The Imphal Free Press
IMPHAL, Aug 19: The Manipur Information Commission has upheld the right of the joint secretary, Board of Secondary Education, Manipur, Ph Nandakumar, who is currently under suspension from service, to have access to the report submitted by the enquiry committee which looked into the irregularities allegedly committed by him during his tenure as secretary in-charge of the board.
The commission, acting on a petition filed by Nandakumar, has directed the Board of Secondary Education Manipur, to furnish a copy of the report submitted by the enquiry committee to the petitioner within a period of seven days.
The petition was filed by Nandakumar following the refusal of the SPIO, education department, to furnish the same when sought for under the provisions of the Right To Information Act.
The commission, in its directive issued yesterday, observed that the secretary, BSEM, had submitted to the commission that the matter had been referred to the legal advisor of the board, who opined that the report of the enquiry comittee should be made available only after the completion of departmental proceedings that is being taken up by the board.
The commission in this context made it clear that seeking advice of legal advisor is an internal matter of the board, and cannot be a valid reason for denying the information.
The commission further noted that the information sought does not fail under the exempted category, and even if it is considered confidential, under section 22 of the RTI, which has over-riding effect on all laws, the information can be accessed by the public.
Mention may be made that Nandakumar was suspended from his service as in-charge of the secretary of the BSEM on various charges levelled against him, among others, that of making irregular engagements and appointments for various posts in the board and drawals of his monthly salary at the pay scale of a full time secretary.
A committee headed by Kh Direndra Singh IAS (retd) constituted by the BSEM made an enquiry and submitted the report to the government.
In a related case, the state information commission has also directed that a copy of the action taken report on the recommendations of the state vigilance commission against L Rajmohan Singh, who is currently the controller of examinations and secretary in-charge of the board, should be furnished to Nandakumar.
Suspended officer`s right to access enquiry report upheld :: KanglaOnline ~ Your Gateway
Section 4 (1) (a) provides as under:-
“Every Public Authority shall maintain all its records duly catalogued and indexed in a manner and the form which facilitates the right to information under this Act and ensure that all records that are appropriate to be computerized are, within a reasonable time and subject to availability of resources, computerized and connected through a network all over the country on different systems so that access to such records is facilitated”.
However, there are two catches in the Section. First is ‘subject to the availability of resources’ and second is ‘reasonable time’. The Public Authorities avoids the obligation under the Section on the pretext of non-availability of resources. Further ‘reasonable time’ is also a vague expression. Therefore, S 4(1) (a) is required to amended make it obligatory for every public authority to maintain all its records duly catalogued and indexed in a manner and the form which facilitates the right to information. For this specific time must be prescribed, otherwise no Public Authority is going to take action in this regard. For this, pressure is required to be build up on the Law makers.
However, till the Act is not amended, we all the members of this great forum should file applications under the RTI Act with the different Public Authorities to intimate as to what actions have been taken by them to implement this provision of the Act. If no action has been taken, the reasons under S.4 (1) (d) should be requested. This will atleast create some pressure on the Public Authorities.