In an interesting case, the CPIO of a branch of State Bank of India (SBI) was recently fined Rs 1000 from his salary for giving misleading information to a customer and asking him to visit the branch to get the information sought under the Right to Information Act 2005.
Seeking various information, the appellant, Ashok Kumar Jaiswal, had filed an application under RTI Act before the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), State Bank Of India, Prayagraj, on 29th October 2020.
The CPIO provided a point-wise reply to the appellant. However, Jaiswal was not satisfied with the reply and filed the first appeal dated 09-12-2020. When the FAA upheld CPIO’s reply, Jaiswal approached the Central Information Commission (CIC) on the ground that the “information sought has not been provided to him and requested to direct the respondent to provide complete and correct information.”
What CIC found
After hearing both parties and going through the records, the CIC observed that the CPIO had wrongly asked the appellant to visit the branch in order to obtain the information. It also found that the reply given by the CPIO was “vague and misleading”.
“The Commission, after hearing the submissions of both the parties and after perusal of records, observes that the respondent in response to the RTI application has wrongly asked the appellant to visit the branch in order to obtain the information. The reply given by the respondent in response to the RTI application is vague and misleading,” the CIC said in its order dated 20th September 2022.
The CIC made some strong observations about the CPIO.
“The Commission observes that this is a grave violation of the provisions of the RTI Act and it seems that the respondent public authority has adopted lackadaisical approach in dealing with the RTI applications of the applicants. This whole of the observations shows that the then CPIO has willfully obstructed the information to the appellant under the RTI Act with malafide intention,” the CIC said.
The CIC also imposed a fine of Rs 1000, to be deducted from the salary of the CPIO, who held charge of RTI application during the relevant period for his “casual and callous” approach in responding to the RTI.
The amount of Rs. 1000/- shall be deducted by the Public Authority from his salary by way of a demand draft drawn in favour of “PAO, CAT”, New Delhi, the CIC said.