The Information Commissioner said the CPIO cited tremendous work pressure and burden of investigating a fraud as disturbing factors.
There should be no delay in the payment of pension to senior citizens on the pretext of Aadhaar linking, the Central Information Commission noted today. The observation of Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu came on the petition of an Ahmednagar-resident, Nirmala Nishikant Dhumane, who had sought to know from the postal department why her pension for March, 2017 was withheld for want of a copy of Aadhaar card. Through another application, she had demanded the copy of the orders that made it mandatory to link Aadhaar card for availing pension. There are 61.17 lakh central government pensioners in the country, according to official data.
The Central Public Information Officer of the post office explained that, out of 757 pensioners, 640 pensioners had submitted their Aadhaar details to the Senior Postmaster which were uploaded in the computer system on April 3, 2017. The officer claimed that pension was not withheld. However, there was delay in crediting pension to their saving bank accounts, the officer added. He said the file of 117 pensioners was also uploaded in the system the next day for giving credit of pension to their bank accounts. Acharyulu noted that pension-related information of other beneficiaries was denied under the privacy provision.
The Information Commissioner said the CPIO cited tremendous work pressure and burden of investigating a fraud as disturbing factors. The CPIO also listed 15 orders from the higher authorities to link Aadhaar to pensioners’ accounts, which he was to implement. “In the name of linking to Aadhaar or other such conditions, the public authority cannot delay the payment of pension to senior citizens and retired employees in view of their post-retirement requirements,” Acharyulu said. He said even if linking with Aadhaar is necessary, it should not result in delaying the payment of pension or denial of information regarding pension.
“The pensioners might mainly depend upon the pension for their livelihood and delaying it will be inhumane and also amounts to denial of their fundamental right to life,” he said. Acharyulu made clear that the salary detail of the public servant is not his personal information and is part of mandatory disclosure by every office under the RTI Act. “On the same logic, the pension related information is not personal information of the pensioner. The CPIO should not have denied that information wrongly invoking Section 8(1)(j) of RTI Act,” he said. Agreeing with the explanation given by the CPIO on the linking of Aadhaar card in pensioners’ accounts, Acharyulu only imposed a token penalty of Rs 250 on him for the wrongful denial of information.