The Central Information Commission recently directed the Reserve Bank of India to appoint a nodal Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), in addition to the current norm of appointing a separate CPIO for every department.
“In the light of the foregoing, we direct the Respondent public authority to appoint a nodal CPIO or designate one of the existing CPIOs as the nodal CPIO and give wide publicity to his name, designation and address. It will be the task of this nodal CPIO to discharge the responsibilities contained in the directions of the High Court of Delhi,” Information Commission Sharat Sabharwal ruled.
The Commission was hearing two complaints filed by Mr. Subhash Chandra Agrawal under Section 18 of the RTI Act, with regard to RBI’s refusal to accept his request for information on two occasions. The postal envelopes were returned undelivered as the office had refused to accept it owing to incomplete address. The RBI had reasoned that the request was not accepted as it was not addressed to the CPIO of any particular department.
Mr. Agrawal had, therefore, sought appointment of a nodal CPIO, so that such RTI applications are not returned in the future, and are forwarded to the appropriate department. He had further clarified that he was not seeking imposition of penalty, as he did not desire an action against any particular officer.
Accepting the contentions put forth by Mr. Agrawal, the Commission observed, “We do not agree with the current practice of the Respondents that all the RTI applications should be filed to the CPIOs of their specific departments, information concerning whom is available on their website. Information can be sought by applicants on various issues and in many cases, the applicants may not be clear about the department of the Respondents, in which the information would be available. In any case, a public authority should not return an RTI application merely on the ground that it is not addressed to a specific CPIO but only to ‘CPIO’.”