New Delhi: The Central Information Commission has directed the finance ministry to reply to a one-year-old RTI application seeking to know the total black money collected by the government post-demonetisation.
Chief Information Commissioner RK Mathur, however, spared the Prime Minister’s Office from the penalty under the RTI Act after its officials tendered an apology 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.
Under the RTI Act, the commission is bound to levy penalty on the Central Public Information Officer who has not responded to an RTI application within 30 days if it is satisfied that the delay is without any reasonable cause or because of mala fide intention.
The case pertains to Khalid Mundappilly who had approached the Prime Minister’s Office on 22 November, 2016 under the RTI Act after Prime Minister Narendra Modi a few days earlier on 8 November announced the ban on currency notes of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500.
Solving the black money problem was one of the reasons cited by Modi for the demonetisation move.
“Kindly let me know the amount collected as black money,” Mundappilly asked.
But his query did not receive any response within the mandatory 30 days period after which he filed a complaint against the PMO before the commission on 9 January, 2017.
The application was transferred to the Department of Revenue on 25 January last year (nearly a fortnight after the complaint was filed) 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.
On query from the commission, the complainant stated that he has not received any response from the Department of Revenue, he pointed out.
“The CPIO, Department of Revenue, is directed to reply to the RTI application as per RTI Act within 30 days from the date of receipt of this order,” Mathur said.