Syed Mahaboob Peer

Public Information Officers (PIOs) must be Alert & Careful in consuming time for rejecting RTI Applications:

The Public Information Officers role is confined to extracting/copying & supplying such disclose-able “information”, within the stipulated time limit, to those Applicants who seek such information under Section 6(1) of the Right to Information Act, 2005. Any delay in supplying the information to the Applicants may attract a maximum penalty under Section 20(1) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 reaching upto a maximum penalty of Rs.25,000, calculating at the rate of Rs.250 per day till the applicant is received the information or furnished by the PIO. In addition to Monetary Penalty, in cases of repeated defaults by the PIO the Information Commission may recommend for disciplinary action (as per service rules applicable to him/her) under Section 20(1) of the Right to Information Act, 2005, against the PIO. It is to be noted carefully that the PIOs alone have to face the penalty award or disciplinary action and no other person or official shall be caught entitled for that.

The time limit stipulated under the provisions of the RTI Act is normally 30 days either for supplying information or rejecting the application, from the date of receipt of such Application under Section 6(1) of the Right to Information Act, 2005. However, when such information is under the custody of other division, department or agency, the application or the relevant part of such application has to be transferred, under Section 6(3) of the Right to Information Act, 2005, to the PIO of such division, department or agency, it should be done within five days from the date of receipt of such application by the first PIO. In such transferable cases, the time limit stipulated under the provisions of the RTI Act is 35 days in toto from the date of receipt of such Application originally by the first PIO.

Immediately on receipt of Application the PIO could conclude as to whether the information sought by the applicant is releasable/ disclose-able or not. If the information sought by the Applicant is releasable/ disclose-able, then the PIO could utilize complete 30 days time available at his/her disposal for procurement and supplying the information to the Applicant under Section 7(1) of the Right to Information Act, 2005. However, if the information sought by the Applicant is exempt from the disclosure of such information for any of the Reasons specified under Sections 8 and 9 of the Right to Information Act, 2005, it would be much better & safer to reject the application expeditiously by intimating accordingly to the Applicant as per Section 7(1) of the Right to Information Act, 2005. Otherwise, the delay occurred in disposing such application by denying the information sought by the applicant, may lead to attract more & more penalty at the rate of Rs.250 per day for delayed period, if such applicant could be successful in his/her Appeal/s before the Appellate Authorities.

As per Section 19 of the Right to Information Act, 2005, there is provision for two Appeals – (1) First Appeal before the First Appellate Authority (FAA), and (2) Second Appeal before the Second Appellate Authority (SAA) (i.e., IC/CIC).

First Appeal before the First Appellate Authority (FAA):

As per Section 19(1) of the Right to Information Act, 2005, those aggrieved by the action/decision of the PIO may prefer an appeal within 30 days before First Appellate Authority (FAA) who is an officer Senior in rank to the PIO in the same office/division/department. Since the FAA is in same office/division/department, the PIOs may take it an added advantage to prolong the period intentionally to reject the applications, ignoring the fact that this delay may enhance penal sum, if the applicants be successful in Appeals.

Second Appeal before the Second Appellate Authority (SAA) (i.e., IC/CIC):

As per Section 19(3) of the Right to Information Act, 2005, those aggrieved by the decision of the First Appellate Authority (FAA) may prefer an appeal within 90 days before Second Appellate Authority (SAA), that is, Information Commissioner (IC) or Chief Information Commissioner (CIC), appointed at/for Central Information Commission.

Since delay in disposing application lead to accumulate penal amounts on daily basis, early disposal of applications would also automatically work to diminish the attraction of penalty. Those PIOs who ignore this simple logical reasoning will wait upto deadline or for nearing 30th day and then dispose the application denying information. This ignorance is leading to fetch a penalty upto Rs.25,000 together with other departmental disciplinary actions against the PIOs (in the cases of repeated defaults).

How to lessen the Penal Sum?: It is very practicable. Have a look at the following two Tables, which explains the detailed calculation of accumulation of Penal Sums in both cases of rejecting applications by (a) Availing Maximum Time Limit Allowable, and (b) Availing Minimum Time.

Table-A: Penal Sum on Availing Maximum Time Limit Allowable

Sl.

No.

Head of Time Consumption Time/Days Cum. Days Penal Sum
Allowable Utilized
1. For Disposal by PIO 30 Days 30 Days 30
2. For Disposal by FAA 30 Days 30 Days 60
3. For Disposal by SAA 30 Days 30 Days 90 Rs.22,500
If Time Limit allowed to/utilized by Appellants to submit the Appeals is added

while reckoning total days of delay, maximum penalty will attractable/applicable is Rs.25,000

Table-B: Penal Sum on Availing Minimum Time

Sl.

No.

Head of Time Consumption Time/Days Cum. Days Penal Sum
Allowable Utilized
1. For Disposal by PIO 30 Days 05 Days 05
2. For Disposal by FAA 30 Days 05 Days 10
3. For Disposal by SAA 30 Days 30 Days 40 Rs.10,000

It is to be noted that the onus to prove that the denial of information to the applicant is on PIO only, and that the consequential penal awards will be on PIO and no other person or official will be held responsible/liable. Therefore, the PIOs have to be very careful in disposing the applications received by them.

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0 responses to “PIO must observe time limit in rejecting RTI Applications”

  1. w ahmad says:

    What about the applicants making repeated RTI requests ?
    DoPT should frame a restriction towards number of RTI requests a citizen can file with a particular public authority.

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