New Delhi: India’s Central Information Commission, or CIC, has rapped the President’s Secretariat, asking it to be more careful in implementing the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The RTI overseer has also asked the Union government’s department of personnel and training, or DoPT, to remove “whimsical entries” from its website and other places in the public domain about documents available under the Act.
“The President’s Secretariat is advised to exercise greater caution in implementing the RTI Act,” CIC said in a recent ruling while hearing an appeal by S.S. Bhamra, an employee at the secretariat.
Bhamra, currently an assistant grade employee, was promoted to the post in 2006 from the post of a lower division clerk, or LDC. He says five of his LDC colleagues were given out-of-turn promotions in 2004 through a relaxation in the rules, prompting him to file two RTI applications.
He sought information from his office regarding the official instructions, which had relaxed the conditions for the promotions.
Among other documents, Bhamra had also asked for a copy of the recruitment rules under which an LDC can be promoted as an assistant at the secretariat.
The RTI applications were filed with central public information officer Nitin Wakankar in March and August 2006.
While Bhamra was given a copy of the recruitment rules and the names of five employees who had been promoted, Wakankar refused to provide documents relating to discussions among senior officials on the basis of which the promotions were decided upon.
Bhamra appealed to CIC, which strongly disapproved of the way the President’s Secretariat provided information to it and to Bhamra.
“There had been deliberate violation of orders by this Commission. The President’s Secretariat has been persistently claiming incomplete information as complete. It is a case of mala fide denial of information,” CIC said in a ruling in January this year.
CIC rapped both the secretariat, for denying information even after appearing before it, and the DoPT, for devising its own definition of which documents could be provided under the RTI Act.
The overseer asked whether DOPT also had “quasi-judicial authority” like CIC to interpret the RTI Act and suggest action on its own.
CIC has also warned top functionaries of both offices that they could face serious criminal charges for not giving information to a public servant and obstructing the functioning of a public servant.