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Information panel slaps maximum penalty in 24 cases

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Information panel slaps maximum penalty in 24 cases

as reported by Shyam Ranganathan, The Hindu, Friday, Aug 22, 2008

 

CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu State Information Commission has imposed the

maximum penalty of Rs. 25,000 in 24 cases against public authorities

for not providing sufficient and timely information on petitions filed

under the Right to Information Act, according to a study carried out

by an activist.

 

The activist, Madhav V, studied the judgments delivered by the

commission between 2006 and May 2008 and found that it had decided on

the most severe penalties for non-compliance with the Act on

authorities, including the University of Madras and the Highways

Department.

 

In some of the judgments, the commission remarked that the authorities

had deliberately withheld information and engaged in stonewalling.

There were also mentions of the authority concerned not turning up

even after a summons was issued, thus causing the petitioners

hardship.

 

Chief Information Commissioner S. Ramakrishnan said the number of

cases in which penalties were imposed was actually higher; it could be

in the order of 200 and above. The discrepancy in the numbers shown by

the study was because the penalties were not imposed with the

judgments in some cases, he said. An opportunity was given to the

respondents to explain why the penalty should not be imposed on them.

When the public information officers (PIO) did not give satisfactory

answers, the commission had imposed penalties later.

 

While the penalties are a useful deterrent against the erring

authorities, there has been no follow-up on whether the penalties were

actually enforced. In a case in which the commission had imposed a

penalty on the Highways Department, the petitioner said a friend had

actually filed another petition to know whether the penalty was

enforced. No reply has been obtained from the public information

officer on this petition, he said.

 

Mr. Ramakrishnan, however, said new staff had been appointed to the

commission, and a person would be directed to follow up on all

judgments to ensure the directions were carried out.

 

The Hindu : Tamil Nadu / Chennai News : Information panel slaps maximum penalty in 24 cases

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