The Central Information Commission, in an important order, has directed the Central Excise and Customs department to provide “sensitive” information relating to loss of revenue in the department to an appellant under the Right to Information Act.

It has also directed complaint proceedings to be initiated against the respondents under section 18 of the RTI Act. In addition to the above, the CIC has directed proceedings under section 19 (8) (b) of the act for Rs.1,00,000 in compensation to the applicant.

A Jabalpur resident P. K. Agrawal had sought information from the department in the year 2006 regarding loss of revenue. After being refused information by the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) and the Appellate Authority (AA), he filed an appeal in the Central Information Commission in November last year.

The CPIO Md. Israil had refused the information sought by the appellant on the grounds that the information sought was motivated by individual interest and not public interest. Subsequently the appellant filed an appeal with the AA, who directed the CPIO to re-examine the appellant’s request afresh and pass a speaking order.

Interestingly, the CPIO refused information again, though for different reasons, stating that the information sought was being investigated and providing such sensitive information could hamper the pace and direction of investigations.

The AA upheld the CPIO’s order which led the appellant to file an appeal before Customs & Central Excise Additional Commissioner Rajkumar, under Section 19(1) of the RTI act for not providing information for examination required under Section (6)(1) of the act.

On November 4, last year Mr. Rajkumar rejected the appeal on the grounds that he had no authority to direct the commissioner to provide information as he was junior to the said Commissioner.

Finally, on December 15, 2009 the appellant filed an appeal before the Central Information Commission (CIC).

The CIC, in its order dated February 18, 2010 for the case P. K. Agrawal Vs. Central Excise, Customs and Service Tax Raipur, concluded that both the CPIO and the AA had failed to discharge their duties under the RTI Act.

The order observed that “the CPIO, Md. Israil had not responded to the appellant's RTI-applications. Appellant received no reply from the AA too as his first appeals, both dated September 29,2009 against deemed refusal of his RTI-applications, were rejected by AA, Sri Raj Kurnar on the ground that the appellant had demanded the direction to be issued to Commissioner, Central Excise, Raipur, who was senior in rank to the AA”.

Information Commissioner A. N. Tiwari directed the CPIO to “refer the RTI-request of the appellant to the holders of the information/deemed CPIO - regardless of whether the deemed CPIO is senior to the CPIO or the AA - obtain their response and transmit it to the appellant, within three weeks of the receipt of this order”.