The Central Information Commission has asked the Finance Ministry to respond to a one-year-old RTI application that sought to know the total black money collected by the government after it scrapped old currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000.
However, Chief Information Commissioner R K Mathur spared the Prime Minister’s Office from the penalty under the RTI Act after its officials apologised for the delay in responding to the RTI application.
“The respondent is directed to advise the ‘deemed CPIO’ viz the in-charge of the section concerned to be careful in future and adhere to the timelines prescribed in the RTI Act,” he said.
As per the RTI Act, the commission is bound to impose a penalty on the Central Public Information Officer who has not responded to an RTI application within 30 days and if it is satisfied that the delay is without any reasonable cause or because of mala fide intention.
The case pertains to an RTI application filed by Khalid Mundappilly who had approached the Prime Minister’s Office on November 22, 2016 after PM Narendra Modi announced his decision of demonetisation a few days earlier on November 8. Rooting out the black money problem was one of the reasons cited by Modi for the move.
“Kindly let me know the amount collected as black money,” Mundappilly had asked. However, his query did not elicit any response within the mandatory 30 days period. Subsequently, he lodged a complaint against the PMO before the commission on January 9, 2017.
The application was then transferred to the Department of Revenue on January 25 last year for providing the response, the PMO officials told the commission. Mundappilly told the commission that no response has been received from the Department of Revenue, even after almost a year of the transfer from the PMO.
“The respondent (the PMO officials), during the hearing, tendered their apology for the delay. The respondent stated that there was no mala fide in delayed reply. Time was taken in consulting the section concerned in the PMO regarding the availability of sought for information,” Chief Information Commissioner Mathur noted.
With PTI inputs