New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal spent more than Rs. 30,000 to recover the Rs. 10 fee from an RTI applicant, drawing sharp reaction from the CIC which said it was a case of “penny wise pound foolish”.
“After hearing story of spending for legal battles to deny information up to Rs. 30,000 for an IPO of Rs. 10, the proverb ‘penny wise pound foolish’ has to be rewritten as ‘rupee wise and thousand foolish’,” Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said in his order.
The appellant had paid the fee of Rs. 10 in the form of court fee stamp, which the NGT said cannot be realised by their office, and thereafter, the office wrote to the appellant to pay the Rs. 10 fee in the form of IPO or demand draft.
He was also asked by the NGT to collect the information from their office. During the hearing it emerged that neither the copy of the letter nor proof of dispatch was presented to the Commission.
When Acharyulu questioned the standing counsel of the NGT, whether around Rs. 50 was spent on writing a letter asking for Rs. 10, the counsel said ‘yes’.
“If the appellant, as asked pays Rs. 10 by IPO/DD, NGT would spend another Rs. 50 to send back information. If appellant paid Rs. 10, NGT’s loss still remains Rs. 40. If information is dispatched, cost will go up to Rs. 100,” Mr Acharyulu said.
The Commissioner said instead of all this spending CPIO should have sent the information sought. The learned counsel said if not the audit would object why money due to government is not collected, he noted.
Acharyulu pulled out a certified copy of a document from NGT regarding engaging an advocate for their RTI cases.
As per this rate, the advocate is paid Rs. 31,000 as retainer per month, Rs. 700 for conveyance for conference, Rs. 11,000 for conducting first appeal and Rs. 21,000 for second appeal plus 10 per cent clerkage charges besides miscellaneous expenses, the Commissioner pointed out.
“The NGT pays Rs. 31,000 as retainer, Rs. 11000 plus Rs. 21,000 for first and second appeals asking its advocate to present ‘expert argument’ how absence IPO for Rs. 10 is stumbling block to furnish information about selection and rejection of candidates for some post,” he said in the order.
The Commission said this reflects lack of concern for transparency and also for public money and leaves common man wondering reasonability of this attitude.
“Is it worth spending Rs. 33050 plus to deny information? Because of such attitude, doubts raise about ‘fairness’ of process for recruitment for Group D-Multi Task Staff. This also indicates a dire need for to sensitise personnel in NGT to break this kind of mindset of denying the RTI at the huge cost of state exchequer,” he said.