling on the issues pertaining to access/ right to information and to venture into the merits of a case or redressal of grievance. The Commission in a plethora of decisions including Shri Vikram Singh v. Delhi Police, North East District, CIC/SS/A/2011/001615 dated 17.02.2012 Sh. Triveni Prasad Bahuguna vs. LIC of India, Lucknow CIC/DS/A/2012/000906 dated 06.09.2012, Mr. H. K. Bansal vs. CPIO & GM (OP), MTNL CIC/LS/A/2011/000982/BS/1786 dated 29.01.2013 had held that RTI Act was not the proper law for redressal of grievances/disputes.
14 CIC/CBSED/A/2018/122717/01733
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25 Sep, 2019 Akansha Aggarwal Vs. PIO/ Asst. Secretary (A&L), Central Board of Secondary Education Regional Office, Dehradun, 99, Kaulagarh road, Dehradun

Information Sought
The appellant has sought the photocopy of answer sheet, subject code no.- 041(Mathematics) and subject code - 055(Accountancy) of her intermediate examination held in the year 2017.

Decision
The appellant submitted that she was deprived of her own answer sheet. On a query by the Commission she submitted that she received the reply dated 01.07.2017 asking for photocopying charges of Rs 160/-. Accordingly she paid the same on 04.07.2017. To her utter surprise she was told by the CPIO thereafter to submit an undertaking stating that she would not raise any objection regarding the evaluation done by the evaluators. She further submitted that this was a gross violation of the RTI Act by the respondents. On a query by the Commission, the CPIO submitted that as per their manual they take undertakings of this kind to prevent misuse of the information.

Based on a perusal of the record, it is noted that the CPIO grossly erred in asking the appellant to submit an undertaking. The APIO during the hearing apparently advocated the procedure of taking undertaking from students on the pretext of preventing misuse. She is advised to read the RTI Act and refrain from providing such a misleading reply.

The CPIO is issued a strict warning to be careful while providing reply under the Act and refrain from providing misleading replies which may attract penal action u/s 20(1) and (2) of the RTI Act. The CPIO is accordingly directed to provide the copies of the answer sheet to the appellant within 7 days from the date of receipt of the order, under intimation to the Commission.

15 CIC/CCITJ/A/2017/605334-BJ
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19 Sep, 2019 Capt. Nayan Das Adhikary Vs. CPIO & ITO, Ward – 7(1), Office of the Income Tax Officer, Janpath, Lalkothi Scheme, Jaipur

Information Sought
The Appellant vide his RTI application sought information on 02 points regarding the Net Taxable Income of Smt. Manju Bala Sharma W/o Narendra Kumar Sharma for the period mentioned in the RTI application along with the details of marriage expenditure declared by Smt. Manju Bala for A.Y. 2009-10 under Section 69 of IT Act, 1961, etc.

The CPIO, vide its letter dated 14.08.2017, denied disclosure of information being Third Party information under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, 2005. Dissatisfied by the response, the Appellant approached the FAA. The FAA, vide its order dated 18.09.2017, upheld the CPIO’s
response.

Decision
The Commission therefore referred to the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Girish Ramchandra Deshpande vs. Central Information Commission & ors. SLP(C) No. 27734 of 2012 dated 03/10/2012 wherein it was held as under:

14. The details disclosed by a person in his income tax returns are “personal information” which stand exempted from disclosure under clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act, unless involves a larger public interest and the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the Appellate Authority is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information.”

In this context, the decision of the Commission in Milap Choraria v. CBDT CIC/AT/A/2008/000628 dated 15.06.2009 can be cited wherein it had been held as under:

“15. From the above discussion, it would appear that the Income Tax Returns have been rightly held to be ‘personal information’ exempted from disclosure under clause (j) of section 8(1) of RTI Act by the CPIO and the Appellate Authority; and the appellant herein has not been able to establish that a larger public interest would be served by disclosure of this information.”

The Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in the decision of Naresh Kumar Trehan v. Rakesh Kumar Gupta in W.P.(C) 85/2010 & CM Nos.156/2010 & 5560/2011 dated 24.11.2014 had observed as under:

“25. Indisputably, Section 8(1)(j) of the Act would be applicable to the information pertaining to Dr Naresh Trehan (petitioner in W.P.(C) 88/2010) and the information contained in the income tax returns would be personal information under Section 8(1)(j) of the Act. However, the CIC directed disclosure of information of Dr Trehan also by concluding that income tax returns and information provided for assessment was in relation to a "public activity." In my view, this is wholly erroneous and unmerited. The act of filing returns with the department cannot be construed as public activity. The expression "public activity" would mean activities of a public nature and not necessarily act done in compliance of a statute. The expression "public activity" would denote activity done for the public and/or in some manner available for participation by public or some section of public. There is no public activity involved in filing a return or an individual pursuing his assessment with the income tax authorities. In this view, the information relating to individual assessee could not be disclosed. Unless, the CIC held that the same was justified "in the larger public interest".
The Hon’ble High Court of Bombay in the decision of Shailesh Gandhi v. CIC and Ors WP 8753 of 2013 dated 06.05.2015 had held as under:

“16......the said contention is thoroughly misconceived as filing of Income Tax Returns can by no stretch of imagination be said to be a public activity, but is an obligation which a citizen owes to the State viz. to pay his taxes and since the said information is held by the Income Tax Department in a fiduciary capacity, the same
cannot be directed to be revealed unless the prerequisites for the same are satisfied.

23...........Since the right to privacy has been recognised as a fundamental right to which a citizen is entitled to, therefore unless the conditions mentioned in Section 8 (1) (j) is satisfied, the information cannot be provided.”

Furthermore, the Hon’ble High Court of Gujarat in the matter of Vinubhai Haribhai Patel (Malavia) v. Assistant Commissioner of Income Tax, Special Civil Application No. 7187 of 2014 dated 16.07.2015 had held as under:

5. Now, turning to the facts of the present case, it is evident that the kind and nature of the information demanded by the petitioner clearly falls within the expression "personal information". The personal character of the information demanded in the nature of Income-tax Returns of the private parties to get disclosure about the payment of tax by them which was again in order to know about their status as agriculturists declared to be so by the authorities in the legal proceedings, could be indeed said to be personal. It was in the background of litigation between the petitioner and the said private persons relating to their property rights wherein the Will in favour of private parties was disputed and the disputes of civil nature were being agitated before the forum concerned and the court. This information being personal in nature, could not be claimed as a matter of right by the petitioner, rather they were clearly exempted information under Section 8(1)(j). The contention of larger public interest justifying the disclosure does not exist. In disclosing the said information asked for by the petitioner relating to the private parties, there was no element of public interest to be sub-served. The information was personal information relating to third parties. The attendant facts and circumstances and the litigation between the petitioner and those parties, instead indicated that the information was personal information which was asked for by the etitioner for his own personal interest and private purpose. Respondent No. 3-Central Information Commissioner was eminently justified in taking a view that there was no public interest present in the information claimed to be supplied, rightly denying the same by dismissing the appeal.

The Appellant was not present to contest the submissions of the Respondent or to establish the larger public interest in disclosure which outweighs the harm to the protected interests.

Keeping in view the facts of the case and the submissions made by the Respondent and in the light of aforesaid judgments, no further intervention of the Commission is required in the matter.

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