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The Central Information Commission (CIC) has imposed a penalty of Rs. 5,000 on the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the Bar Council of Delhi (BCD) for non-compliance with the Right to Information Act (RTI Act), failure to attend hearings before the CIC, and “utter disregard for law”.
The order was passed by the CIC on October 9 in a plea by one Shashi, seeking information with respect to her enrolment request and details of file notings and the resolutions relating to the increment of enrolment fee.
She had made an RTI application in January 2017 seeking information regarding whether the BCD received her request application of December 2016. She had also sought certified copies of file notings, letters communicated, and the decision taken with respect to her request application, the current status of her application, copy of resolutions and file notings in respect of fixation of fees for enrolment under different categories, etc.
The information was denied to her. She had filed the second appeal before the CIC in June 2017.
During the course of the hearing, the counsel for the appellant had submitted that the website of the Bar Council of Delhi does not contain the basic information/link of “Right to Information” viz. name of CPIO, First Appellate Authority (FAA), etc.
In an order passed on April 13 this year, the CIC had directed CPIO of Bar Council of Delhi to respond to the applicant’s RTI request. It had also sought a report from the CPIO on non-compliance with regard to the suo motu disclosure of details on the website as per Section 4 of the RTI Act.
When the matter came up for hearing on October 9, the CIC noted that the CPIO had failed to honour his obligations under the RTI Act by repeatedly making excuses for the delay in giving the information. The CIC also noted that the CPIO was absent for the hearings which happened in May 2018, September 2018 and October 2018.
“Moreover, the CPIO has not submitted any written submissions/explanations with regard to the delay and his absence on each day of hearing. Earlier the CPIO had brought to the attention of the CIC their engagement in the verification process of the Bar Council of Delhi. The same plea cannot be taken over and again.”
The CIC also observed that though the hearing was scheduled one after another, giving ample opportunity to the respondent to present his case, he did not fulfill his legal obligation of timely supplying the information to the appellant.
“The CPIO could have sent his authorized representative to present his case but he failed in his legal duty. Due to absence and inaction of the CPIO, the appellant could not get this information in time.”
This lack of responsibility from the respondent authority reflects his utter disregard for the law, the CIC noted.
It, therefore, concluded that this is a fit case for imposition of penalty.
The CIC proceeded to impose penalty of Rs. 5,000 on the CPIO of Bar Council of Delhi and also directed him to provide information sought by the applicant.
“The respondent is directed to take action as per paras 5, 6, 8 and 9 above. Further, penalty of Rs. 5,000/- is imposed on the CPIO, BCD. The amount of Rs. 5,000/- shall be deducted by the Public Authority from the salary of the CPIO by way of demand draft drawn in favour of “PAO, CAT”, New Delhi in 2 equal monthly instalments.”
Further, the CIC also sought a report from the CPIO regarding the updation of the website as per the RTI act.
Read the order below.