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‘Honest’ power official admits knowing nothing about RTI, info panel forgives him

Atul Patankar

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As reported by Rajni Shaleen Chopra at indianexpress.com on Nov 04 2011


At the Punjab Information Commission, honesty pays.


An official of the Punjab State Power Corporation Ltd (Powercom, the erstwhile Punjab State Electricity Board) who admitted to complete ignorance of the RTI Act has been forgiven after he promised to be vigilant in the future.


However, two senior officers of other departments who tried to shirk responsibility when it came to providing information sought by RTI seekers have been imposed a penalty of Rs 10,000 each by the Commission.


Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Samrala Jasbir Singh has been directed by Punjab Information Commission to deposit Rs 10,000 in the state treasury for not giving information sought under RTI by a Ludhiana resident during his previous tenure as District Transport Officer (DTO), Amritsar.


In another case, District Food Supply Controller (DFSC) Hoshiarpur, Rakesh Bhaskar deposited Rs 10,000 in the state treasury after being penalised by Information Commissioner PPS Gill.


As DTO Amritsar, Jasbir Singh was the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the department, designated under the RTI Act. The SDM, who appeared in the court of Information Commissioner PPS Gill on October 31, claimed that while he was the DTO, the RTI information sought by one Jasbir Singh in November 2009 never came up before him. The Information Commissioner penalised the SDM after observing that this claim did not absolve him of his responsibility to ensure that the information was provided.


The Commission also directed the present DTO of Amritsar, Vimal Setia, to take disciplinary action against a clerk Harjinder Kumar of his office for making a wrong statement in the Commission. Kumar misled the Commission by claiming that Jasbir Singh was now SDM Ajnala. Based on this information, in September the Commission sent a show-cause notice to Jasbir Singh at his Ajnala address though he was posted at Samrala.


In the Hoshiarpur case, the District Food Supply Controller’s office delayed information sought under RTI Act to Kuldip Kumar Kaura of Ludhiana. Kaura had sought information on May 25, but it was given to him on September 8. The Commission noted that the reasons given by the DFSC for the delay were “deficient and vague”, and hence the officer was being penalised for showing scant respect for the RTI Act or the information-seekers.


Meanwhile, a Junior Engineer of Powercom was forgiven by the Commission on October 31 after it was proved that there was no malafide intention in the delay of 10 months in giving the information sought by RTI applicant Achhra Singh at Nabha.


The order delivered Information Commissioner Ravi Singh records that the JE said “he was earlier not familiar with the fact that RTI Act, 2005, and came to know of it recently during the movement of Anna Hazare.” The JE’s ignorance was further proved when he claimed that no one was designated as the PIO or Assistant PIO in their office. The Powercom website gives an exhaustive list of its PIOs and APIOs at its offices all over the state.


The JE added that the inordinate delay in giving information was caused due to frequent shifting of the office premises, and non-availability of adequate infrastructure, but the department would be vigilant about all RTI queries henceforth.


Information Commissioner Ravi Singh recorded that penalty was not being imposed since no malafide was suspected on part of the department for delaying the information. However, she sent a copy of the order to Chairman Powercom to ensure that all its employees are duly educated about the RTI Act.

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