Right of retired employee & RTI
When the authority knows that certain employees are retiring in a department next year, why not they process the recruitment to see that ‘deficiency’...
Two issues show the inefficiency in the system– non-filling of the vacancies and not giving pension and other benefits on the day of retirement.
When the authority knows that certain employees are retiring in a department next year, why not they process the recruitment to see that ‘deficiency’ is not created by vacancy?
Why not the office gifts the employee the file sanctioning the pension, cheque or any other mode of payment of retirement benefits on the occasion of retirement?
Whether they bid farewell to their long-serving colleagues in formal gathering or not, whether they felicitate with flowers or not, the authorities have a duty to settle all the benefits and pension issues to present them as gift to the retiring employee.
This is the real respect they are legitimately expected to reflect in their functioning. As per Section 19(8)(c), the Commission can impose any of the penalties provided under this Act
The RTI Act in its preamble points out that: “Democracy requires an informed citizenry and transparency of information which are vital to its functioning and also to contain corruption and to hold Governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed.”
How to hold an authority accountable to its employees first and to the people next?
The RTI Act is made to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority.
The RTI Act provides an instrument to a citizen, which can make the system to work in a system. The RTI request, with less formalities and nominal fee of Rs 10 operates as mini public interest litigation if applicant files for improvement of the administration.
If his RTI is generated out of a grievance or the suffering inflicted by colleagues or superiors illegally, it will challenge the wrongdoing.
If the request for information, in fact, is to goad the authority, which is supposed to act but not acting, to ‘act’ in a time-frame as per law, the result is one which is beyond expectation even from the court of law.
The power of RTI needs to be explored and before that, it has to be understood. The administrators regret that employees are using the RTI more than an ordinary person.
Through RTI, an employee is questioning the employer for the harassment and is settling the score by harassing the employer. If the power is misused by the superiors, a new space is created by RTI to fight the misuse.
In the same stretch, the subordinate gets a weapon in his hand to be equally mischievous and harassing. This is story of a retired professor fighting for his retirement benefits for more than five years.
If he is compelled to use Right to Information to pressurise the public authority, it reflects the deficiency of administration that needs immediate improvement.
Punjab University was under challenge. Prof Shashi Kulbhushan Sharma filed an application seeking information as to why deductions were made and amount withheld from his retirement benefits and details of powers for amendment of statutory rules by the Syndicate, for overstaying in government accommodation.
The CPIO stated that as per rules, double the market rent is charged from people who retain the residential accommodation even after period allowed and asked for vacating, hence the deductions were made. First appeal against this response was not responded to.
Any person who, does not receive a decision within the time specified or is aggrieved by a decision of the Public Information Officer (PIO) may within 30 days from the expiry of such period or from the receipt of such a decision prefers an appeal to such officer who is senior in rank to the Public Information Officer in each public authority.
A second appeal against the decision under sub-section (1) shall lie within 90 days from the date on which the decision should have been made or was actually received, with the Central Information Commission [Section 19(3)]. This means even if there is no decision or hearing of first appeal, the applicant can file second appeal.
During the second appeal hearing, the appellant, Prof Shashi Kulbhushan Sharma complained that even after 5 years of retirement, the university has not settled his retirement benefits, details of which he sought under this appeal.
He also wanted to know the basis of deductions, which, according to him, are not as per rules. There was no response to his first appeal.
Reenu Gupta, the PIO and Deputy Registrar of the University submitted, that she is not responsible for this section of public authority.
Saurab Dhawan, Assistant Law Officer, represented the case but he does not know anything about first appeal in this case.
Both these officers expressed inability to answer questions raised by the appellant or Commission about this file.
The order said that it reflects pathetic functioning of RTI wing in this university, which the Commission requires to be immediately corrected.
It was shocking to know that the public authority transferred this RTI application to multiple desks of their own office, but it did not furnish any information.
The functioning of public authority with regard to retired employees also appears to be very pathetic as the appellant is made to go round the university for 5 years.
After prolonged harassment, the appellant approached under RTI Act, but to his surprise he faced harassment once again.
The Commission directed the university officers to facilitate inspection of files regarding his retirement and furnish the certified copies of documents he sought free of cost.
The Commission directed the Registrar to give reasons for delay in providing retirement benefits, and give action taken report to the appellant under intimation to the Commission.
As per Section 19(8), in its decision, the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, has the power to: (a) require the public authority to take any such steps as may be necessary to secure compliance with the provisions of this Act – including (iv) by making necessary changes to its practices in relation to the maintenance, management and destruction of records; (c) impose any of the penalties provided under this Act.
Besides this, it was also stated: The Commission requires under Section 19 the University to put in place a system to settle complete retirement issues on the date of retirement itself and hand over all papers and benefits including payments, and pension papers on the date of retirement of every employee.
Whether they bid farewell to their long-serving colleagues in formal gathering or not, whether they felicitate with flowers or not, they have a duty to settle all the benefits and pension issues to present them as gift to the retiring employee. This is the real respect they are legitimately expected to reflect in their functioning.
The officers who found non-responsive to appellant and to the Commission today should understand that they also would retire some day, and face a pathetic situation.
The retiring employees have a legal, moral and contractual right to get their retirement benefits by the date of their retirement, which also includes their right to all such information.
Under Section 19(8)(b), the Commission can require the public authority to compensate the complainant for any loss or other detriment suffered.
Considering this as a fit case to deal with the loss and detriment of the appellant, the Commission directed the public authority to explain why they should not be ordered to pay suitable compensation for denying information, harassing for 5 years and causing detriment and mental agony to the appellant till today.
As per Section 19(8)(c), the Commission can impose any of the penalties provided under this Act. Apart from the notice to compensation, the Commission directed the public information officer and the Assistant Registrar to show cause why maximum penalty should not be imposed against each of them for harassing professor without giving required information.
(Based on the decision of CIC in Shashi Kulbhushan Sharma v. PIO, Punjab University, CIC/CC/A/2015/000749-SA on 21.11.2016)