Authorities cannot deny the information sought under the RTI Act even if the applicant is not having Aadhaar card. The Central Information Commission has held that denial of information for the lack of Aadhaar card is a serious breach of right guaranteed under the RTI Act and amounts to harassment of the applicant.
In a ruling on Thursday, it imposed maximum penalty of Rs 25,000 under the act on the then RTI handling officer of the Housing & Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO) for not providing information on gifts purchased by it and expenses incurred by its CMDs on the grounds that identification documents were not provided by the applicant.
“The CPIO can deny information only under Section 8 and 9. He cannot invent new grounds for denial like lack of Aadhaar Card, Voter Id Card, Passport etc,” Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said in his order.
RTI applicant Vishwas Bhamburkar had sought details of amounts “spent from the coffers” of HUDCO on gifts for years 2013 to 2016, renovation of official residence of its Chairman and Managing Director in ASIAD village, electricity bills of the official residence, and remunerations paid to the CMDs among others.
CPIO DK Gupta wrote a letter on August 5, 2016 demanding the proof of identity and proof of address by producing Aadhar card, voter ID Card or passport as proof of citizenship from Bhamburkar, the Information Commissioner noted.
“He did not say anything about giving information sought. No information was given within 30 days. The applicant filed this complaint. He has also filed first appeal, asking for information without insisting on the proofs,” he said.
Acharyulu noted that in his response Gupta said, because some others filed repetitive RTIs he wanted to verify bona fides of this applicant.
“This contention is not legal and hence not acceptable. He also failed to justify the denial of information, as he could not site any clause of exception under Section 8 or 9. From his submissions it is clear that the information sought did not attract any exception prescribed under the RTI Act,” he said.
Not only in 30 days, but even after that the information was not given until the CIC ordered, thus, deemed refusal of RTI application was proved in this case and that should attract the penal proceedings, Acharyulu said.
Acharyulu said Gupta is liable and deserves maximum penalty. He is directed to pay a sum of Rs 25,000 in five equal monthly instalments, the commissioner said.
“Most unfortunately successor CPIO SK Gupta also exhibited similar anti-RTI attitude and made it clear that his intention was also not to give information for the same reasons given by D K Gupta,” he said.
“Denial of information for lack of Aadhaar card will be a serious breach of right, which was guaranteed by the RTI Act and also amounts to harassment of the applicant,” he said.
(With inputs from PTI)