Thursday, May 24, 2018

Rajasthan Patrika journalist denied PF; CIC asks Jaipur EPFO office for prompt action

Moneylife: National: Thursday, May 24, 2018.
In a recent order, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has ordered the regional office of Jaipur’s Provident Fund office to examine whether all journalists of Rajasthan Patrika Pvt Ltd, eligible for provident fund, have been denied the amount, like Arun Kumar Bhati, who has not received PF for three years as his contribution as well as that of the newspaper were not deposited with Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO).
Journalist Arun Kumar Bhati, who worked for Rajasthan Patrika used Right to Information (RTI) to find out whether contributions from his employer were credited in his PF account between 2013 and 2016. The Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) replied that it was indeed credited and the appellate authority upheld the information given by the CPIO. However, Bhati went into second appeal on the basis of wrong and misleading information provided to him.
Bhati, at the recent CIC hearing, through video conferencing, stated that he worked in Rajasthan Patrika from 2013 to 2016 but the employer did not credit his contribution and employer’s matching contribution into his PF account for those three years. The CPIO did not give any information regarding this non-crediting of PF contribution, stated Bhati, but instead gave information about contributions for an irrelevant period, which he did not ask for.
CPIO GN Chawla of EPFO regional office stated during the hearing that no PF account of Bhati was found for 2013 to 2016. However, after Bhati’s RTI application, he said he had initiated proceedings against Rajasthan Patrika under Section 7-A of the Employees’ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952. He informed that, during the inquiry, it was clear that Bhati had worked for this newspaper organisation, had a PF account and was eligible for PF payment. Hence, a proper action has been initiated on this matter.
Central Information Commissioner Prof M Sridhar Acharyulu condemned the delay from the EPFO, who did not initiate any action until the second appeal came up for hearing.  He observed in his order: “The only core area of function and legal duty of EPFO is to protect the PF money and interests of the employees from the mischief of employers. When this journalist’s RTI application reflected the complaint of non-payment, the public authority should have acted immediately and the resultant information should have been given to him within 30 days or some more reasonably extended time with intimation. They have conveniently ignored this duty and left him with incomplete and irrelevant information within the first month.”  
“The RTI Act was made to demand accountability, to make a public authority to act as per their statutory responsibility and to demand reasons for their inaction. Perhaps several journalists might have been deprived of their PF entitlements because of such non-crediting of the contributions into their respective PF accounts.’’ He ordered the CPIO to examine the fate of other such journalists working in Rajasthan Patrika.
Prof Acharyulu, referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to the public authorities to listen to suggestions of the people, observed in his order, “The EPFO should have listened to the problem reflected in the RTI application and acted upon immediately and should be uploaded on web portals of the concerned departments and ministries ( PrintRelease.aspx?relid=177045 ).”
CIC has directed the CPIO to provide certified copies of the entire file regarding their investigation under section 7-A to the appellant before 23 May 2018, free of cost and also directed him to intimate the progress and final action, besides the possible time of crediting the PF amount to the applicant.
He has also directed GN Chawla and the then CPIO as on date of the RTI application, (if he is not the CPIO), to show-cause why maximum penalty should not be imposed upon him for not furnishing the information sought.