Case Law Details

Case Name : Ramswaroop Vs PIO, Department of Posts (Central Information Commission)
Appeal Number : CIC/POSTS/A/2017/108193
Date of Judgement/Order : 18/05/2017
Related Assessment Year :

CIC directs the respondent authority to provide the information sought: such as

(a) how many persons exchanged old notes for new notes at Pinto Park branch and also in 3 Wing Branch of Post Offices in Air Force Area, during the period 08.11.2016 to 25.11.2016 after demonetization;

(b) total amount of new currency issued for the period 08.11.2016 to 01.12.2016 from both the post offices;

(c) how many individuals exchanged the currency notes by producing their respective ID cards for the period 08.11.2016 to 01.12.2016,

after redacting the addresses and other personal information if any, within 21 days from date of receipt of this order.

READ FULL TEXT OF SHOW-CAUSE NOTICE
FACTS:
1. The appellant sought to know: a) how many persons exchanged old notes for new notes at Pinto Park branch and also in 3 Wing Branch of Post Office in Air Force area, during the period 08.11.2016 to 25.11.2016 after demonetization; b) total amount of new currency issued for the period 08.11.2016 to 01.12.2016 from both the post offices; c) how many individuals exchanged the currency notes by producing their respective ID cards for the period 08.11.2016 to 12.2016 and sought addresses of all such individuals. The CPIO stated that information is not available in consolidated form. The FAA replied that the information sought cannot be furnished under Section 8(1)(j) of RTI Act, 2005. The appellant filed second appeal.

Decision:

2. The record shows that the CPIO has simply rejected the information saying ‘not available in consolidated form”. The CPIO appears to have not applied his mind to the law and facts of the case. The RTI Act does not provide for rejecting the information on the pretext used by CPIO. The pubic authority is expected to add up the currency exchanged on each day to arrive at ‘how much currency’ got exchanged, and how many individuals used ID to exchange, how many not, etc. That does not amount to creation of information. The CPIO has not contended that it requires huge compilation that might disproportionately divert resources of the public authority as mentioned in Section 7(9), which says:

An information shall ordinarily be provided in the form in which it is sought unless it would disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority or would be detrimental to the safety or preservation of the record in question.
3. The CPIO did not even mention this provision. He simply said it is not available in the consolidated form, which is no defence at all. Section 7(9) allows the Public Authority not to spend too much of resources on it, but mandates to spend reasonable time and energy to consolidate information sought. What was asked in this appeal did not even require a major consolidation. It is part of their daily routine to consolidate amount exchanged at the end of day or week or month. They might have even reported to their higher authorities as to how much was exchanged. He could have at least given the copies of such reports as In view of this, what the CPIO said could be a falsity. His response is non-responsive, evasive, negative and also touching the line of irresponsibility. The RTI wing of public authority did not even care to make a proper representation before the Commission.

4. Surprisingly the First Appellate Authority took the ground of exception under 8(1)(j) of RTI Act, which was not raised by the CPIO, who said it was not available in consolidated form. The FAA declared it was personal information without again applying his mind to the information sought and the law on that point. Except the addresses part, no other part of RTI application is personal.

5. The Commission found in number of responses that the CPIO/ Senior Superintendent did not give his name under his illegible signature, which makes it impossible to know who signed it. It is also a serious denial of information besides breach of writing ethics in public communication. The CPIO has absent in the hearing of the appeal, sent an officer who said she did not deal with this RTI application.

6. How much of money was transacted during the days of demonetization is the information query, that of larger public interest because that policy decision of the Union Government has huge impact on each and every person’s life in the country. The exchange occurred in Air Force Area post offices might have assumed more significance. The Reserve Bank of India explained the public impact of the demonetization in an official report “Macroeconomic Impact of Demonetization: A Preliminary Assessment” dated March 10, 2017, as follows:

Demonetization announced on November 8, 2016 was aimed at addressing corruption, black money, counterfeit currency and terror financing. Although demonetization holds huge potential benefits in the medium to long-term, given the scale of operation, it was expected to cause transient disruption in economic activity. The analysis in this paper suggests that demonetization has impacted various sectors of the economy in varying degrees; however, in the affected sectors, the adverse impact was transient and felt mainly in November and December 2016. The impact moderated significantly in January 2017 and dissipated by and large by mid-February, reflecting the fast pace of remonetisation. The latest CSO estimates suggest that the impact of demonetization on GVA growth was modest. Currency squeeze due to demonetization along with seasonal factors pushed food inflation significantly down but has not had much impact on inflation excluding food and fuel. A surge in deposits led to a sharp expansion in the consolidated balance sheet of scheduled commercial banks and created large surplus liquidity conditions. These were managed by the Reserve Bank of India through a mix of conventional and unconventional policy instruments. There has not been any significant impact on the external sector. There has been a sharp increase in the number of accounts under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana and the deposits in such accounts have also surged. Financial re-intermediation may have received a boost following demonetization. An important consequence of demonetization has been the sharp increase in the use of digital transactions.

7. A management study group commented as follows:

The Indian Economy which was billed as the “fastest growing major economy” in the world and the “only bright spot” among Emerging Markets seems to have slowed down even before the latest “shock therapy” of “demonetization”. Indeed, the recently released growth figures from the CSO or the Central Statistical Office considered to be the official department that releases projected, and actual growth figures (apart from the RBI or the Reserve Bank of India and the Finance Ministry) hints at a slowdown in the Indian economy even during the quarter before demonetization happened.

Online GST Certification Course by TaxGuru & MSME- Click here to Join

While this is indeed cause for concern with projected growth figures revised downwards from 7.6 % to 7.1% for the financial year ending March 2017, what is cause for greater worry and even alarm is the view among some economists including the former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh (who is a reputed economist in his own right) that the current and ongoing attempt to flush out black money would shave a good 2% of the GDP or the Gross Domestic Product.

Indeed, some think tanks and research institutes such as Ambit Research have given even more dire assessments with their projections of growth figures tending to be in the less than 3% range. Of course, the consensus view among many economists is that while there would be indeed a noticeable slowdown in the economy for a “quarter or two”, most of them seem to agree that growth would indeed bounce back and the Indian economy would regain its momentum as well as turnaround with a renewed sense of vigour due to higher tax revenues.

Having said that, one must keep in mind the fact that as per the recent estimates by some economists, nearly 90% of the total cash in circulation has come back into the banking system and hence, the stated purpose of the Demonetization exercise which was to “extinguish” black money and enable the RBI to lower its liabilities thereby providing the government with a huge dividend seems to have been belied. Of course, there are some who now argue that the Indian Banking System is now “flush with cash” and this has enabled the government to “nudge” the RBI to cut rates as well as to allow banks to pass on the benefit of ample liquidity to consumers by lowering lending rates. (https://www.managementstudyguide. com/demonetization -impact-on-indian-economy. htm)

8. If someone wants to study the impact of such a significant policy, the state has a duty to facilitate dissemination of the information about demonetization. Any attempt to withhold information about demonetization will generate serious doubts about the economy. If the appellant wanted to assess the impact of demonetization in an area, why the Post Office should stop it?

9. Section 4(1) of RTI Act says:

(c) publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect public;

(d) provide reasons for its administrative or quasi- judicial decisions to affected persons. 

10. Perhaps, none is left out from the impact of demonetization. Every person’s economy was affected and even the beggar, rikshaw puller, push-cart seller money-less poor reeled under this stroke. If the suffering was just temporary and there will be windfalls in future, let that also be told to the people officially by each and every public authority concerned with the demonetization. It is very difficult to reconcile with the attitude of building steel-forts that could not be broken even by Bahubali, around the public affair of demonetization in a democratic nation, if governed by Rule of Law.

11. It is the duty of every public authority to spell out all relevant facts and reasons besides giving details at least in the post-demonetization period. The Post Offices of Air Force area have responsibility to respond positively to the RTI request on demonetization in that area. The CPIO should not have brushed aside this RTI request which reflected his blatant anti-transparency attitude. There is no reason for rejecting this information request. The question is how can this post office deny information on such a significant issue in such a manner? All the public authorities have a moral, constitutional, RTI- based- democratic- responsibility to explain each and every citizen who is affected by demonetization, the information, reasons, impact and remedial measures, if discovered any negative impact. All the three points of information request, a, b, c could have been provided except the addresses or names of the persons who have exchanged the currency. If there is larger public interest, even the names could not be denied. If public authorities shy away from disclosing any information related to demonetization, it will raise serious questions in the mind of general public.

12. The Commission directs Mr. D.R. Sen, SSPO, South-West Delhi, CPIO to show-cause why maximum penalty should not be imposed upon him for unlawfully rejecting the information sought and committing breach of RTI, within 21 days from the date of receipt of this order.

13. The Commission directs the respondent authority to provide the information sought: such as

(a) how many persons exchanged old notes for new notes at Pinto Park branch and also in 3 Wing Branch of Post Offices in Air Force Area, during the period 08.11.2016 to 25.11.2016 after demonetization;

(b) total amount of new currency issued for the period 08.11.2016 to 01.12.2016 from both the post offices;

(c) how many individuals exchanged the currency notes by producing their respective ID cards for the period 08.11.2016 to 01.12.2016,

after redacting the addresses and other personal information if any, within 21 days from date of receipt of this order.

(M. Sridhar Acharyulu)

Central Information Commissioner

Authenticated true copy

(Dinesh Kumar)

Deputy Registrar

Copy of decision given to the parties free of cost.

Download Judgment/Order

More Under Corporate Law

Posted Under

Category : Corporate Law (3438)
Type : Judiciary (9987)
Tags : CIC (13) Demonetization (464)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *