State commission cracks down on information officers who delay providing information to citizens
The state information commissioner recently levied a fine of Rs9,750, to be recovered from the salary of SP Sangane, divisional joint registrar, co-operative housing societies, for delaying information sought under the RTI.
Tarun Ghia, a Mumbai resident, had demanded copies of the orders of appointment of chartered accountants and certified auditors to audit co-operative housing societies, on January 23, 2006. Ghia was provided the required information on April 20 â€” 84 days after the application. Under the Act, only 30 days to provide information is permissible and another 15 days to intimate the applicant about photocopying charges. But even after counting those days, there was still a delay of 39 days.
Ghia then filed a complaint and, in the hearing before the state information commissioner, Sangane cited administrative reasons such as the ongoing assembly session, large number of appeals, urgent notices and the chief officer going on sick leave as causes of delay. State Information Commissioner Suresh Joshi, however, said the reasons did not justify a 39-day delay.
In another case, Gaurang Vora sought information regarding MMRDA projects that required trees to be chopped or replanted, through the RTI Act. The information was delayed by 29 days. SR Nandargikar, superintendent engineer and engineering and information officer, MMRDA was fined Rs7,250 (Rs 250 per day of delay). â€œIâ€™m quite satisfied with the action that the commissioner has taken but the need of the hour is 10 chief information commissioners in the state,â€ Vora said.
Suresh Joshi, chief information commissioner, Maharashtra, said: â€œWe look at the gravity of the case and then impose a fine or order departmental proceedings. If itâ€™s a tehsildar in Gadchiroli, who has very little administrative exposure, then we are lenient and may issue a warning but if itâ€™s a corporator in Pune or Mumbai, who is well aware of administrative responsibilities, we take stricter action.â€
It took the UT Education Department nearly two months to give a non-reply to an application moved under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The question was how many children have been admitted under the weaker sections category. And the reply? â€œThe information shall be supplied in due course of timeâ€.
The questioner was Dharamvir, Chief Coordinator, Bhim Yuva Parishad, of Sector 39-C, who had moved the application under the RTI Act on September 12.
The reply came today.
â€œAfter one month was over, I went to the DPI office. I was told the reply had been already sent. But the truth is that no reply was dispatched to me. After repeated attempts when I met an officer in the department, he handed me the reply. I was shocked after reading it,â€ said Dharmavir.
In the application, Dharmavir had asked five questions:
1. How many private schools in the city have been allotted land on concessional prices.
2. As per the UT Administration, what is the quota reserved for admission to children belonging to weaker sections.
3. What are the parameters required for admitting such children in the schools, like annual income of the parents.
4. How many poor children have been given admission in how many schools.
5. List of the schools in which children belonging to poor sections have been granted admissions.
Apart from the reply to the second and third question, the rest are vague.
In response to the first query, the department has said the information is not available with it and should be procured from the Estate Office. â€œThis is just evading oneâ€™s responsibility. It is clearly mentioned in Section 6 of the RTI Act that any department which doesnâ€™t have a certain information should transfer the application to the concerned department. It is clearly visible from the reply of the DPI that no efforts were made to make a correspondence with the Estate office,â€ said Dharamvir.
The answers to the fourth and fifth questions have been summarised in one sentence - the information will be supplied in due course of time.
â€œWhat do they mean by due course of time? Are they going to take a year to maintain a record? I had just asked them about the data pertaining to this year. Itâ€™s their responsibility to maintain the data,â€ said Dharamvir.
When contacted, DPI (S), Ashwini Kumar said: â€œActually, the application was not sent under proper authority as there was some confusion. I will look into the matter.â€
RTI reply: â€˜Information to be given in due timeâ€™