Mr. R.K. Jain Vs. CPIO (Central Information Commission)
The Appellant Mr. R.K. Jain vide his RTI application sought information on 03 points and its sub points regarding the certified copies of the note sheets of the file mentioned in the RTI application for the period from 01.01.2013 till the date of providing the information, the name of the officers with designations who were responsible for making the voluntary disclosure u/s 4 of the RTI Act, 2005 from 01.09.2009, till the date of providing information, the details of the action taken against them for violation of Section 4 of the Act, the list of the said files and issues related thereto.
The CPIO vide its letter dated 19.05.2016 provided a point wise reply to the Appellant. Dissatisfied by the reply of the CPIO, the Appellant approached the FAA. The FAA vide its order dated 29.07.2016 rejected the contention of the Appellant raised in his First Appeal.
Facts emerging during the hearing:
The following were present:
Appellant: Mr. R. K. Jain;
Respondent: Mr. M. Shadaab, AVP- Legal;
The Appellant reiterated the contents of his RTI application and stated that a sketchy information was furnished to him in an important and sensitive subject matter like GSTN. It was further articulated that the FAA had also dealt with the whole matter, casually. Furthermore, it was informed during the hearing that he had downloaded certain details as available on the official website of GSTN which made startling revelations. It was contended that GSTN was a private limited company registered under Section 25 of the Companies Act and that the HR Policy had not been finalized, the detailed norms including delegation of powers for discharge of GSTN functions was under preparation, the rules/regulations and manual etc. to be used by its employees for discharging their functions was also under preparation, the annual statement of accounts and balance sheet was available till the period 2013-2014 only and that it was reflected that on completion of manual, rules and regulations, recruitment etc., an arrangement shall be put in place with the consultation of all the stake holders of the Company including tax payers. The attention of the Commission was drawn to the alarming and pathetic state of affairs of the GSTN which was meant to serve the public at large. Admitting the formative stages of the construction and formulation of GSTN, the Respondent stated that they were making best of their efforts to streamline their processes and procedures to put in place a robust, scientific and state of Art network for the benefit of the users. During the hearing, the Commission was appraised that the CPIO who had provided the initial information had since quit the service and that a total number of approximately 1200 employees were in the Company managing the entire network. It was articulated by the Respondent that they had observed the provisions of Section 4 of the RTI Act, 2005 and that necessary disclosures were made on their website.
In this context, the Commission referred to the decision of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the matter of Civil Appeal no. 6454 of 2011 Central Board of Secondary Education and Anr. Vs. Aditya Bandopadhyay and Ors. which held as under:
“35 the Act does not cast an obligation upon the public authority, to collect or collate such non-available information and then furnish it to an applicant. A public authority is also not required to furnish information which require drawing of inferences and/or making of assumptions…”
Similarly, the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in the case of The Registrar Supreme Court of India v. Commodore Lokesh K. Batra & Ors LPA 24/20 15 & CM No. 965/2015 held as under:-
“15. On a combined reading of Section 4(1)(a) and Section 2(i), it appears to us that the requirement is only to maintain the records in a manner which facilitates the right to information under the Act. As already noticed above, ‘right to information’ under Section 2(j) means only the right to information which is held by any public authority. We do not find any other provision under the Act under which a direction can be issued to the public authority to collate the information in the manner in which is sought by the applicant”.
A reference was drawn to the Hon’ble Supreme Court observation in CBSE v. Aditya Bandopadhyay & Ors.(supra), wherein it has been held: “35. At this juncture, it is necessary to clear some misconceptions about the RTI Act. The RTI Act provides access to all information that is available and existing. This is clear from a combined reading of Section 3 and the definitions of “information” and “right to information” under clauses (f) and (j) of Section 2 of the Act. If a public authority has any information in the form of data or analyzed data, or abstracts, or statistics, an applicant may access such information, subject to the exemptions in Section 8 of the Act. But where the information sought is not a part of the record of a public authority, and where such information is not required to be maintained under any law or the rules or regulations of the public authority, the Act does not cast an obligation upon the public authority, to collect or collate such non-available information and then furnish it to an applicant.
In this context, the Commission referred to the decision of the Hon’ble Delhi High Court ruling in WP (C) 12714/2009 Delhi Development Authority v. Central Information Commission and Another (delivered on: 21.05.2010), wherein it was held as under:
“16. It also provides that the information should be easily accessible and to the extent possible should be in electronic format with the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be. The word disseminate has also been defined in the explanation to mean – making the information known or communicating the information to the public through notice boards, newspapers, public announcements, media broadcasts, the internet, etc. It is, therefore, clear from a plain reading of Section 4 of the RTI Act that the information, which a public authority is obliged to publish under the said section should be made available to the public and specifically through the internet. There is no denying that the petitioner is duty bound by virtue of the provisions of Section 4 of the RTI Act to publish the information indicated in Section 4(1)(b) and 4(1)(c) on its website so that the public have minimum resort to the use of the RTI Act to obtain the information.”
Furthermore, High Court of Delhi in the decision of General Manager Finance Air India Ltd & Anr v. Virender Singh, LPA No. 205/2012, Decided On: 16.07.20 12 had held as under:
“8. The RTI Act, as per its preamble was enacted to enable the citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. An informed citizenry and transparency of information have been spelled out as vital to democracy and to contain corruption and to hold Governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed. The said legislation is undoubtedly one of the most significant enactments of independent India and a landmark in governance. The spirit of the legislation is further evident from various provisions thereof which require public authorities to:
A. Publish inter alia:
i) the procedure followed in the decision making process;
ii) the norms for the discharge of its functions;
iii) rules, regulations, instructions manuals and records used by its employees in discharging of its functions;
iv) the manner and execution of subsidy programmes including the amounts allocated and the details of beneficiaries of such programmes;
v) the particulars of recipients of concessions, permits or authorizations granted. [see Section 4(1) (b), (iii), (iv), (v); (xii) & (xiii)].
B. Suo moto provide to the public at regular intervals as much information as possible [see Section 4(2)].”
As observed by 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. 12.20 15
“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.”
The High Court of Bombay in Shonkh Technology International Ltd. v. State Information Commission Maharashtra Konkan Region, Appellate Authority and United Telecom Limited v. State Information Commission Maharashtra Konkan Region and Ors., W.P. Nos. 2912 and 3137 of 2011 decided on 01.07.2011 held as under
“The RTI Act is an Act to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. The preamble of the RTI Act itself refers to this aspect and the constitutional principles enshrined in several articles of the Constitution. It is very clearly postulated that democracy requires an informed citizenry and transparency of information which are vital to its functioning and also to contain corruption and to hold the Governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed. The revelation of information in actual practice is likely to conflict with other public interests including efficient operations of the Governments, optimum use of limited fiscal resources and the preservation of confidentiality of sensitive information. Therefore, the RTI Act seeks to harmonize these conflicting interests while preserving the paramount nature of democratic ideals.”
Moreover, the DoP&T vide its O.M no. 1/6/20 1 1-IR dated 15.04.20 13 had issued a memorandum regarding the guidelines for implementation of suo moto disclosure of Section 4 of the RTI Act,2005 by the Public Authorities. Furthermore, DoP&T vide its another O.M no. 1/6/2011-IR dated 22.09.20 14 issued guidelines for the Public Authority implementing that guidelines.
Furthermore, w.r.t to the supervisory powers conferred upon by the Commission in light of Section 25 of the RTI Act, 2005, the Commission referred to the decision in Anand Bhushan vs. R.A Haritash [LPA No.777/2010] dated 29.03.20 12, wherein Delhi High Court held that:
“8…. The CIC, established under Section 12 of the Act, has been, a) under Section 18 vested with the duty to receive and inquire into complaints of non-performance and non-compliance of provisions of the Act and relating to access to records under the Act; b) empowered under Section 19(3) to hear second appeals against decision of Information Officer and the First Appellate Authority; c) empowered under Section 19(8) to, while deciding such appeals, to require any public authority to take such steps as may be necessary for compliance of provisions of the Act; and, d) and is to, under Section 25 of the Act prepare annual report on the implementation of the provisions of the Act. The CIC thus, besides the adjudicatory role also has a supervisory role in the implementation of the Act.”
Therefore, keeping in view the supervisory powers of the Commission u/s 25(4) of the RTI Act, 2005, the Commission advises the Respondent to suo motu disclose the information sought by the Complainant in compliance with Section-4 of the RTI Act, 2005 to ensure transparency, objectivity and accountability in the functioning of the Public Authority.
Keeping in view the facts of the case and the submissions made by both the parties, it is evident that a sketchy information as available on its website had been furnished by the Respondent. However, it is appalling to learn that an important, significant and critical area concerning the implementation of GST Network still required streamlining and consolidation which needs to be attended to forthwith in the larger public interest.
The Appeal stands disposed accordingly.
Authenticated True Copy:
(K. L. Das)
1- Chairman, CBEC, Department of Revenue, M/o Finance, North Block, New Delhi – 110001
2- Mr. A. S. Pandey, Chairman, Goods & Services Tax Network, 4th Floor, Tower ‘B’, World Mark 1, Aerocity, IGI Airport, New Delhi 110037