Getting compensation for loss or delay using RTI

Getting compensation for loss or delay using RTI
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Getting Compensation For Loss or Delay Using RTI. T K Kaul, a migrant from Jammu & Kashmir, filed a second appeal as he did not get information he asked for. But he was not present.

T K Kaul, a migrant from Jammu & Kashmir, filed a second appeal as he did not get information he asked for. But he was not present. In most of the cases, the information seeker, who files second appeal before the Central Information Commission, does not appear. The reasons are frustration of the appellant and enormous delay in taking up the second appeal, for which we are responsible. The case pertaining to 2012 are taken on the bench on the basis of first come first served and it takes two years.

The courts dismiss the application if the applicant is not present on a given day. It is justified. But Information Commission has to see whether the information sought was given, could be given, not given and is that justified. Presence of appellant is not essential, though desired. Sometimes respondent PIO of public authority also will not be present. Fortunately in this case a responsible officer who was positive and responsive appeared and was very sympathetic to the migrant applicant.

As part of several welfare schemes, the Union Government is giving Rs 5,000 per month to the migrants from turbulent Jammu and Kashmir State. It is understood that having fled the troubled state, they must have uprooted themselves and could not get immediate livelihood in Delhi and thus they should be given some support to survive. One of such migrants, T K Kaul did not receive monthly relief amount for three months. As usual his complaints were not responded properly and promptly. He started making rounds around the revenue office concerned which is in charge of implementation of the scheme.

Kaul has used the tool of RTI by filing an application on December 29, 2012, seeking information with regard to non-payment of relief amount for three months despite approaching SDM Saket 25 times: i) when my amount will be credited in my account. ii) From August 2011, I have not received my relief amount, till date. Kindly intimate me who will pay bank interest for delay period. iii) I have visited 25 times at SDM office for non-payment of relief and I had spent Rs 3,000 for conveyance from Dwarka to SDM office. So kindly inform me who will pay the said conveyance. iv) The three-month relief payment for the period of August, October and November 2011 had been wrongly sent to another person’s account. Why? iv) I have been mentally harassed for more than one year. So I want to know why action had not been taken against the dealing person who had delayed payment for more than one year.

Once it is an application under RTI, it will be mandatory duty for the public authority on priority not beyond thirty days. They started searching for the reason. The PIO replied, “It is to inform you that the matter has been discussed with DDO, DC (South) during March 2012 as the payment of relief in respect of Tej Kishan Kaul, ECS No 9360 was wrongly credited into the account of another person with ECS No 9560 due to manual ECS and the DDO, DC (South) has already communicated it to the SDM (Hauz Khas) for necessary recovery of wrong payment. Now the matter is pending with DDO, DC (South). On scrutiny of the bills it has been noticed the name of Tej Kishan Kaul was appearing in the ECS list after the S No of ECS No 9558 instead of after the S No of ECS No 9358. Copies of the ECS list are enclosed herewith for your information and reference please. However, no manual ECS is now carried out by this PAO in respect of relief payments, all ECS payments of relief have been made by this PAO through ECS special cases.”

Aggrieved by incomplete information Kaul went to first appellate authority. First Appellate Authority ordered to correct the error within a week on October 5, 2012, but it was rectified in 2013.

Kaul claimed that he had incurred Rs 3,000 on conveyance for making 25 trips to PAO, was mentally harassed and wanted to know why action had not been taken against person concerned.

Explaining the reasons for delay the respondent said that as per rules and policy the amount paid to the wrong person had to be recovered first and only thereafter aggrieved would be paid. He also pleaded understaffing of his wing as one of the reasons. Though it was not a breach of RTI, but a bona fide mistake, the wrong policy defeated the objective of relief fund besides resulted in harassment for two years.

The CIC imposed Rs.10,000 compensation on the Principal Accounts Office, GNCTD (Delhi) to pay T K Kaul for non-payment of three months relief amount and harassment caused to him by non-response to his RTI application for two years. I found one year delay in the office of DC (South) and another one year in the office of PAO and ordered them to share the burden to pay Rs 5,000 each.

Every right violated has to be compensated according to principles of rule of law. The State has vicarious liability to compensate the citizen for the loss he suffered because of wrong of any officer who acts as agent of the State. If the mistake is not deliberate the agent or public servant concerned may not be liable. But if that mistake results in loss to any citizen, the state is liable to compensate him under general principles of tortuous liability (liable under law of Torts). Compensation is different and it is not penalty. The law of civil wrongs (Torts) impose a general obligation on anybody whether it is a state or private body or person to compensate another whose right is violated because of breach of duty on their part. In this case, it was the duty of the State, i.e. Dy. Commissioner’s Office (South) and Principal Accounts Office to be diligent about the regular payment of relief to the Appellant who was a migrant from J&K. Because it is not a deliberate wrong, their mistake will come to their rescue as defence to their individual liability. But when it comes to State, mistake is no more a defence and especially when State is implementing a welfare programme like helping J&K migrants to survive in New Delhi.

The Supreme Court in several cases explained the vicarious liability of the state towards the citizens in cases of civil wrongs and hence the State is liable to compensate the Appellant. Section 19(8)(b) of the RTI Act also empowers the Commission to require the public authority to compensate the complainant for any loss or other detriment suffered. (Decision T K Kaul vs Principal Accounts Office, GNCTD, File NoCIC/AD/A/ 2012/ 003864-SA).Weblink:http://www.rti. india.gov.in/cic_decisions/CIC_AD_A_2012_003864-SA_M_127725.pdf.

The writer is Central Information Commissioner and can be reached at madabhushi.sridhar@gov.in)

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