New Delhi: Central Information Commission has come down heavily on Registrar General of National Green Tribunal for issuing "illegal" orders "without application of mind" on RTI pleas, saying such actions will obstruct furnishing of information and scare away applicants.
While issuing a show-cause notice to Registrar General Sanjay Kumar, Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu also recommended that he be replaced from the post of First Appellate Authority (FAA) under RTI matters at the Tribunal.
Kumar, the senior most officer in NGT, was directed to explain why he passed "such illegal orders, why he spent so much of time without hearing the appeal within the time prescribed by the Right to Information Act and insisted on personal presence and presentation of affidavits."
Acharyulu said as the NGT is suffering from absence of coordination within the office, the Environment Secretary should look into administrative problems of the Tribunal.
The case relates to activist Subhash Agrawal who had sought to know, through multiple RTI applications, the details of vehicles purchased and sold by NGT, rules and procedures etc on sanctioning of leave, LTC etc of the Chairman and members besides statistics about RTI applications and first appeals.
National Green Tribunal is the legal body for adjudication of environmental issues.
Not getting response in time, Agrawal approached the Commission alleging Kumar caused him serious harassment by insisting on his presence to prove originality of his RTI application, to explain about his RTI applications and prove number of envelops, postal orders and their genuineness.
Kumar also wanted him to file affidavit duly verified and attested by the competent authority mentioning all the facts.
"The Commission finds that there is substance in the complaints made by the complainant. Some of the aspects of the interim orders of the FAA are funny and strange. They will definitely impose obstructions in the process of furnishing information according to the RTI Act. It will scare away the information seekers," Acharyulu said. He said Kumar has not "applied his mind" to the facts, law and the circumstances of the case and made the hearing of the first appeal a very elaborate and unnecessary exercise on trivial matters because of which furnishing of information was totally obstructed.
"The Commission also observes that the FAA orders reflect lack of understanding of law in furnishing the information which is harmful to the public authority (NGT)," he said.
The Central Public Information Officer of NGT, sub-ordinate of FAA, who was present during the hearing said he does not want to continue to handle RTI responses as he was over burdened with work as he is also Accounts Officer of the Tribunal looking after Accounts Division.
He said he has to personally go to another section to use the computer for typing the RTI responses.
Acharyulu said, "Having heard the submissions, the Commission comes to conclusion that it is not proper to burden an Accounts Officer with RTI related work.
"The Commission recommends the Public Authority to replace the CPIO with another officer by providing necessary infrastructure including the computer operator, so that he could attend the RTI matters in a careful manner, which is desirable for an esteemed organisation like the NGT which is dealing with important matters like environment/pollution."