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Shri Ashok Kundalia vs Ministry Of Defence on 15 January, 2009

Central Information Commission
Shri Ashok Kundalia vs Ministry Of Defence on 15 January, 2009
                   Central Information Commission
        Appeal No. CIC/WB/A/2007/01657-SM dated 05.12.2007
         Right to Information Act-2005 - Under Section (19)

                                                               Dated 15.01.2009

Appellant: Shri Ashok Kundalia

Respondent:       Ministry of Defence

Appellant is not present in person but, on his behalf Sh. Sajjan Kumar
Ranka is present.

On behalf of the Respondent, the following are present:

(i) Sh. M. L. Rangay, Dy. Dir. General

(ii) Sh. A. K. Singh, Director (L&C)

(iii) Sh. V. K. Langan, Director (Estt.)

The brief facts of the case are as under:

2. The Appellant had requested the CPIO in the Ministry of Defence in his
letter of 11.09.2006 seeking information in respect of the action taken on the
lawyers notice sent to the Defence Secretary in 2005 on behalf of the Appellant.
The CPIO in the Ministry of Defence had marked this request to the office of the
Director General Defence Estates (DGDE) who in turn sent it to the, Director
Defence Estates Office Headquarter to furnish the requisite information. That
office wrote to the Appellant on 16.11.2006 offering the copies of the documents
subject to payment of Rs. 29/- by way of fees. In that letter, it was also explained
how the said property had been sold and resold through a number of sale deeds.
The Appellant did not collect the information offered after payment of fees and,
instead, filed an appeal before the First Appellate Authority. From the records, it
appears that that Authority did not hear the appeal and returned the appeal
documents to the Appellant without any direction. It is against this that the
Appellant has now approached the Commission in second appeal.

3. During the hearing, all the documents enclosed with the appeal including
the various communications sent from one CPIO to another within the Ministry
of Defence and the office of the DGDE as also between the DGDE and the
Appellant were carefully examined. One thing becomes clear that the request for
information had been dealt with somewhat mechanically at various levels in the
Ministry of Defence and the office of the DGDE. Instead of giving a categorical
reply on the action taken on the lawyer’s notice, the Appellant’s request was sent
down to various levels ultimately resulting in a reply from the Defence Estates
Office, Secunderabad. Even this reply did not say categorically that the
information being provided had a link with the lawyer’s notice sent by the
Appellant earlier. Besides, the information was being offered subject to payment
of certain fees whereas as per the provisions of the Right to Information act, since
this information was being offered much beyond the stipulated period of 30 days,
this was supposed to be given free of cost. Similarly, the action of one of the
CPIOs in returning the appeal addressed to the First Appellate Authority, is both
patently wrong and incomprehensible. It is noted that no one had advised the
Appellant about the correct First Appellate Authority. Since he had filed his
request for information before the CPIO in the Ministry of Defence, he had,
therefore, sent his appeal also to the same Ministry. Someone should have
arranged to place the appeal before the correct Appellate Authority instead of
returning it to the Appellant. We hope that, in future, request for information and
appeals against denial or inadequate information would be dealt with more
seriously.

4. As far as the request for information is concerned, we direct the CPIO in
the office of the Director Defence Estates Office, A. P. Circle, Secunderabad to
provide a clear statement on the action taken on the legal notice sent by the
Appellant to the Defence Secretary and also to provide the information available
with them free of cost. The CPIO is also directed clearly to give the name and
designation of the First Appellate Authority before whom the Appellant, if he so
chooses, can prefer his appeal. This must be completed within 10 working days
from the receipt of this order. If the Appellant would be unsatisfied, he would be
free to prefer an appeal before the appropriate First Appellate Authority.

5. With the above directions, we dispose off this appeal. Copies of this order
be given free of cost to the parties.

Sd/-

(Satyananda Mishra)
Information Commissioner

Authenticated true copy. Additional copies of orders shall be supplied
against application and payment of the charges prescribed under the Act to the
CPIO of this Commission.

Sd/-

(Vijay Bhalla)
Assistant Registrar

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