Salary For Imams| Very Serious Matter Of Withholding Legitimate Information: CIC Comes Down Heavily On Delhi Govt
The Central Information Commission (CIC) in its recent hearing arising out of a non-compliance with its order dated November 25, 2022, where it had directed the Delhi Wakf Board (DWB) and Delhi's Chief Minister's office to disclose the information on honorarium/salary being paid to the Imams and others in mosques of Delhi, noted serious non-compliance of its order and withholding of the legitimate information from the RTI appellant.
"The Commission observes that this is a very serious matter of withholding the legitimate information and the non-compliance of the Commission’s order dated 25.11.2022", the CIC said.
Since the representatives of both the Chief Minister's office and the Department of Revenue expressed ignorance about the public authority providing salaries to Imams and others in mosques of Delhi other than those under the control of DWB, the CIC has directed that the matter be placed before the Chief Minister of Delhi "because news-report placed on record clearly indicates that such an announcement to pay salaries to Imams and others also in mosques of Delhi other than those under control of DWB was made by Hon’ble Chief Minister of Delhi".
In its original order, the CIC had said that State giving salaries to Imams is betraying the Hindu community and that the policy of giving special benefits to Muslims led to the partition of the country. It had also said that the Supreme Court's Judgment in All India Imam Organisation & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors. 1993 AIR 2086, was passed in violation of the provisions of the Constitution, particularly Article 27, and had set a wrong precedent.
The Central Information Commission had in its earlier order specifically asked the DWB to reexamine the matter and furnish correct, complete and detailed information and had asked the Delhi CM's office to provide information on queries and also complete information with all related documents on honorariums being paid to Imams and others in mosques of Delhi which are not in the domain of Delhi Wakf Board if needed, by collecting it from the concerned department/body of GNCTD under Section 5 (4) of the RTI Act 2005.
In the present non-compliance Petition, the Information Commissioner Uday Mahurkar noted that the concerned CPIOs of the Delhi Wakf Board and CM's Office provided incomplete information to the Appellant and neither paid the compensation of rupees 25,000 as was directed by the Commission in its order dated November 25, 2022. The Commission also noted that the Appellant had even objected to the remaining replies furnished to him.
The Appellant Subhash Chandra Agrawal submitted to the CIC that the "file notings provided by Delhi Wakf Board (DWB) are incomplete because these were only till 25.04.2019 while the data provided by DWB is up to Financial Year 2020-21, and requested the Commission to direct DWB to provide the file notings till date rather than only till 25.04.2019. He also requested that details of amounts paid (and file notings) after the fiscal year 2020-21 may also kindly be directed to be provided."
Agrawal further submitted that as per the Zee News report dated January 23, 2019, Arvind Kejriwal announced a salary hike for imams of mosques that are outside the domain of Delhi Wakf Board and therefore CPIO at CMO may kindly be directed to place the matter before Hon’ble Chief Minister of Delhi to ensure providing complete information as sought in different points of RTI application regarding payment of salaries to Imams and helpers in mosques of Delhi other than those under control of DWB.
In response, Syed Haider Ali, Manager (HR), Delhi Wakf Board (DWB), submitted that the Delhi Wakf Board is not at fault in the present case and that the appellant had filed RTI with the Revenue Department. DWB further said that they could have answered the queries if the First Appeal Hearing would have taken place.
In response from the CMOs office, Rajeev Kumar, Dy. Secretary stated that there is no such information about the said announcement made by the Chief Minister of Delhi with them, and maybe that the Revenue Department might be having the desired information. The CIC in its order observed that during the hearing, the Department of Revenue (GNCTD) and the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) expressed their ignorance about public authorities providing salaries/funds for Imams and helpers in mosques of Delhi other than those under the control of DWB.
Accordingly, the Commission directed the Department of Revenue to "file within 15 days of receipt of this order an affidavit with the Commission mentioning that neither it provides salaries to Imams and others in mosques of Delhi which are not under control of DWB nor it has information regarding the public authority providing salaries to Imams and others in mosques of Delhi which are not under control of DWB."
The Commission also directed the CPIO at CM Office to place the matter before Chief Minister of Delhi because news-report placed on record clearly indicates that such an announcement to pay salaries to Imams and others also in mosques of Delhi other than those under control of DWB was made by Chief Minister of Delhi. "The CM Office is hereby directed to ensure that CIC-verdict dated 25.11.2022 is complied by all concerned public authorities under Government of NCT Delhi within 20 days of the receipt of this order" observed CIC
The Commission further directed the "CPIO Mr. Syed Haider Ali, Manager (HR), Delhi Wakf Board, to provide the file notings till the date of RTI application i.e. 16.02.2022 rather than only till 25.04.2019". The Commission noted that the data about salaries paid to Imams and others in mosques of Delhi under the control of DWB (together with file-notings) may be provided for up to16.02.2022 i.e. the date of RTI application rather than only up to 25.04.2019 within 15 days of receipt of this order.
On the compensation of Rs, 25,000 to the Appellant, Commission directed the CPIO, Delhi Wakf Board to pay compensation to the Appellant, and if necessary by writing a letter regarding the same to the concerned public authority providing funds to DWB to release the amount.
The Commission also asked its registry to seek information from Principle Secretary to Union Law Minister on action taken, if any, on recommendations made in the CIC verdict and adjourned the matter for July 7, 2023, to ensure compliance with this order.
Case details: Second Appeal No.:- CIC/REVDP/A/2022/152053-UM