The Central Information Commission (CIC) has levied a fine of Rs 1,000 on the Chief Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the India Meteorological Department for harassing a Mumbai-based RTI Activist.
The CIC observed that scientist and CPIO, Bishwombhar had denied a substantive part of the information sought by the activist and charged GST on the information provided, which is illegal under the Right to Information Act 2005 (RTI).
The order was passed by Chief Information Commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu on May 8 after the matter was heard in March this year.
The activist, Chetan Kothari had filed an RTI in September 2017 seeking details from the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) on the warnings and the alerts issued by the institution, the reason behind issuing such alerts, and their frequency and accuracy. He was asked by the CPIO to pay Rs 5,808 including Rs.886 as GST charges. He was asked to pay this amount in advance for furnishing this information.
Kothari said that he was shocked that the CPIO treated the information as a commodity and imposed Goods and Services Tax on it when it is not legally supported. He also asked Kothari to give an undertaking stating the purpose of the information that he sought and that he should not use the information for any other purpose and not share it with others.
Later CPIO Acharyulu tendered an unconditional apology saying that he was unaware that such undertakings could not be demanded from an activist under the RTI Act; adding that he respects the decision of the CIC.
Kothari welcomed the decision of the CIC saying that it will reinforce the drive in RTI activists like him to bring out the truth.