Information Officer fined ₹25,000 for not providing details of grievances filed on govt. portal to former CIC
Mumbai: Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s claim of bringing transparency to the administration received a setback, with the State Information Commissioner (SIC) imposing a fine of ₹25,000 on a Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) staff member for not providing information sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act within the time period stipulated for it.
The fine pertains to information sought under RTI by former Central Information Commissioner (CIC) Shailesh Gandhi on November 13, 2015, on the number of grievances filed and redressed on the State government portal, and a copy of these grievances on a CD. “This started a unique passing-the-parcel game,” Mr. Gandhi said.
The government’s General Administration Department (GAD) said it didn’t have the information and forwarded the query to the CMO, which sent it back to the GAD on December 4. On January2, the GAD forwarded the query to the Technical Directorate, saying the portal was developed with the latter’s co-operation. On April 2, 2016, five months after he filed the RTI application, Mr. Gandhi received a reply from the CMO informing him that 9,889 complaints were received between May 1, 2015 and October 31, 2015, and 9,460 of these have been resolved.
‘Portal a facade’
Mr. Gandhi said, “This indicated that the grievance portal is perhaps just a façade, since nobody seemed to know who is dealing with it. The PIO in the CMO gave part-information and claimed the grievances were given in confidence by a foreign government. Grievances are ‘secret’ secrets. Then, the reason for not giving detailed information was put down to intrusion on the privacy of the complainants.” He then filed a second appeal to the SIC.
In its order on November 3, 2017, two years after the application was first filed, SIC Ajit Kumar Jain imposed a fine of ₹25,000 on the CMO’s Public Information Officer (PIO) for the delay in providing information within the stipulated time frame.
During the proceedings, the PIO claimed the CM’s Officer on Special Duty (OSD) Kaustubh Dhavase was looking after the online portal Aaple Sarkar and it was him who had asked her to transfer the application to GAD. The SIC. however, observed that the file had no notings supporting the claim.
National Pension System- Age for Joining 18 Years to 65 years
The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) on 1st November,2017 has raised the maximum age of joining National Pension System (NPS) for the private sector citizens to 65 yrs from the existing 60 yrs. Now any Indian citizen, resident or nonresident, between the age of 60 to 65 yrs, can also join NPS and continue up to the age of 70 yrs in NPS. With this increase of joining age, the subscribers who are willing to join NPS at the later stage of life will be able to avail the benefits of NPS. This initiative will allow a larger segment of the society particularly senior citizens to reap the benefit of NPS and plan for their regular income.
What is NPS?
NPS is a voluntary, defined contribution retirement savings scheme It has been designed to enable systemic savings during the subscriber’s working life. It is an attempt towards finding a sustainable solution to provide adequate retirement income to every citizen of India. All citizens above the age of 18 yrs (up to age of 65yrs) are now eligible
How it works?
Under NPS an individual savings is pooled in pension funds_ These funds are invested by PFRDA regulated professional fund managers as per the approved guidelines in diversified portfolios comprising of Government bonds,bills,corporate debentures and shares. These contributions would grow and accumulate over the years depending on the returns earned on investment made. Besides, under provisions of Income-Tax, an individual making voluntary, contributions under NPS would get an additional benefit up to Rs 50, 000 under section 😯 CCD ( 1B) which would be over and above the ceding limit of Rs 1, 50,000 .prescribed under Section 8OCCE.
Now the increase in joining age will provide the options to the subscribers who are at the fag end of their employment and expecting lump sum amount at the time of retirement but willing to defer their retirement planning for future, may open NPS account and contribute the lump sum corpus to NPS for better fund management by professional fund managers to fetch better returns and plan for the regular income after some time. The following are applicable clauses :
- The subscriber joining NPS beyond the age of 60 yrs will have the same choice of the pension fund as well as the investment choice as is available under the scheme for subscribers joining before the age of 60 yrs.
- The subscriber joining NPS after the age of 60 yrs will have an option of normal exit from NPS after completion of 3 yrs. in the scheme In this case, the subscriber will be required to utilize at least 10% of the corpus for purchase of Annuity and the remaining amount can be withdrawn m lump sum
- In case of such subscriber willing to exit from NPS before completion of 3 yrs in the NPS, he/she will be allowed to do so but in such case the subscriber will have to utilize at least 8O% of the corpus for purchase of Annuity and the remaining can be withdrawn in lump sum. In case of subsscriber’s death the entire corpus with be paid to the nominee.
During the tenure of the renewed policy from March 13, 2010 to March 12, 2011, Purvi had to be hospitalized on July 13, 2010 due to fluctuating blood glucose levels. After she was discharged on July 16, 2010, she lodged two claims, one for the hospitalization expenses of Rs 55,409 and the other of Rs 7,680 towards medicines. The insurer’s TPA, MD India Healthcare Services settled the claims at Rs 47,931 and Rs 3,680 respectively. The deductions were in respect of expenses incurred on purchase of glucometer strips to check the sugar levels. The reason for disallowance was that these were considered as “nonmedical expenses“, and so were not payable under the policy .
Purvi protested against this disallowance, but New India’s Grievance Cell failed to respond to her representation. She filed a complaint before the South Mumbai Forum through the Consumers Welfare Association and sought a direction to reimburse these expenses along with interest and also claimed compensation and costs.
The TPA as well at the insurer contested the case and claimed that the amount had been correctly computed. They claimed that Purvi was not entitled to dispute the amount after having accepted the claim in full and final satisfaction.
The forum observed that the policy conditions had been changed, so a fresh proposal had been taken in 2008. So the new terms under the revised policy would be applicable, which provided for limiting the claim on the basis of the room category. The forum concluded that there was no deficiency in service and dismissed the complaint. Purvi challenged the order, but her appeal was dismissed by the Maharashtra State Commission. Purvi then questioned the orders in revision. The National Commission noted that various clauses of the policy providing for certain exclusions had been inserted in the Mediclaim Policy (2007). The Commission observed that it was beyond comprehension how any claim for medicines could vary with the room category opted for, as medicines treatment would be the same regardless of the room category .
The Commission pointed out that glucometer strips are essential for a diabetic to monitor blood glucose levels and adopt a medical regime to prevent the consequences of elevated or declined blood sugar levels. So it would be wrong to consider the expense on the test to be nonmedical expenses. The deduction of Rs 9,350 on this pretext was held to be wrong.
The National Commission’s bench comprising of justice D K Jain, along with M Shreesha, held the TPA and the insurance company jointly liable to pay the cost of the test strips amounting to Rs 9,350 with interest at 9% from the date of filing of the complaint. Six weeks time was given for compliance of the order. In addition, costs of Rs10,000 were awarded to Consumers Welfare Association for espousing the cause of the consumer.
(The author is a consumer activist and has won the Govt. of India’s National Youth Award for Consumer Protection. His email is email@example.com)
Jehangir B Gai