The Central Information Commission (CIC), 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.

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 CIC 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 Rajkumar, Additional Commissioner Customs & Central Excise, under Section 19(1) of the RTI Act for not providing information for examination required under Section (6)(1) of the Act.

On 04.11.2009 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 15.1.2009, the appellant filed an appeal before the CIC.

The CIC, in its order dated 18th February 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.

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 3 weeks of the receipt of this order”.

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