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CIC Warns CPIO Against Unwarranted Invocation Of Exemption Clause Under Section 8(1)(i) Of RTI Act [Read Order]

Shreyasi Bhattacharya
9 July 2019 3:25 AM GMT
CIC Warns CPIO Against Unwarranted Invocation Of Exemption Clause Under Section 8(1)(i) Of RTI Act [Read Order]
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The Central Information Commission recently denigrated the CPIO of the Department of Training and Personnel of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions against inappropriate and unwarranted use of the exemption clause under Section 8(1)(i) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 in denying information to the complainant pertaining to appointment of Central...

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The Central Information Commission recently denigrated the CPIO of the Department of Training and Personnel of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions against inappropriate and unwarranted use of the exemption clause under Section 8(1)(i) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 in denying information to the complainant pertaining to appointment of Central Information Commissioners.

The complainant had initially applied for certified copies of all communication between the DoPT and the Prime Minister's Office seeking approval from the PMO, before the issuance of the DoPT notifications regarding the appointment two Central Information Commissioners were issued in September, 2016. The CPIO, however, as per the complainant's account had provided misleading information. The complainant thus approached the CIC alleging that the CPIO, despite being the nodal agency for implementing the provisions of Right to Information Act, 2005, had blatantly applied the exemptions under Section 8 of the Act thus stonewalling the applications. While such information had been denied to him by the DoPT, on an application to the Central Public Information Commissioner, he had received the PMO's approval taken for issuing such notification, after intervention of a coordinate bench of the Commission. The petitioner further alleged that the DoPT had been departing from the principle of ensuring transparency in its functioning by arbitrarily denying information meant for public consumption. Contesting the respondent's plea, that the documents had been uploaded to their website subsequently, the complainant submitted that the same had been done only after intervention by the Supreme Court.

The respondents, had previously in their written submission stated that the information sought by the complainant were denied,since the process of appointment was going on during that period and hence the documents sought had to be submitted to the Search Committee (Committee of Secretaries). After that, it was to be further submitted to a committee chaired by the Prime Minister and the Leader of Opposition and a Union Cabinet Minister. The respondents had further plead that publication of such documents would not have been conducive and no such practice had been followed in any other equivalent high-level appointments of the government.

The Information Commissioner Divya Prakash Sinha, observed that such denial of information under Section 8(1)(i) of RTI Act in this case, was completely inappropriate. Rejecting the submission of the current as well as the previous CPIO, the Court observed that it reflected their sheer evasiveness and non-application of mind in dealing with the instant RTI application. The Court held:

"The Complainant has rightly pointed out that such mindless application of exemptions of RTI Act to deny information by the CPIO(s) of DoPT casts serious aspersions on the commitment of the nodal agency of RTI to the tenets of probity and transparency. It is ironic even further that the information that has been denied in the instant case pertained to the appointment of Information Commissioners under the RTI Act, who are ordained with the statutory authority of securing the regime of transparency."

The Commission further held that although no mala fide intention could be ascribed to the CPIO as per the material on record, the allegation of the complainant that such conduct amounts to stonewalling of applications had merit. By resorting to such 'unwarranted opacity', the DoPT was setting a bad example for other public authorities, discrediting its own footing as the nodal agency for implementation of RTI Act in the process.

Thus, the Commission admonishing the previous CPIO, warned against invoking Section 8(1)(i) without assessing its applicability. It also reproached the present CPIO for mindlessly endorsing the reply of the previous CPIO. The matter was thus disposed off. 

Click Here To Download Order

[Read Order]

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