Central Information Commission(Aadhaar) : Order
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
(Room No.313, CIC Bhawan, Baba Gangnath Marg, Munirka, New Delhi-110067)
Before Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu (Madabhushi Sridhar), CIC
N N Dhumane v. PIO, Department of Posts
Order Sheet: RTI filed on 27.07.2017, CPIO replied on 24.08.2017, FAO on 22.09.2017, Second appeal filed on 21.12.2017, Hearing on 27.02.2018;
Proceedings on 27.02.2018: Appellant present from NIC Ahmednagar, Public Authority represented by CPIO. Mr. Sandeep Hadgal, from NIC Ahmednagar:
Date of Decision-27.02.2018: Direction, show cause-issued and posted on 23.03.2018
- The appellant Ms. Nirmala Nishikant Dhumane filed two RTI applications (dates 05.07.2017 and 27.07.2017). In her RTI application dated 05.07.2017, she sought:
“My pension for the month of March 2017 was withheld for want of copy of Aadhaar Card, and now also, l am directed by account branch to submit the copy of Aadhaar Card.
I may kindly be furnished the copy of order vide which the Aadhaar Card is required/essential for pension payment”.
- The appellant filed another RTI application dated 27.07.2017 and stated that this was in continuation of her earlier application dated 05.07.2017. She sought as under:
(i) Copy of the order by which the Aadhaar card is required/necessary for pension payment, and (ii) names of the persons whose pension was held up for want of Aadhaar card for the month of March 2017.
- The CPIO vide letter dated 24.08.2017 gave following response:-
Point No. 1. Xerox copy of order by which the Aadhaar card is required for pension has already provided under the RTI Act 2005 vide this office letter dated 05.08.2017 for your previous application under RTI Act 2005 dated 05.07.2017.
Point No. 2. There was no held-up of pension. However there was delay in crediting pension to their saving bank accounts.
However, for remaining information, it is informed under the RTI Act that as per the Section 8 (1) (j) of the RTI Act 2005, information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of an individual, hence cannot be supplied.
- As some of information was refused on the pretext that it was personal information she was not satisfied and hence filed first appeal saying:
The Senior Superintendent of Post Office (SSP) Ahmednagar has given the misleading information to my application under the RTI Act. Now the question arises why the pension of only 55 pensioners was delayed and how the pension of remaining pensioners was effected on due dates. The SSPO Ahmednagar has given false information. Necessary action against him may be taken.
There was no order on the subject to link up Aadhaar card to pension account. The action of SR Post Master Ahmednagar to withhold the pension of 55 pensioners contravened the mandatory constitutional provisions of affecting payment of pension on first of each month.
The SSP Ahmednagar has not furnished the names of 55 pensioners and he has taken shelter of provisions of Section 8 (1)(j) of the RTI Act. The furnishing names of 55 pensioners does not amount to right to privacy. It is open fact and withholding the names 55 pensioners is a breach of RTI Act 2005.
- The FAA ordered on 22.09.2017, as under:-
The appellant had sought certain information vide her RTI application dated 27.07.2017 under Right to Information Act 2005 from Central Public Information Officer (SSPO’s Ahmednagar Division, Ahmednagar). The CPIOs/SSPO’s Ahmednagar Division had provided the information to the appellant vide letter dated 24.08.2017.
I have gone through the documents relevant to the case and uphold the reply given by the CPIO/SSPO’s Ahmednagar Division, Ahmednagar.
- Not satisfied with the response of the respondents, the appellant filed second appeal contending:-
I sought the information under RTI act 2005 for withholding of pension of 55
Pensioners for the month of March 17.(Copy of my RTI application dated 51712017 and 271712017 are enclosed for ready reference).
The Senior Supdt. of Post Office Ahmednagar had informed vide his letter No ANR/PG/RTI/NND/2017 Dated 241812017 that the names of 55 pensioners cannot be furnished due to unwarranted invasion of the privacy of an individual (copy enclosed for ready reference).
In his letter No. cited above, SSPOS further informed me that there was delay in crediting the pension for the month of March 2017 to the pension accounts of 55 pensioners.
I had preferred appeal to the Director of Postal Services, Pune Region, Pune against the information furnished by SSPOS/SRPM ANR. The director of Postal service informed me vide his letter No. PR/PG/RTI/Appeal-341/2017 Dated 22.09.2017 and upheld SSPO’S reply.
I am not satisfied with the reply of the first appellate authority hence I am submittingsecond appeal to your honour.
The information provided by SRPM Ahmednagar through SSPOS Ahmednagar is totally false.The truth in this case is that the pension of 55 pensioners was withheld for March 2017 due to non-linking up of Aadhaar Card to pension account.
Some of the pensioners of group of 55 pensioners approached the SRPM Ahmednagar on 02.04.2017. He informed them that their pension was not credited to their pension accounts due to not linking of Aadhaar Card. In this case, the SRPM also informed on phone on 31412017 that he did not credit the amount of pension of 55 pensioners for the same reason discussed above.
There were no orders on the subject to link up the Aadhaar Card to pension account and this has been confirmed by him (i.e. SRPM Ahmednagar) to Post Master General Pune on 03.04.2017 that there were no order to link up Aadhar Card. The Sub Regional Post Master(SRPM) Ahmednagar has exceeded his powers to harass the 55 pensioners financially. This resulted to mental torture. Disciplinary action should be taken against SRPM Ahmednagar for taking unconstitutional decision to withhold the pension of 55 pensioners. It is constitutionally mandatory to pay the pension on first of every month and nobody has powers to withhold it.
The SRPM Ahmednagar, had given false information and misguided the appellate authority. Therefore I request you kindly to look into the matter and give me the justice as I am a sufferer among these 55 pensioners for delay in pension payment of March 2017. The Post master general, Pune region, Pune, is protecting the SSPOs and SRPM Ahmednagar and buried the vital issue without taking action against both of them.
Proceedings on 27th February 2018:
- The appellant Ms. Nirmala Nishikant Dhumane stated that she took voluntary retirement from the post office and is receiving pension on 1st of every month; she was told that her pension for month of March 2017 was held up for want of Aadhaar linking up along with 55 other pensioners who were former employees of this public authority; she filed RTI application about ‘linking-up of Aadhaar number to pension accounts’; that they had no authority to link up the Aadhaar Card to her pension account all of sudden without any notice and stop payment for that reason; she suffered agony, various losses due to delay, could not lead normal life as pensioner etc.
- Mr. Sandeep Hadgal, CPIO said that he received circular to link the Aadhaar number with the pension accounts from two of their higher officers. However, he agreed that the circular from Sub Regional Post Master Ahmednagar to Post Master General Pune on 03.04.2017 did not order to link up Aadhar Card without any intimation. He also felt that the SRPM Ahmednagar should not have delayed the payment of pension to the 55 pensioners for not linking with Aadhaar.
- Appellant explained that she was under serious mental apprehension about receiving monthly pension because of Aadhaar, the delay was unreasonable, denial of information on that vital aspect was breach of her right and it was quite illegal to say the names of 55 pensioners would invade somebody’s privacy.
- The respondent authority submitted that pension was not held-up. However, there was delay in crediting the pension to their saving bank accounts. They also submitted that copy of order by which the Aadhaar Card was made mandatory for pensioners has already been provided vide letter dated 05.08.2017, while responding to her applicant dated 05.07.2017. They denied the names of the pensioners whose pension was held up for want of Aadhaar card on the plea that this is personal information of third party.
- It is a matter of life and living of 55 pensioners who were totally dependent upon the paltry amount of pension. Though it is a small amount even a day’s delay in payment might disturb the routine life of all or some of them. That is why the information relating to payment pension to retired persons should be considered and categorised as the information concerning the life and should have been responded within 48 hours. Even if the appellant has not asked for immediate delivery of information, the CPIO, being a senior designated officer has a duty to consider this as information concerning the life and answer within 48 hours. it was not done. The public authority has a duty under contract as per Contract Act, Consumer Protection Act, Trusts Act and also under Right to Information Act to pay the pension in time, rectify the problem of delay promptly or give information immediately to the appellant or pensioners suffering like her. The CPIO has chosen last i.e., 30th day to reply from date of RTI application. This reflects the CPIOs mental rigidity to sit over the file for 29 days doing nothing, just to make use of the facilitative provision. He simply ignored the phrase in section 7 that PIO shall ‘as expeditiously as possible’ but totally exploited ‘and in any case within thirty days’. The CPIO did not bother to examine whether this information could fall under category of “concerning life or liberty”. It is inhuman for the CPIO to be so heartless about pensioner’s problems and request for information. The CPIO should have read umpteen number of the Commission orders explaining why such pension related information should have been given within 48 hours.
- The pensioner-applicant was asking for the list of 55 names of pensioners who suffered like her at the hands of post office. How can that be ‘personal information’ and whose privacy the CPIO was protecting?
- In addition to the above the Postal authorities have a statutory duty to disclose full facts and circumstances along with reasons why they are linking Aadhaar with pension payment, why should they stop payment of pensions for the sake of such linking, why did they not provide for sufficient advanced information to the pensioners, whether such linking order has legal sanctity to be implemented without any advance notice, etc under Section 4(1)(c) and (d). Referring to an order of SC on 15th October 2015 WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO 494 OF 2012 between Justice K S Puttaswamy (Retd) and another v Union of India, a media report stated:
A Constitution Bench led by then Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu had held that citizens cannot be forced to produce his Aadhaar to avail themselves of government welfare schemes and benefits.
It had even hinted that the government risked contempt of court if it chooses to continue to make the Aadhaar number a mandatory condition. But the government seemed to have ignored the court’s warning in this case. A petition filed by the All-Bengal Minority Students Council clearly exposed the defiance.
The petition pointed to a letter addressed by the Centre to States and Union Territories to make Aadhaar a mandatory condition for applying for pre-matric, post-matric and merit-cum-means scholarship schemes. The letter, dated July 14, 2016, plainly directed that “submission of Aadhaar is mandatory” for students.
Staying the implementation of the letter recently, the court directed the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to remove Aadhaar as a mandatory condition for student registration from its national scholarship portal.
It stayed the instruction insisting on Aadhaar from government advertisements for the scholarship schemes.
On October 15 last year, the Constitution Bench had extended the voluntary use of Aadhaar cards to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), pensions schemes, Employee Provident Fund and the Prime Minister Jan Dhan Yojana.
The Bench was modifying an August 2015 order restricting Aadhaar use to only PDS and LPG distribution.
The Constitution Bench had directed that the voluntary nature of Aadhaar would continue now. (https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/aadhaar-purely
- Quoting the order of Supreme Court on 15.12.2017 in WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO 494 OF 2012 between Justice K S Puttaswamy (Retd) and another v Union of India, another media report stated:
The six schemes mentioned in the previous orders are the public distribution scheme (PDS), LPG distribution scheme, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), National Social Assistance Programme (Old age pensions, widow pensions, disability pensions), the Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) and Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO).
The order also quotes Shyam Divan, senior counsel for the petitioners, as having urged that since the interim order dated March 15, 2015 governs the field, it was the obligation of the Centre to seek a variation of the interim directions after the enactment of the Aadhaar Act, 2016 before making it mandatory to uplink or provide details of the Unique Identification Number/Aadhaar card for all purposes.
The order quotes another senior counsel for the petitioner, Gopal Subramanium, as having advanced the submission that the issue involves the paramountcy of the court and of the judicial process. “In the submission of the learned counsel, the exercise of the judicial power in the form of the interim order dated 15 October 2015 (and the earlier orders) was to insulate citizens against any form of compulsion, this being in aid of protecting their fundamental rights”, the order adds. https://thewire.in/205416/supreme-courts-interim-order-aadhaar-fails¬bring-relief-uid-holdouts/
- Because of the above orders of the Supreme Court against linking the aadhaar with more than six categories mentioned, the Postal authorities are expected to explain under what legal authority they have directed the post offices to link their employer’s pension payments with the aadhaar?
- The Commission directs Mr. A. V. Gaikwad, the CPIO to show-cause why maximum penalty should not be imposed upon him for above reasons. The public authority shall explain why it should not be ordered to pay compensation to the appellant for causing delay, loss and harassment her without giving information sought.
- The Commission directs the respondent authority to provide certified copies of circulars/orders by which pension of 55 employees was delayed referring to Aadhaar in the month of March 2017 along with names of all the pensioners whose pension was delayed, within 15 days from the date of receipt of this Order.
- All the explanations must reach to this Commission before 23.03.2018 and the matter is posted for compliance and penalty proceedings on 23.03.2018.
(M. Sridhar Acharyulu)
Central Information Commissioner