June 29, 2018
Case name: Balkrishna Porwal v. PIO, Department of Posts
In this recent case, the appellant who was facing an enquiry of alleged sexual harassment sought the certified copies of 15 documents to substantiate his defence and for conduct of the enquiry in a fair manner.
However, the concerned Public authority denied information under Section 16 of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013 (SHW ACT) and the CPIO denied information by invoking exemptions under Section 8(1)(d) and (g) of RTI Act.
In appeal, the Central Information Commission (CIC) imposed penalty on the CPIO holding that denial of information to the appellant was without any reasonable cause.
Other key observations made by the CIC in the case are as under:
- That the Commission has powers to impose penalty in a second appeal as per Section 19(8)(c) and Section 20 of the RTI Act. That the Commission has to impose penalty if the denial is (a) without reasonable cause, (b) intentional and (c) malafide. Thus, the Commission even if agreed with contention of the CPIO that it was not malafide, it can still impose penalty if the denial without reasonable cause and intentional.
- That the documents should have been shared with the appellant who is an officer accused of charge of sexual harassment during the inquiry itself. That Section 11 and Section 13 of SHW Act, mandated that findings of the committee and inquiry report should be given to the concerned party.
- The due process, principles of natural justice and legal provisions of the SHW Act of 2013 provide him a right to defend himself from allegation of sexual harassment, and the right to information to secure all those related documents will strengthen that right.
- That the accused was entitled to get all information and opportunity to defend himself and prove that allegation was false. The charge of sexual harassment is a serious allegation which if falsely made and proved by suppression of information to the accused, it can ruin the career of the accused, cause permanent and irreparable damage to the reputation and also disturb his domestic life affecting his relations with his wife and children.
- That it is the human right of appellant in his capacity as a citizen and accused under RTI Act and under the principles of criminal justice, to all the related information to defend himself in a penal proceedings.
- That the elementary principle of Natural Justice, audi alteram partem or right to be heard which include right to cross-examine and right to legal representation form the fundamental structure of right available to the accused in the Indian criminal justice system.
- With reference to the facts of the present case, the CIC noted that the CPIO had simply ignored all these mandatory provisions of RTI Act, Code and Criminal Justice. By denying the information the appellant was not only harassed by the public authority, but also by the CPIO. While public authority denied him the documents which he was entitled under SHW Act of 2013, the CPIO denied them under RTI Act besides wrongfully invoking Section 8(1) (d) and (g). The entire case can be accessed here.
 Mr. M. Dinesh v. PIO, Bureau of Investigation