Gujarat Information Commission

Bureau of Economics & Statistics Building 1st Floor, Sector 18, Gandhinagar. Appeal No. 138/06-07
Appeal under Section – 19 of the Right to Information Act 2005

The 18th day of June, 2007.

Appellant

:

Architect Sureshchandra B.Jaiswal 509, Swastik Society Ajwa Road Vadodara – 16.

Respondents :
(1) Shri Sailesh Mistry Public Information Officer Vadodara Municipal Corporation Khanderao Market Vadodara. Appellate Authority under the RTI Act and Deputy Municipal Commissioner Vadodara Municipal Corporation Khanderao Market Vadodara.

(2)

Before Shri R.N. Das, Chief Information Commissioner.
1. The appellant, vide his application under the Right to Information Act, 2005 dated 18.2.2006, had sought certain information, that is, copies of the order Nos. F-651/05-06, F-846/05-06 dated 21.11.2005 and 1095/0506 dated 2.2.2006, from the respondent no.1. Since he did not get any information from the respondent no.1 within the time specified in section 7

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(1) of the said Act, he filed his first appeal on 22.3.2006 before the respondent no. 2. His first appeal was not heard and not disposed of within the stipulated time. Therefore, he filed the present appeal with the Commission. His appeal was heard on 14.11.2006 and after hearing, the Commission was of the view that, prima facie, the respondent no. 1 has failed to furnish the information sought for by the appellant/applicant within the time specified in section 7 (1) of the said Act and therefore, a notice was required to be issued to him to give an opportunity as to why penalty should not imposed upon him under 20 (1) of the said Act. Hearing in the matter was kept on 9.3.2007. The respondent no.1 and the appellant were present. The Commission heard them. 2. In his written comments/remarks, the respondent no.1 contended that the appellant was a "blacklisted architect" in the Vadodara Municipal Corporation. In the initial stage, there were doubts whether information persons and therefore, the

should be furnished to such "blacklisted"

matter was placed before the Municipal Commissioner. The respondent no.1 had also produced copy of the file notes dealing with the issue. It was contended in the files notes that the appellant was in the habit of making applications/allegations and the Gujarat Vigilance Commission had also filed his complaints. In addition, the respondent no.1 contended that he had to shoulder the responsibility of the P.I.O. alongwith the normal routine work of the Municipal Corporation, that he was holding charge of two to three departments, that his supporting staff was not fully

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conversant with the provisions of the Right to Information Act and therefore, there was delay in providing the information. 3. 3.1 The appellant's main contentions were as follows: The written remarks/explanations of the respondent no.1 did not mention any valid reasons for the inordinate delay in providing him the simple information sought by him. He calculated the delay exceeding one

hundred days after giving allowance for the thirty days given to provide the information. According to him while his application seeking information was dated 18.2.2006, he got the information only on 1.7.2006. He further contended that the first appellate authority, that is, the respondent no.2 had also commented adversely on the delay by the respondent no.1 including the delay in submitting the papers relating to the appellant's first appeal before him for disposal. The respondent no.2 had further ordered to provide information to the appellant, free of charges, as provided under the Right to Information Act, 2005. 3.2 As regards the allegation made that the appellant was a "blacklisted Architect", there was no such mention in the decision of the respondent no.2 and therefore, it was contended that the respondent no.1 had attempted at his charter assassination. 4. The Commission has considered all the submissions. Its

findings/observations are as follows: 4.1 The respondent no. 1's principal defence is that since the appellant was a "blacklisted architect" in the respondent public authority, that is, the

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Vadodara Municipal Corporation, it was to be decided whether the information sought by him would be provided to him. The respondent's contention is that this decision took considerable time and therefore, there was delay in providing the information. The Commission is constrained to observe that the respondent no.1 being the Public Information Officer under the RTI Act, 2005, is required under the law to treat the appellant as a "citizen" or as "person" and not as an architect, and not on the basis of the appellant's professional or occupational status. The RTI Act, 2005 is a great leveler. It does not differentiate the status of the person seeking information. The respondent no.1 behaved only as the Town Planning Officer in treating the appellant as a "blacklisted architect" forgetting his duty under the RTI Act, 2005 to treat him only as a "citizen" or a "person". 4.2 The Commission is also further constrained to observe that if a person is blacklisted as an architect by the respondent public authority, that does not take away his right to information under the said Act. The RTI Act, 2005 does not have provision for exempted category of citizens or persons to whom information can be denied. The said Act has provisions only on the exempted categories of information in respect to which there could be no obligation to provide information by the public authority, Therefore, the relevant issue before the respondent no.1 was to examine whether the information sought for was in the exempted categories of information as provided for in the said Act. He should have concerned himself with the "content" of the information, that is, whether the

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information sought for was falling within the admissible category or exempted category. In this case, the information sought for did not fall within the exempted category at all. Therefore, the delay in providing the information is not tenable and valid. 4.3 The other explanation given by the respondent no. 1 regarding the "intent" of the appellant in seeking the information is also not tenable as under the Right to Information Act, 2005, the purpose for seeking the information is not to be probed or asked for. It is only the "content" of the information sought for which is relevant and not the "intent" of the person seeking the information. 4.4 The third defence given by the respondent no.1 regarding lack of familiarization of the staff with the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005 and his other responsibilities which hindered the timely furnishing of information, do not provide any reasonable explanation to the inordinate delay in providing the information to the appellant. 4.5 The Commission observes that the appellant had sought certified copies of three specific orders. Neither the "content" of the information sought for, nor its "extent" would justify the inordinate delay beyond the stipulated period of thirty days from the date of the receipt of the request for information for providing the simple information. Therefore, the

Commission is of the opinion that there was no reasonable cause for the respondent no.1 for not furnishing the information sought for by the appellant within the time specified under sub-section (1) of section 7 of

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the Right to Information Act, 2005. The respondent no.1, having been given opportunity of being heard and having heard him, the Commission holds that is a fit case for imposing penalty on the respondent no.1 under sub section (1) of section 20 of the said Act. The Commission is of the opinion that a penalty of Rs. 20,000/- (Rupees twenty thousand only) would meet the ends of justice in this matter. 5. Having regard to the above, the Commission makes the following decision/order in the matter:

Decision/Order.
(1) In exercise of the powers vested in the Commission under sub-section (1) of section 20 of the Right to Information Act, 2005, the Commission imposes a penalty of Rs. 20,000/- (Rupees twenty thousand only) on Shri Shailesh Mistry, PIO, Vaodara Municipal Corporation, that is, the respondent no.1 in this appeal. The said penalty shall be credited within thirty days from the receipt of this order into the following Government account:

Major Head Sub Major Head Minor Head Sub Head

: : : :

0070 – Other administrative services. 60 – other services

800 - other receipt (17) – Fees and other charges under the Right to Information Act/Rules.

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(2) Shri Shailesh Mistry, PIO, Vadodara Municipal Corporation, shall ensure that the above mentioned penalty is paid and credited into the above mentioned Government account either from his personal resources or deducted from his salary and credited into the said account within the stipulated period. He should inform the Commission about the credit of the penalty within forty five days from the receipt of this order. (3) A copy of this order be also sent to the Municipal Commissioner, Vadodara Municipal Corporation. The Municipal Commissioner should ensure that this order is complied with within the stipulated time specified herein.

(R.N. Das) Chief Information Commissioner Gujarat Information Commission Gandhinagar.

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