The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has come under severe criticism from the Central Information Commission (CIC) for maintaining secrecy about the number of complaints received by it, cases where accused have been found guilty and the relief granted, as sought to be known through an RTI application filed by one Ajit Kumar Singh.
Central Information Commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu lambasted the child rights body, while asking its Chief Public Information Officer (CPIIO) and the two deemed PIOs to show cause why maximum penalty should not be imposed on them for “illegal obstruction of information”.
He also directed the NCPCR to provide information regarding cases pending for over two years pertaining to Bihar circle and details of disposal of cases where accused were found guilty, after removing names and personal details of children within 15 days.
This denial of information is contrast to what the NCPCR advocates for, as is evident on its website -- "larger societal concern for children and their well-being".
In the instant case, Ajit Kumar Singh had moved an RTI application seeking information about the number of complaints received by the NCPCR, copy of inquiry proceedings in such complaints, date-wise decisions of cases where the accused persons were found guilty and what reliefs were granted.
In May, the PIO replied stating that the information sought by him was not disclosable as per exemption under section 8 (1) (j) of RTI Act.
Section 8 (1) (j) of the RTI Act exempts such information from disclosure which is personal in nature and has no relationship with any public activity or interest and which would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of any individual.
Miffed, the CIC observed, “It is absolutely not convincing that the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights is refusing information about action taken on complaints pending since years before it. The NCPCR uses a privacy exception to refuse entire information en bloc.”
“No effort is done to provide information which could have been disclosed on their own under Section 4(1)(b). Except the name of the child, nothing could be denied. The NCPCR has hired services of a consultant and adviser, who instead of guiding the CPIO properly to disclose the information, misguided him to deny the entire information. These two experienced seniors did not even provide reasons to justify the denial. They failed to perform their duty to separate information that could be given from that cannot be given and provide, as prescribed under Section 10(1) of RTI Act,” the CIC said.
“They do not know that Section 10 provide for severability. When the appellant was not seeking names and personal information and wanted information about the number of cases left out without any action, or action taken and pending before the Commission for years, the public authority cannot invoke Section 8(1)(j) at all,” Prof Acharyulu said.
The CIC took note of the vehement arguments advanced by Rakesh Bhartiya, adviser, and Raman Gaur, senior consultant, before the commission.
While treating them as “deemed PIOs”, the Commission directed them, besides PIO G Suresh, to show cause why maximum penalty should not be imposed on each of them for “adamant” illegal obstruction of information.
He rejected their argument against disclosure of information while holding the same to be in public interest and the core functioning of the NCPCR.
“The CPIO, adviser and consultant vehemently argued with the Commission refusing the disclosure without forwarding any justification. They have bluntly rejected entire information abusing section 8 (1) (j) of the RTI Act. It is most unfortunate that the consultant and adviser have guided the CPIO and Public Authority to breach the RTI Act,” he said.