CIC Order Against Missing Files Reveals ‘Cat Allowance’

The Chief Information Commissioner was astonished to find out that there is a provision of allowance for rearing cat in the office to protect files from rats, in a missing files case.
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Madabushi Sridhar

New Delhi:  It is difficult to protect the records in government offices. The threat to records comes from rats, termites and negligence of employees. Rats will have lunches and dinners not only in FCI godowns but also in many offices of the Government both at Centre and States. When the menace of rats is threatening the existence of files, the office has a provision to maintain a cat, which eats the eaters of records.  Do you know that the government has a provision of allowance for rearing a cat in their office?

This was revealed by a senior IAS officer Mr Bharatendra Singh Baswan to the Central Information Commission while representing the case of Mr Vijendra Singh Jafa. The Commissioner directed Central Public Information Officers (CPIOs) to provide documents sought within 45 days and also initiated penalty proceedings by issuing show cause notice to CPIOs. The Commission also recommended the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT), the nodal agency for implementation of RTI Act to develop a comprehensive set of guidelines to handle the problem of missing files.

The appellant Jafa asked details of the case if any pending against him. He gave specific numbers of the file and date pertaining to the year 1995 in which a complaint against him was proposed to be inquired. The file referred was a letter written in 1995 by Joint Secretary of Ministry of Tribal Affairs to Joint Director CBI asking for ‘details of the case, if any against Mr Jafa. The PIOs of MoSJE, MTA and Vigilance unit kicked the RTI application to each other offices, without yielding any information. All the authorities have claimed that files sought were not found.  The PIOs of these departments did not take any initiative to coordinate with each other, trace the records or inform the appellant.

Mr Jafa, retired 20 years ago, claimed that he did not commit any wrong, and requires to get a clean chit. Department either should complete the inquiry and inform the result or drop the process to relieve him of the blame. Mr Baswan represented that his friend Mr Jafa was very honest and courageous officer who filed a complaint against his superior holding the position of Director of the Department, after duly ascertaining the allegations in the preliminary inquiry, and that director has retaliated by filing baseless complaints against him. Section 52 of the Manual of Office Procedure, 2015 published by Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances dealing with Records Retention Schedule mandates every public office to preserve records until they can be destroyed according to prescribed schedule. Manual holds the ‘dealing hands’ (clerks having custody of records} responsible for the preservation of records.

Causing disappearance of evidence of the offence is an offence under Section 201 which prescribed punishment up to 7 years. Section 6 of Public Records Act imposed specific obligations to maintain records and Section 7 says Records Officer cannot remove without authorisation. As per section 8, they cannot destroy the records. If these sections are violated it might lead to imprisonment up to five years and also the fine. It is not known whether any officer enquired into the unauthorized removal of records. The cause of files missing should be established. If it is negligent or malicious, the responsible officer should be made liable.

(Based on CIC decision in Vijendra Singh Jafa v PIO of MoSJE CIC/MOSJE/A/2017/181342 on 25.5.2017)

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