New Delhi: Denial of information for the lack of Aadhaar card is a serious breach of the right guaranteed under the RTI Act and amounts to harassment of the applicant, the Central Information Commission has held.
The Commission has imposed the maximum penalty under the act on the then RTI handling officer of the Housing & Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO) for not providing information on gifts purchased by it and expenses incurred by its CMDs on the grounds that identification documents were not provided by the applicant.
The case pertains to Vishwas Bhamburkar who had sought details of amounts "spent from the coffers" of HUDCO on gifts for years 2013 to 2016, renovation of the official residence of its Chairman and Managing Director in ASIAD village, electricity bills of the official residence, and remunerations paid to the CMDs among others.
CPIO D K Gupta wrote a letter on August 5, 2016, demanding the proof of identity and proof of address by producing Aadhar card, voter ID Card or passport as proof of citizenship from Bhamburkar, Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu noted.
"He did not say anything about giving information sought. No information was given within 30 days. The applicant filed this complaint. He has also filed first appeal, asking for information without insisting on the proofs," he said.
Acharyulu noted that in his response Gupta said because some others filed repetitive RTIs he wanted to verify bona fides of this applicant.
"This contention is not legal and hence not acceptable. He also failed to justify the denial of information, as he could not site any clause of exception under Section 8 or 9. From his submissions it is clear that the information sought did not attract any exception prescribed under the RTI Act," he said.
Not only in 30 days but even after that the information was not given until the CIC ordered, thus, deemed refusal of RTI application was proved in this case and that should attract the penal proceedings, Acharyulu said.
"The CPIO can deny information only under Section 8 and 9. He cannot invent new grounds for denial like lack of Aadhaar Card, Voter Id Card, Passport etc. This Section was violated by Dr D K Gupta as he did not give any information in 30 days and beyond also," he said.
Acharyulu said Gupta is liable and deserves maximum penalty. He is directed to pay a sum of Rs 25,000 in five equal monthly instalments, the commissioner said.
"Most, unfortunately, successor CPIO S K Gupta also exhibited the similar anti-RTI attitude and made it clear that his intention was also not to give information for the same reasons given by D K Gupta," he said.
"Denial of information for lack of Aadhaar card will be a serious breach of right, which was guaranteed by the RTI Act and also amounts to harassment of the applicant," he said.