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19770TOI feature ---RTI: Information commission lenient on govt depts?

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  • urvashi sharma
    Jul 23, 2014
      RTI: Information commission lenient on govt depts?

      Neha Shukla,TNN | Jul 24, 2014, 04.59 AM IST

      READ MORE State Information Commission|UP State Information Commission|UP Pollution Control Board|Sanjay Sharma|Harpal Singh

      LUCKNOW: Waiving off fine has become a new trend in UP State Information Commission (UPSIC). Here are some cases in which UPSIC has given government departments and officers the leeway.

      Case 1: On April 17, 2014, State Information Commission (SIC) waived off fine imposed on PIO Nath Singh Kushwaha, senior treasurer, Muzaffarnagar, after he said he had given information to applicant Harpal Singh. Applicant's opinion was not sought. Fine was waived off in his absence.

      Case 2: Applicant Urvashi Sharma sought information from UP social welfare directorate on April 3, 2011. SIC took up the case on May 22, 2013. It slapped Rs 25,000 fine on PIO, and put a rider, "PIO can provide information to the applicant and file a counter-affidavit to waive off fine imposed on him in next hearing".

      Case 3: In September 2009, SIC slapped a fine of Rs 25,000 on one S P Misra said to be working with UP Pollution Control Board (UPPCB). PCB denied the said officer ever worked with it. Commission disposed of the case.

      The commission in several recent cases has first slapped fine on PIOs and then waived it off against the provisions of the RTI Act.

      The Right to Information (RTI) Act says that fine should be imposed as the last and the most stringent action against PIO and the case be disposed of first. Also, the erring officer should be given sufficient time to explain slackness on his part before the fine is imposed on him.

      "Fine could be waived off in rarest of rare cases where there is evidence that applicant is lying and PIO is not at fault. But, it can't be a common practice. It's against the spirit and legal provisions of the RTI Act," said former information commissioner, UPSIC, Gyanendra Sharma.

      But, some of the recent orders of SIC have asked penalised officers to provide information and get the fine waived off by appearing personally in the commission.

      "In some of the matters commission waived off the fine without seeking objections from the applicant," said activist Sanjay Sharma.

      The Act rules that a fine of Rs 250 per day?till the information is provided?not exceeding Rs 25,000, is slapped on PIO for giving incomplete, incorrect or misleading information.