As per Section 20(1) of the RTI Act, the CIC or the SIC, has the powers to impose a penalty on the PIO, while deciding on a complaint or a second appeal.
Penalty can be imposed, if the PIO has:
The amount of penalty shall be Rs. 250.00 per day, till the information is furnished or the application is received, subject to a maximum of Rs. 25,000.00. The penalty has to be paid by the PIO from his salary and not by the Public Authority. The CIC or the SIC will give the PIO a reasonable opportunity to be heard before the penalty is imposed. However the burden of proving that he acted reasonably shall be on the PIO.
Under Section 20(2) of the RTI Act, the CIC or the SIC can also recommend disciplinary action as per the service rules applicable to the PIO.
The First Appellate Authority (FAA) or the Public Authority (PA) are not subjected to any penalty clause under the RTI Act.
Though the Act states that the burden of proving that PIO acted reasonably and diligently shall be on the Public Information Officer.1) ” Therefore, it can be interpreted by the Information Commissioner that the PIO “knowingly” committed his actions of omission or commission, and it is for the PIO to produce evidence that he did so unknowingly. However, CIC has many a times interpreted in favor to PIO stating that “If there was no malafide in denial of information in servicing requests for information and that the refusal stems from a genuine conviction within the public authority that the information was exempted from disclosure, the CIC has not imposed the penalty.
Further, remember that Section 7(1) allows only for 30 days for responding to an application under the RTI Act from the date of receipt to the date of dispatch of the information. It does not allow for 30 working days. 2)
In the following explanations, Reply, statements & Comments furnished by the Public Information Officers (PIO) / Deemed PIO’s were not accepted by the CIC during hearing on the issue of delay in furnishing information under RTI Act.
The following explanations, Reply, statements & Comments furnished by the Public Information Officers (PIO) / Deemed PIO’s were accepted by the CIC during hearing as reasonable cause under RTI Act and drops the penalty proceedings.
Under Section 19(8)(b) of the RTI Act, the CIC or the SIC, can require the Public Authority to compensate the complainant/appellant for any loss or detriment suffered. The complainant/appellant should be able to justify the claim for compensation as well as the amount of compensation sought.
It is recommended that the complainant/appellant specifically include a “prayer” or “relief sought” in his Complaint or Second Appeal, in case he wants the CIC or the SIC to impose penalty under Section 20(1) or recommend disciplinary action under Section 20(2).
Similarly, if a compensation is sought from the Public Authority, the complainant/appellant should make a specific mention in “prayer” or “relief sought” as well as give justification for seeking compensation and the the amount of compensation sought.