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Atul Patankar

RTI Act: Official asks reason for seeking info, fined

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Atul Patankar

As reported by Jasneet Bindra at indianexpress.com on Dec 19, 2009

 

Chandigarh : The little knowledge Punjab officers have of the RTI Act even four years after its implementation can be gauged from the response of the office of Assistant Excise and Taxation Commissioner (AETC), Amritsar. The AETC office asked an applicant to provide his identity and residence proofs, such as PAN and ration cards, to prove that he was genuine, and also sought to know the reason for seeking information. Irked by the lax attitude, State Information Commissioner Lt Gen P K Grover (retd) asked S S Brar, Financial Commissioner, Taxation, to take cognisance of the lapses, and penalised the PIO.

The SIC said, “The respondent has shown utter disregard for the RTI Act. It is amazing to observe that the officer wanted to check the identity of the applicant, authenticity of his address and the purpose for which information was demanded.”

Applicant Yogesh Mahajan of Pathankot had sought information regarding evasion of excise duty and sales tax on October 23, 2008. After he did not receive a proper response, he filed a complaint with the State Information Commission in July.

The SIC directed the respondent PIO to submit an affidavit, as to why penalty should not be imposed on him for the delay— as the information was provided in parts after about a year— and why compensation should not be awarded to the appellant.

Through an affidavit, Harinder Pal Singh, AETC, Mobile Wing, Amritsar, said they had formed an opinion that the information was sought by the third party because the seeker “has no locus standi to call for the information”. “Moreover, the applicant did not provide any evidence related to his residential status, such as a copy of the PAN card, ration card or any other lawful evidence,” he said, adding that since he was concealing his identity, he may not be eligible for seeking information.

Citing the reason for delay, he said after they found out that he was a genuine applicant, the information was furnished. Giving a reply on the show-cause notice, he said the question of compensation does not arise because “the state representative acted in a bona fide manner and did not cause any loss to the applicant”.

However, the SIC said the PIO reacted after over nine months when a notice was issued by the commission and the overall response was insufficient and lackadaisical. Imposing a fine of Rs 10,000 on Harinder Pal Singh, Lt Gen Grover said the amount should be deducted from his salary in two equal installments. He, however, awarded no compensation to the appellant, as he failed to justify the damage suffered by him.

 

Source: RTI Act: Official asks reason for seeking info, fined

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