Right to Information – Master key to good governance

Babu penalised for delaying tactics

Posted by rtiact2005 on July 9, 2006

Babu penalised for delaying tactics
Manoj Mitta
[ Thursday, June 01, 2006 01:32:01 amTIMES NEWS NETWORK ]


 NEW DELHI: After coming close to doing it in several cases, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has finally imposed a penalty under the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005.

But even then, the CIC bench headed by its chief, Wajahat Habibullah, stopped short of ordering the officer concerned, Shiv Pujan Chaubey, general manager (personnel and administration) of South Eastern Coalfields, to pay any fine.

Instead, it recommended to the government to initiate departmental action and issue at least a warning to Chaubey for his delay in giving information to a colleague under the Act.

This is nevertheless the first ever instance of CIC enforcing Section 20 of the Act, which provides two kinds of penalties: first, ordering the errant officer to pay a fine up to Rs 25,000 from his pocket and, second, recommending disciplinary action under service rules.

The distinction of enforcing Section 20 for the first time in the country however goes to the information commission of Madhya Pradesh, which passed an order last week not only recommending disciplinary action against the SDO of Gyarspur, Sharad Shorti, but imposing a penalty of Rs 25,000 on a tehsildar, H S Chauhan.

Though the penalty contained in CIC’s order is milder, it is worrisome to the bureaucracy because, while attributing responsibility, it went beyond the hierarchy of officials appointed under the RTI to give information…

 CIC spared the public information officer and the appellate authority of South Eastern Coalfields as it accepted their plea that the seniority and promotions related information sought by the application, Mujibur Rehman, was not in their custody.

CIC hauled up Chaubey because, as general manager (personnel and administration), he was found to be actually responsible for the delay in providing the required information to Rehman.

The Bench comprising Habibullah and O P Kejariwal arrived at its decision to penalise Chaubey after giving him a hearing through a video conference on May 12 between New Delhi and Raipur.

Why did CIC settle for a warning instead of imposing a monetary penalty? “Well, we don’t look at disciplinary action as a lesser penalty.

We recommended a warning because we felt that was the minimum action warranted in the case,” Habibullah told The Times of India.

Chattisgarh-based Chaubey, when contacted, said he was unaware of the disciplinary action recommended against him.

“I thought I had convinced the commission that there was no delay whatsoever in providing information to the applicant,” Chaubey said, adding that Rehman had even been promoted “in the routine course” while his appeal was pending before CIC

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