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A penalty of Rs.25,000 imposed on a public information officer for not supplying information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act was not justified, the Gujarat high court has held. However, the officer was fined Rs.10,000 for not discharging his duty.

A single judge bench of Justice Akil Kureshi passed the order while hearing an appeal against the Chief Information Commissioner’s order imposing the penalty for not supplying information to a retired government servant.

The CIC had held that refusal was not bonafide and the reasoning given for not furnishing details was seriously flawed.

A retired government servant, C.L. Nanaksahi, had sought information regarding his retirement travel allowance and several other details. Petitioner Urmish Patel, however, refused to provide information stating it was exempted under the RTI Act.

Nanaksahi moved the appellate authority which told Patel that except for information relating to any decision of initiating a departmental inquiry under the service rules and the chargesheet filed thereafter, all other details sought can be supplied.

Patel wrote to the appellate authority explaining the reasons for denial. He requested the authority to provide him a copy of the order passed by it in this regard. However, the authority did not furnish this.

Nanaksahi approached the CIC complaining that the PIO had not supplied the information despite the appellate authority’s order. The CIC then imposed a penalty of Rs.25,000 on the PIO, holding that the denial of information was not bonafide.

The court held that CIC’s order was not justified in imposing penalty and could not be allowed. However, the court held that since the petitioner had failed to discharge his duty of complying with the order of appellate authority, the penalty imposed was reduced to Rs 10,000.

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