BANGALORE: A registrar has the dubious distinction of attracting the highest possible penalty for denying the right to information (RTI).
Under the RTI Act, the Central Information Commission has slapped a fine of Rs 25,000 on Banaras Hindu University registrar N Sundaram.
His offence: he did not make available to applicant Dhananjay Tripathi an inquiry report on incidents leading to the death of Yogesh Roy, a student, in January. This is the first instance where the CIC has levied the maximum penalty.
The full penalty has to be paid by the registrar in the form of a DD within 15 days. If he fails, the V-C will recover the penalty amount from Sundaram’s salary as per CIC’s directive.
The commission noted: “The only contribution of the registrar in meeting the requirement of the applicant was delay and denial of information. He has never spelt out the valid grounds of rejection of the applicant’s request.”
The CIC held the submissions made by the registrar in response to the show-cause notice as “quite superfluous and explains nothing.”
Sundaram had given a 9-point reply. Tripathi filed an application under RTI seeking the inquiry report of professor Harikesh Singh.
This probed into incidents on January 11 and 12, 2005, including the death of Roy, a student at Sir Sunder Lal Hospital attached to the university.
But Sundaram, who is in charge of administration and the appellate authority under RTI, rejected the application and the subsequent first appeal.
He also communicated his reply 86 days after the date of the application, which is almost two months after the statutory 30 days.
Tripathi appealed before the CIC and the registrar was directed to provide the inquiry report within 15 days.
But BHU V-C Panjab Singh told the commission that the university’s executive council had resolved not to accept the findings of the report.
Still, the commission directed the V-C to make public the report with the proviso that the university had rejected it. But the report was never made available.
What section 20 (1) of the RTI Act states:
Where the CIC or the SIC 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 has without any reasonable cause refused to receive an application for information or has not furnished information within the time specified or denied the request with mala fide intention 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 Rs 250 each day till application is received or information is furnished. However, the total amount of such penalty shall not exceed Rs 25,000.