Public Information Officers beware! Any lackadaisical attitude towards RTI Applicants will cost you fine, at least Punjab Information Commission are after non performers under under Section 20(1) of the RTI Act. If the PIO is unnecessary delaying in conveying the correct State of affairs to the Appellant in regard to his request for information and / or failed to attend the hearing despite registered letters sent by CIC/SIC.
As per Section 20 of the RTI Act 2005, CIC or SIC can either penalize the PIO or recommend Disciplinary action against the PIO. Section 20 of (1) reads as:
"Where the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be, at the time of deciding any complaint or appeal is of the opinion that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, has, without any reasonable cause, refused to receive an application for information or has not furnished information within the time specified under sub-section (1) of section 7 or malafidely denied the request for information or knowingly given incorrect, incomplete or misleading information or destroyed information which was the subject of the request or obstructed in any manner in furnishing the information, it shall impose a penalty of two hundred and fifty rupees each day till application
is received or information is furnished, so however, the total amount of such penalty shall not exceed twenty-five thousand rupees:
Provided that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall be given a reasonable opportunity of being heard before any penalty is imposed on him:
Provided further that the burden of proving that he acted reasonably and diligently shall be on the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be."
Punjab Information Commission are after non performers under RTI
In the present case PIO-Respondent, Sh. Jasdev Singh Sekhon (PIO when the RTI application filed by the Appellant) O/o Municipal Corporation, Ludhiana has not performed his duties under the RTI Act 2005 in keeping with either the letter or the spirit of the statute. SIC also to be noticed that the Respondent-PIO Sh. Jasdev Singh Sekhon has been functioning in a most lackadaisical manner which deserves to be strongly deprecated. Sh.Jasdev Singh Sekhon, (PIO when the RTI application filed by the Appellant) has, therefore, become liable to be penalized under Section 20(i) RTI Act 2005.
Sh. Jasdev Singh Sekhon was directed to submit an affidavit showing cause why action under Section 20(1) of the RTI Act be not taken against him vide order dated 29.08.2013. But, he has failed to attend the hearing despite registered letters sent to him.
SIC noted that
Sh. Jasdev Singh Sekhon- the then PIO was, at the relevant time, holding the position of the PIO. No explanation for delay has been given by him. Rather, his failure to even respond to the show cause direction by the Commission reinforces the fact that he has been without any reasonable cause guilty of remissness in the discharge of his duties. He was, therefore, deserved to be penalized.
As the delay is of more than six months, maximum penalty of Rs. 25000/- could be imposed upon Sh. Jasdev Singh Sekhon, Suptd. the delinquent PIO. However, taking a lenient view, SIC impose a penalty of Rs. 15,000/- (Rs. Fifteen thousand only) on him. He has been directed to deposit this amount in the Treasury before the next date of hearing. Commissioner, Municipal Corporation, Ludhaina was also directed to ensure that in case Sh. Jasdev singh Sekhon, the then PIO does not deposit the amount of penalty, the penalty amount is recovered from the salary of Sh. Jasdev Singh Sekhon and a compliance report in this regard be sent to the Commission before the next date of hearing. The Decision of the Pubjab SIC can be downloaded from here!