One consumer of postal services has asked under RTI: (1) The article posted by registered post dated 23/11/15 did not reach destination; what action was taken on his three complaints about non-receipt dated 16/12/15, 12/1/16, and 18/3/16. The CPIO replied that SRMRMSG division, Gorakhpur, was asked to investigate. A complaint was registered and investigated.
The First Appellate Authority upheld the stand of the CPIO. An article booked on 23.11.2015 was lost and consumer questioned the non-delivery on the public grievance portal on 20.05.2016. Gorakhpur Post Office said that it was lost, and the appellant was asked to visit the post office and collect the compensation. But he was offered Rs 63 i.e., the fee for the registered article. Officer told the Commission that as per departmental rule, the appellant should have been offered Rs 100 apart from Rs 63. This established that he was given incomplete and incorrect information.
The Commission directed the CPIO to show cause why maximum penalty should not be imposed for suppressing the rules regarding the actual compensation amount to be paid in case of lost registered articles. CIC also directed the CPIO to explain why the public authority should not be directed to pay compensation to the appellant; why the public authority should not be ordered to pay cost of Rs 100 also as conveyance to and from the NIC centre to the appellant.
The appellant stated that he sent scanned documents worth Rs 480 and a book woth Rs 50 to his nephew, who required the documents, to appear for an examination. Due to the non-delivery of the registered post, his nephew could not appear in the examination and had to re-appear the next year. The appellant complained that he had been pursuing the matter for two-and-a-half years and was frequently visiting the post office and suffered harassment. He demanded compensation from the negligent post office.
Responding to the grievance of the appellant, the CPIO stated that the matter regarding non-delivery of appellant’s registered post was inquired into, and complete report along with action taken against postman for delay or non-delivery was provided to the appellant. He further clarified that any valuable item or documents are generally insured by the senders from the post office, and in this case the appellant had not insured his registered post.
He also assured that the compensation for loss of articles i.e., Rs. 100, as prescribed in the rules, shall be provided to him. Though the public authority promptly replied to the appellant within five days, the compensation amount offered to the appellant for loss of article was Rs 63, which was only the registered fee of the article, instead of Rs 100 as per Indian Post Office Rules.
The Commission considered this a fit case for compensation under Section 19 (8) (b) of RTI Act and directed the Public Authority to pay Rs 3,630 (Rs 2,000 as compensation for the harassment caused to the appellant + compensation of Rs 100 prescribed under Indian Post Office Rules + Rs 1000 towards conveyance charges incurred by the appellant + Rs 530 as the cost of lost items in the registered post). The CPIO is directed to pay the compensation and other costs to the appellant and send a compliance report to the Commission, within 15 days from date of receipt of this order. (Based on CIC decision in CIC/POSTS/A/2017/167339, Rakesh Gupta v. PIO, Department of Posts on 9.1.2018)
Penalty for denial
In another case, an applicant sought from the post office the appointment details, educational certificates of one who was selected for the post of Branch Post Master in 2015. The CPIO sought consent of employee, who refused. The CPIO denied and such denial was upheld in first appeal. The appellant stated that information sought was not exempted under Section 11 of RTI Act and it was a wrongful denial. The officer stated that the appointment details of Anil Kumar are present in a different branch and hence could not be given. The Commission directed the SSP, Bhopal Division, to provide certified copies of selection details within 15 days and also directed the CPIO to show-cause why maximum penalty should not be imposed against him for illegally denying the information.
The appellant was provided with the information only after the CIC order. There has been an unreasonable delay in sharing the documents which are public records. There were no representatives on behalf of the post office at the hearing. The fact that the CPIO furnished complete information to the appellant after CIC order proves that they received the show-cause notice issued to the CPIO, who however, did not care to provide any explanation in response. The records show that the authority has denied the information claiming that third party has refused to share information.
The educational qualifications furnished by a candidate for selection to a government post cannot be denied by invoking Section 11 (1) of RTI Act. Any document, which is a certification of educational qualification and is maintained in the register of a university or examining body, is a public record which means they can be verified by any person.
The appellant sought the certified copies of educational qualifications, which were eligibility criteria for selection for the post of Branch Postmaster. This information being related to process of selection and recruitment forms part of suo-moto disclosure under Section 4(1)(b) of RTI Act and DoPT O.M. dated 29.06.2015. Public interest is involved in the point that only eligible candidates should be appointed and a citizen has a right to verify whether the appointed candidate is eligible.
Even if it is assumed that the information sought is private in nature, it has to be disclosed in public interest. Thus Sections 11 and 8(1)(j) cannot be involved. Section 11 prescribes procedure for consulting the third party. If an applicant has requested for information supplied by a third party, then such third party has to be consulted only when it has been mentioned as confidential by that third party while giving it to the Public Authority.
The CPIO should initiate process under Section 11 (1) when he intends to give the information. The third party does not have a veto power as the CPIO has a duty only to consult him. The CPIO has a duty to examine the disclosure and if public interest is involved, then such information has to be disclosed by communicating the same to the third party involved.
In this case, educational qualification of officer, who was selected and appointed as Branch Postmaster, cannot be considered third party information. The Commission found CPIO liable under section 20 of RTI Act and imposed a maximum penalty of Rs 25,000 to be paid in 5 equal monthly installments. (Based on CIC decision in CIC/BS/A/2016/000993, Pratap Dabar v. PIO, Department of Posts on 18.1.2018)