When can penalty be imposed on PIO Under RTI ACT
There are multiple discussions and request over our forum asking “When can penalty be imposed on PIO” for not providing information, false and malafide information e.t.c However, one should be clear about the cases on which such Penalty can be imposed by Central Information Commission or state Information Commission.
The provision relating to Penalty under RTI Act is dealt under section 20 (1) of RTI Act. Thus according to section 20 (1) the Penalties will only lie on the following grounds:
- refusal to receive an application
- delay in supply of information
- Malafidely denied the request for information
- knowingly giving incorrect, incomplete or misleading information;
- destroyed information which is the subject of the request or obstruct in any manner in furnishing the information.
Though the Act states that the burden of proving that PIO acted reasonably and diligently shall be on the Public Information Officer. [CIC/OIC/A/2006/00637 Dated. 04.07.2008) " Therefore, it can be interpreted by the Information Commissioner that the PIO "knowingly" committed his actions of omission or commission, and it is for the PIO to produce evidence that he did so unknowingly. However, CIC has many a times interpreted in favor to PIO stating that "If there was no malafide in denial of information in servicing requests for information and that the refusal stems from a genuine conviction within the public authority that the information was exempted from disclosure, the CIC has not imposed the penalty.
Further, remember that Section 7(1) allows only for 30 days for responding to an application under the RTI Act from the date of receipt to the date of dispatch of the information. It does not allow for 30 working days. [Decision on 07th May, 2008, Adjunct to appeal No. CIC/WB/A/2007/00274 dt 10 -03- 2007]
You should read our Guide segment on this topic: What are the Penalty and Compensation provisions under the RTI Act 2005. There is a fantastic article available over CIC titled: “LESSONS FROM PENALTIES IMPOSED BY CIC” written by Sh. T N Krishnamoorthi, Deputy Chief Engineer, Andaman Harbour Works. He has compiled a lot of good information about Penalty in reference to RTI Act. We are quoting few of them here:
In the following explanations, Reply, statements & Comments furnished by the Public Information Officers (PIO) / Deemed PIO’s were not accepted by the CIC during hearing on the issue of delay in furnishing information under RTI Act.
- There was a “System failure” and
nobody could be identified and made accountable for the delay in replying
to the RTI
application. [ C IC/OK/C/2006/00 147 dated, 01st March, 2007 ]
- PIO cannot take a recourse that the
applicant is satisfied with the information and therefore no Penalty be
levied upon him. Commission pointed out that the views of the applicant
cannot be a reasonable cause for dropping penalty proceedings against the PIO.
[ CIC/OK/A/2006/00400 dated, 18th May, 2007]
- The Commission takes strong exception for terming an RTI applicant as an irritant. [ CIC/OK/C/2006/00134 dated, 13th September, 2007]
- Ignorance of the RTI Act is not a reasonable cause for delay in supply of information. [CIC/OK/C/2006/00 208 dated, 13th September, 2007]
- The Plea by the CPIO that delay was entirely due to the failure of junior officer is being taken rather routinely. CPIO’s claim that he had sought assistance from ‘X’ under Section 5 (4) cannot be sustained as ‘X’ was a part of the CPIO’s office and he could not be treated either as a holder of information or an independent functionary. [ CIC/AT/C/2008/00121 dated, 01st October, 2008]
The following explanations, Reply, statements & Comments furnished by the Public Information Officers (PIO) / Deemed PIO’s were accepted by the CIC during hearing as reasonable cause under RTI Act and drops the penalty proceedings.
- The custodies of the information stated that he had denied the information with the approval of his administrative head. Since, the information was denied under the directions of the Administrative Head, the commission exonerates him from levy of penalty. [CIC/OK/C/2006/00139 dated, 6th November, 2007]
- The PIO submitted that the delay was caused because he had to collect the information from several departments. [CIC/OK/A/2006/00839 dated, 29th September, 2008]
- The Commission taken lenient view on the number of days the PIO was temporary duty at different places during the delayed period. [ C IC/OK/C/2006/00 147 dated, 01st March, 2007 ]