What happens if CPIO or AA retires in-between? Will next CPIO or AA is responsible for earlier verdicts in case of further dispute. This is desired because now day’s replies to queries are not received in one month’s time but sometimes it takes 3 to 4 months
If you do not receive the reply of the quary within a period of 30 days, you may file first appeal with the AA. Your limitation of filing the first appeal is 30 days. If you do not file the first appeal with the stipulated time, you waive of your right to file the appeal, unless you are able to explain the reasons for delay. Similarly, the AA is also bound to decided the first appeal within a period of 30 days and you may file the second appeal after that without waiting for the decision. Your limitation of filing the second appeal is 90 days. Since non-furnishing the information with the stipulated time is an offence and amounts to penalty, therefore the next officer (his successor) can not be held responsible for the misdeeds of predecessor. The other relevant point is that the PIO should transfer the application to his successor under intimation to the applicant if he retires within the stipulated time.
Transfers, retirement etc of PIO and AA are routine internal affairs. I maintain that the Appellant has absolutely no concern or responsibility in the internal affairs of the Public Authority. The PIO and AA are duty-bound to carry out handing taking over of their duties and responsibilities at the time of transfers/relinquishment. If the incoming PIO/AA consider the decisions of their predecessors were incorrect nothing stop them from correcting it by providing the information within reasonable time of their assumption of charges. I feel that inaction of their part amount to their concurrence with the decision of their predecessors. However there could be complications if the SIC award punishment. The PIOs invariably argue that they were not party to the failures of their predecessors. I find this could be one of the reasons for the CIC/SICs inability to award penalties in all cases. But the PIO cannot escape from their dereliction of duties if the SIC persue the case of impossing penalty in such cases. Even after the retirement they cannot escape. In order to facilitate ease of work ofSIC I have been giving the name of the PIO and AA in the First and Second appeals so that they do not escape from the responsibility when the SICs become active.
Suppose a PIO rejects an application or does not provide the information within the stipulated period and the appellant files an appeal. During the pendency of the appeal the PIO retires or is transferrred, in that case the incoming PIO is not required to defend his predecessor and it is only the outgoing PIO (who had rejected or had not provided the information), who is responsible for the penalty and in no case the penalty can be imposed to the incoming PIO. Since, the appeal may result into penalty, therefore, the Commission is duty bound to give an opportunity to the concerned PIO before imposing the penalty. I would like to add here that the cases in the RTI Act must not be equated with the cases relating to the service matters or other civil cases pending against the Government (department) in various courts, where the new officer has to defend the Government (department) even though the cause of action has arisen during the time of his predecessor. The cases under the RTI Act must be dealt with like criminal cases, where only the person, who has committed the offence is liable for penalty.
This is exactly the problem. The new PIO/AA is utterly confuced or rather try to exploit this cituation on the responsibility issue. Some PIOs/AA maintain that the decision is given by the predecesor PIO and the new PIO does not have any responsibility. Some PIOs think that after retirement nothing could be done to them. The issue can be argued in innumerableangle. In case the PIO is retired/transferred during the period of first appeal, the new PIO get a chance to express his own views to the AA at the first appeal stage. Unlike civil cases or criminal cases the responsibility shift to the new PIO at that stage. He could express his own views during first appeal.The views of his predecessor PIO is not binding on him Unlike other cases, in the case of RTI the responsibility falls purely on him in persons and it is not obligatory on him to upkeep the views of his predecessor as it is not the view of the public authority but only the views of his predecesor in person. Nothing stop the new PIO from disagreeing with his predecessor and giving the information.At that stage the penalty clause is not involved and no damage is done. He has to think independently and arrive at his own decision whether to give the information or deny it. At first appeal stage also if the new PIO denied the information automatically the responsibility shift from his predecessor to him though it does not absolve his predecessor from the denial. He will be responsible for payment of penalty if impossed. Since no penalty can be impossed on AA transfers of AA is immaterial. If the PIO is changed again at the Second appeal stage only the problem arise as to who is responsible. I maintain that it is a problem to imposs penalty only if the PIO is again changed at the second appeal stage. Of course if the new (third or forth ...) maintain a stand that all his predecessors are wrong and is willing to provide the information I don't think theCIC/SICs can punish him;when heprove that when he got an opportunity toprovide the information he has done it.But PIOs of the First Appeal stage cannot escape. It is too complicated and could be argued anyway one is capable of. This could exactly be the reason for the SICs/CIC in not punishing the PIOs in certain cases as theymaynot be wanting to indulgein prolonged correspndencein fixing responsibility where the PIOs have changed many times.
The new PIO does not deal with the cases already dealt / disposed of by his predecessor. The first appeal is filed only in case of the deemed refusal or when a decision of the PIO has been conveyed. If thereafter, new PIO comes in, he is not required to defend his predecessor and the PIO, who had rejected the request has to defend himself. This situation is like the contempt cases against the Government officers for non-implementation of the orders of the court. This is clear from S 19 (5) of the Act, which provides as under:-
"In case of appeal proceedings, the onus to prove that a denial of a request was justified shall be on the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, who denied the request."
This proves that every PIO has to justify his action and he cannot leave it to his successor to justify his action.
I would also like to add here that due to this reason it has been made mandatory to mention the name and address of the PIO /AA etc. in case of appeal. Kindly see the regulations of the CIC or the rules made under the Act by various State Governments. The mentioning of name has been made mandatory only because only the PIO who had rejected the application is responsible for his acts