New Delhi: The Central Information Commission has passed an order underscoring that it is incumbent upon the “Public Authority” to revisit its guidelines in respect of the medical reimbursement and formulate the rules and regulations with due diligence and in a more precise and cogent manner in the interest of the beneficiaries within a period of 60 days from the date of receipt of the order.
The CIC order is with regard to medical reimbursement rules prevalent for the pensioners for use of various categories of equipment as advised by the Medical Specialists,
The order, passed by Information Commissioner Bimal Julka on 23 October 2018, gives the clear instruction that precise and clear guidelines should be put out in the public domain for its information and necessary action by all concerned. The Commission has also advised the Respondent (central Public Information Officer and Deputy Registrar Jawaharlal Nehru University -Legal) to exercise due care and caution in future to ensure that correct and complete information is furnished timely to the RTI applicant(s) as per provisions of the Act failing which penal proceedings shall be initiated under Section 20 .
This order by the Central Information Commission has come in response to a an RTI application seeking information on several points regarding the procedure and requirement for the grant of permission for purchase of oxygen concentrator, details of the relevant rules, if any, time within which the permission for the purchase of oxygen concentrator could be granted if it’s usage was recommended to a patient and other related issues.
Puneet Kumar Girdhar, the complainant had submitted that satisfactory information had not been provided to him on the generic issues raised by him in his RTI application. Explaining that the issues raised pertained to the larger public interest, the Complainant submitted that penalty should have been
have been imposed on the CPIO for the incorrect and misleading information provided to him. In its reply, the Respondent re-iterated the reply of the CPIO/First Appellate Authority (FAA) and written submissions on 8 October 2018.
The complainant further submitted on 10 October 2018 that the matter involved larger public interest and that there was a violation of Section 7 of the RTI act since the application was not disposed within 02 days. Furthermore, he questioned the conduct of the CPIO and Appellate Authority against which penalty could be imposed as per the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005.
The Commission has referred to the definition of information u/s Section 2(f) of the RTI Act, 2005 which is reproduced below:
“information” means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, report, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force.”
It has also made reference to the relevant extract of Section 2 (j) of the RTI Act, 2005 which reads as under:
“(j) right to information” means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes ……..”
While passing this order the Commission has relied on a number of orders of the Supreme Court and the High Court of Delhi.
The Commission has referred to the Supreme Court decision in 2011 (8) SCC 497 (CBSE Vs. Aditya Bandopadhyay), wherein it was held as under:
35….. “It is also not required to provide ‘advice’ or ‘opinion’ to an applicant, nor required to obtain and furnish any ‘opinion’ or ‘advice’ to an applicant. The reference to ‘opinion’ or ‘advice’ in the definition of ‘information’ in section 2(f) of the Act, only refers to such material available in the records of the Public Authority. Many public authorities have, as a public relation exercise, provide advice, guidance and opinion to the citizens. But that is purely voluntary and should not be confused with any obligation under the RTI Act.”
The Commission also has cited from the order of the Supreme Court of India in Khanapuram Gandaiah Vs. Administrative Officer and Ors. Special Leave Petition (Civil) No.34868 OF 2009 (Decided on January 4, 2010). The order says:
6. “….Under the RTI Act “information” is defined under Section 2(f) which provides:
“information” means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advice, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, report, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force.”
This definition shows that an applicant under Section 6 of the RTI Act can get any information which is already in existence and accessible to the public authority under law. Of course, under the RTI Act an applicant is entitled to get copy of the opinions, advices, circulars, orders, etc., but he cannot ask for any information as to why such opinions, advices, circulars, orders, etc. have been passed.”
7. “….the Public Information Officer is not supposed to have any material which is not before him; or any information he could have obtained under law. Under Section 6 of the RTI Act, an applicant is entitled to get only such information which can be accessed by the “public authority” under any other law for the time being in force. The answers sought by the petitioner in the application could not have been with the public authority nor could he have had access to this information and Respondent No. 4 was not obliged to give any reasons as to why he had taken such a decision in the matter which was before him.”