RTI applications seeking pension details should be replied to within 48 hours as it pertains to the “life and liberty” of the elderly, the Central Information Commission has held as it pitched for early redressal of such grievances. The Commission also directed that if an RTI application is a genuine grievance of a pensioner, steps should be initiated within 48 hours to redress it. The directive of Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu will come to the aid of over 58 lakh central government pensioners.
Acharyulu in a recent order held that the information pertaining to pension of a person pertains to his/her life and liberty which is mandated to be replied to within 48 hours as per the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
He said the moment an RTI application on pension issue is received, there should be a mechanism at the entry stage to discover and identify if it reflects a pension related grievance. He said it should be brought to the notice of the responsible officer by the CPIO on the same day and if it is a genuine case, the grievance should be addressed. The result should be communicated within 48 hours, followed by redressal within 30 days.
Acharyulu said considering the “living needs” of elderly pensioners, it is important that records of their dues should be considered as “life and liberty” related information under the RTI Act. “The moment RTI application on pension issue is received, there should be a mechanism at the entry stage to discover and identify if it reflects a pension related grievance/issue and should be acted upon immediately,” Acharyulu said in his directives to Employees’ Provident Fund Office, Raipur.
He said all the cases relating to delay in fixation and payment of pension and also arrears shall be dealt with urgently, considering them as request for information concerning the life or liberty under section 7(1) of RTI Act. “Any grievance regarding these issues should also be treated as ‘right to life’ under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and the public authorities shall do all the needful to address the issue within 48 hours,” the Information Commissioner said.
Acharyulu said some authorities say that unless an imminent danger is there to life or liberty, this clause cannot be invoked.
“It is an extraneous extension of imagination without any basis. The expression used in the Act is simply ‘where the information sought for concerns the life or liberty of a person’, which should mean it is enough if it concerns the life or liberty. That need not be in imminent danger,” he clarified in his order.
He was adjudicating the case of one Amrika Bai who had filed an RTI application seeking to know discrepancy in the payment of pension to her.
When she could not get proper response, she approached the Commission questioning non-payment of arrears of pension in a time-bound manner.
“The arrears involved is only an increase of 4 per cent on the basic pension of Rs 1,986, which comes to Rs 80. Though it is a very small amount it matters most for an old age appellant, who lost her husband and depends upon sons or daughters,” Acharyulu said.