The Central Information Commission (CIC) has slapped a fine of Rs 25,000 on Delhi University’s Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) for rejecting an RTI application seeking Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s graduation degree.
The Chief Information Commission, M. Sridhar Acharyulu, in a recent order, pulled up CPIO Meenakshi Sahay of Delhi University and said the rejections reminded him of the saying “penny wise, pound foolish”.
The commission was hearing a plea filed by Delhi-based lawyer Mohammad Irsad, whose RTI query seeking inspection of Modi’s degree was rejected on the ground that the Indian Postal Order (IPO) was not marked in favour of the Registrar of the university.
The commission, directing the “public authority” to recover an amount of Rs 25,000 from the salary payable to Sahay, said that after hearing the story that thousands of rupees had been spent in a legal battle for a postal order of Rs 10, “the proverb ‘penny wise, pound foolish’ has to be rewritten as ‘rupee wise and thousand foolish’ “.
Sahay in her defence argued that there was no malice in rejecting the RTI application and that she had to follow the policies laid down by the university.
The commission did not find any merit or justification in her argument, stating that the fee was not a material factor to throw out an RTI request.
It said it was “vexed with non response” from the CPIO to a number of its notices and thus found it a fit case to impose penalty.
Calling the CPIO’s action “pathetic”, the commissioner said in the order that “such a simple request for information has been dragged to the level of second appeal, building heaps of documents with multiple files”.
The commission also slammed Delhi University for “spending huge amounts of money and consuming precious time of public servants”, including the commission.
It also asked the “public authority”, without defining it, to facilitate sufficient training to the entire staff, including the CPIO, in the matter of RTI law so that they do not reject applications in a routine manner without application of mind.
The commission recommended that officials be provided with the latest books on the RTI Act as well as classic text books on administrative law. It suggested they should also be given the books “Right to Know” by late professor S.P. Sathe and “Five-point Someone: What Not To Do At IIT” by Chetan Bhagat.