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Advocate for Transparency

Too many information seekers in India are fobbed by Public Information Officers (PIOs) under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 saying the file being sought is ‘missing’ or ‘not traceable’. Well, in that case, ask what action has been taken as per the Public Records Act (PRA), 1993, urges Chandranshu Mehta.

The Information Commissioner (IC) Saroj Punhani however, cracked the whip on Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) using this excuse to turn down RTI plea. She was hearing a plea by Chandranshu Mehta who has sought information pertaining to action taken on MACPS Corruption Complaint to which the CPIO-cum-Superintendent of Police (SP) Manoj Verma,  has said the complaint is not traceable and return of the first appeal demanding the branch name to be mentioned without adjudication.

In second appeal proceedings, Mehta challenged the contention of non-receipt of the averred complaint by CBI when he had personally handed over the complaint to the Director, CBI through their Personal Secretary (PS) against duly acknowledged stamp of CBI’s dak/control room staff. He has also expressed his angst against the return of the first appeal on the grounds that the branch name was not specified therein.

In a hearing on Wednesday (29.09.2021), Rep. of CPIO-cum-Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Mukesh Verma argued that at no stage CBI claimed non-receipt of the averred complaint but has only expressed the position that receipt of said complaint could not be found and this is because the office of Director, CBI receives complaints and correspondences in huge numbers and in normal course, it is likely that a complaint may be handed over to another officer to take a look at it, etc. in which circumstance it is difficult to affirm if the averred complaint was never received in their office. “This is particularly perturbing because there are not malafides or reluctance on the part of the CBI to take action on the complaints thus received and in the case of the appellant, it can be appreciated that in the course of ascertaining the records of the instant case, it was gathered that a complaint dated 17.06.2019 of the Appellant was received and forwarded to the concerned CVO,” he said, adding that moreover, CBI has been requesting Mehta to provide them with a copy of the averred complaint for them to take the necessary action but the appellant has not responded to their requests or even phone calls. Given that submission, “a lenient view to be taken in the matter insisting upon the fact that appropriate action was taken with reference to an earlier complaint of the appellant,” he prayed.

While giving her decision on 01.10.20021, Saroj wrote in decision that “the Commission baffled at the deplorable state of affairs of dak management in CBI as the reason stated for not being able to locate the averred complaint which was handed over in person and duly received against stamped acknowledgment was grossly evasive.” She further directed the CPIO-cum-Superintendent of Police (SP) Manoj Verma, “to file an appropriate affidavit stating to this effect that the receipt of the averred complaint could not be traced in their office. The said affidavit should be sent to the Commission within 15 days from the date of receipt of this order with its copy duly endorsed to the appellant.”

For, the return of the first appeal demanding the branch name to be mentioned is an arbitrary action on the part of the respondent office and calls for immediate corrective steps to be taken to put in place the system of dak receipt and management in CBI. In that regard, a copy of the order by Commissioner Punhani was marked to Subodh Kumar Jaiswal, Director of the CBI for his immediate attention and necessary action.

In the Matter of: Chandranshu Mehta v. Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)

Citation: Second Appeal No. CIC/CBRUI/A/2020/104420

The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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