RTI applicants to get travel costs

MUMBAI: It’s an order that will bring cheer to lakhs of RTI applicants across the country, especially those who run up huge travel and accommodation bills while appearing for hearings at the Central Information Commission (CIC) in New Delhi. The CIC has directed the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to compensate a Mumbai-based Right To Information applicant, Yogesh Mehta, who was forced to travel to Delhi and appear for five hearings of the commission in the past year.

The CIC, while ordering a compensation of Rs 10,000 to the RTI applicant, said he had been compelled to attend the hearings on several dates at his own cost to press for his complaints against SEBI. He had suffered avoidable expenditure in doing so, it ruled.

Ironically, Mehta’s two-year-old struggle with SEBI to gather information about a case of missing shares from the custody of the Bombay stock exchange defaulter committee through two RTI queries met with little success as SEBI officials replied that the matter was sub judice.

Though he decided to withdraw the CIC appeals, he urged the CIC to consider his complaints against SEBI, as the incomplete information provided by SEBI’s public information officer reached him only after 58 days. The RTI act says that a penalty can be imposed on the PIO if there is a delay of more than 30 days in providing information which comes under the ambit of the act.

During the final hearing, the SEBI on its part said the delay was not intentional as the required information was not readily available with the agency and had to be obtained from the BSE. It also said that the information pertained to several transactions which had to be collected and collated and thus the delay. The CIC, after perusing the records and hearing the submission, decided that no penalty needed to be imposed for the delay.

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However the information commissioner, A N Tiwari, who passed the order said that he could not be oblivious to the fact that the delay in this matter had resulted in detriment to the complainant and had impacted his rightful claim to get timely information under the act. It therefore held that he in entitled to a suitable compensation under section 19(8)(b) of the act, the order said.

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