Can’t find the missing file? Go, reconstruct it!

VINITA DESHMUKH – Information Commissioners usually ask PIOs to lodge an FIR in the police station in case a file goes missing. In one case under the RTI, the CIC asked the PIO to ‘reconstruct’ the missing file to facilitate justice to a doctor allegedly involved in a criminal case

When Jugal Kishore, a Delhi resident asked for the file pertaining to a show cause notice of one Dr Prashant Kumar of Lok Nayak Hospital, he was denied information by the Public Information Officer (PIO) stating that the file was ‘missing’. When Kishore went in for an appeal, the First Appellate Authority (FAA) ignored his request. He then filed asecond appeal to the Central Information Commissioner (CIC).
The CIC ordered the PIO and FAA to search for the ‘missing’ file and lodge a first information report (FIR) at the police station about the missing file. Two years went by and yet the file could not be found and FIR was also not lodged. Considering that Dr Kumar’s fate lay in the finding of that file, CIC M Sridhar Acharyulu in a historic decision asked the hospital to ‘reconstruct’ the missing file in February 2014.
The CIC stated, “Earlier, the Commission did not direct the Respondent to recreate the file. Since the Commission found that Respondent Authority was not successful in tracingthe file, it is necessary in the interest of providing required information by the Appellant, which might help him prove the innocence of Dr Prashant Kumar, directs the PIO to collect the information from different sources to reconstruct the file of Dr Prashant Kumar as far as possible. The Appellant too offered to cooperate with the PIO in reconstructing the necessary documents to prepare the file of Dr Prashant Kumar.”
Following is the chronology of this interesting RTI case as projected in theCIC order of 24 February 2014.

  • Kishore filed an RTI application dt.9.4.12 with the PIO, Lok Nayak Hospital (under Section 7 of the RTI Act) seeking information against nine points with regard to show cause notice issued to Dr Prashant Kumar He had also filed another RTI application regarding payments made to Dr Kumar
  • On not receiving any reply for both his applications he filed an appeal the Appellate Authority reiterating his request for information
  • The Appellant, Kishore, made a second appeal stating that PIO has made it a standard practice to say records are not available and FAA has made it a practice not to respond or give any hearing.
  • During the hearing, Dr Deepak Kumar Singh, Respondent Officer submitted that records pertaining to Dr Prashant Kumar are not available. Kishore submitted that since Dr Prashant is in prison, he is seeking information on behalf of Dr Prashant Kumar.
  • Kishore submitted that CIC had ordered the Appellate Authority to conduct an enquiry u/s 18(2) of the RTI Act into the whereabouts of the missing personal file of Dr Prashant Kumar. The relevant portion of the order had stated: “…the Commission believes that it will be in the interest of the appellant to remand the case back to the First Appellate Authority with a direction that he/ she conduct an enquiry as per provisions u/s 18(2) of the RTI Act into the whereabouts of the missing personal file of Dr Prashant Kumar, fix the responsibility and take appropriate action against the official found guilty of having misplaced the file. The enquiry report as also the report on action taken based on the outcome of the enquiry to be shared with the Appellant within four weeks of receipt of this order. An FIR too may be lodged with the police about the missing file once it is confirmed that the file remains untraceable. A copy of the FIR may be shared with the Appellant.” However, the hospital did not comply by the order”.
  • The FAA informed the Commission that she had directed Dr Manju Mehra, AMS (Admn) to file an FIR. Dr Manju Mehra, AMS (Admn) informed the Commission that she had not filed the FIR with the police, since she felt that once the enquiry is over the filecan be reconstructed.
  • Since the AMS (Admin) has given the reason for not lodging the FIR, the Commission directed that now that the enquiry has been conducted and enquiry report shared with the Appellant, the FIR may be lodged as directed by the Commission with the concerned branch of Delhi Police and copy of FIR share with the Appellant which was done.
  • All through Kishore reiterated that Dr Prashant Kumar was implicated in a criminal caseand when he sought details of information from personal file of Dr Prashant Kumar which was not made available to him since 2012. The CIC order states, “He filed series of RTI applications and the matter came before Information Commissioner in 2012. The Respondent Authority did not comply with the directions of the Commission. The Appellant filed a non-compliance petition and Commission took a very serious objection and warned the Respondent with serious action considering that as willful violation of law. The Appellant pleaded that this information would help him to prove the innocence of Dr Prashant Kumar in a criminal case implicated by certain persons in the Public Authority. The Appellant also cited fact of missing file and non-compliance of CIC orders as indicators of biased action against Dr Prashant Kumar.”

 

CIC concluded in its order, “This case assumes very serious propositions and it affects the liberty of Dr Prashant Kumar who is totally depending on the discovery of missed file. There is a delay of more than two years in either tracing the file or fixing up the responsibility. The so-called enquiry conducted did not yield any result.  Hence, the Commission is compelled to recommend that the Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) to conduct an independent enquiry without involving officers of Respondent Public Authority and giving an opportunity to Appellant to provide his allegations against some of the officers of Public Authority and to provide innocence of Dr Prashant Kumar. The entire exercise is to be completed within two months of receipt of this order. A copy of the enquiry report along with the action taken shall be shared with the Appellant and the Commission within two weeks of completion of the exercise.”

 

The deadline for the enquiry report to be submitted to CIC is April.

 

Earlier, in a similar case, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner, on 29 July 2009 had directed the PIO to give a copy of the reconstructed file created by using papers and communications received by the appellant.

 

(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet – The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart – Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)

http://www.moneylife.in/article/cant-find-the-%20missing-file-go-reconstruct-it/36921.html

 

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