Right2Information

Right to Information – Master key to good governance

First penalty case hits roadblock

Posted by rtiact2005 on July 14, 2006

First penalty case hits roadblock

Will not pay fine, file review plea: MCD PIO

Shilpa Venkataraman –
Friday , July 14, 2006

http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=192792

New Delhi, July 13: THE first case in Delhi so far, wherein fine was imposed on an official under the Right to Information Act, has hit a roadblock.

MCD Deputy Commissioner (Shahadra South Zone) S.C. Kohli, whom the Chief Information Commission (CIC) found guilty of refusing information to an applicant, says he will not pay the fine.

“Why should I pay? I was not the DC when the penalty order was issued,” Kohli told Newsline.

Kohli is now the Secretary to the Commissioner, MCD.

Present incumbent Jai Prakash Agrawal, during whose tenure the penalty order was issued, says he will not pay the fine either.

“I took over only on June 1, 2006, four days before the penalty order was issued,” says Agrawal.

The reason for the confusion: the order only mentions the designation of the guilty public information officer (PIO) and not the name. Three officials have held that position between the period since the information became due (December 18, 2005) and the date the penalty order was issued (June 5, ’06).

The order said the guilty PIO would have to pay a fine of Rs 250 per day, “since December 18, ’05”, subject to a maximum of Rs 25,000.

Acknowledging the confusion regarding the name not being mentioned, Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said, “The penalty order is directed to the official (Agrawal) who was holding the post when the order was issued.”

“It has been pointed out that not mentioning the name of the guilty PIO is causing some confusion. We are considering mentioning the name in further orders,” he added.

According to the CIC, the RTI Act does not mention the time frame within which the fine has to be paid.

The case pertains to an RTI application filed by one Ajay Kumar Goel in November 2005 regarding the removal of two weekly markets in Pandav Nagar and Mayur Vihar, claiming that it violated a High Court order. In the order issued last month, the CIC has found the MCD PIO guilty on four grounds: refusing to receive an application, not furnishing information in the time frame specified, malafidely denying the request for information and obstructing the furnishing of information.

However, the two MCD officials concerned in this case claim that the civic body has been wrongly accused. “The order is in blatant violation of the RTI Act and is ultra vires. We are in the process of filing a review petition,” said Agrawal.

According to him, the applicant had without fully exhausting the first appeal appealed to the CIC. “The CIC should have rejected the appeal on this ground. Both the applicant and the CIC have violated the RTI Act,” adds Agrawal.

4 Responses to “First penalty case hits roadblock”

  1. N. Anbarasan said

    The information commissioners sympathetically pass orders to bail the PIOs. When the PIO has to pay the fine can the order be passed by designation?

    Disposal of an appeal can happen after about 5 months from the date of filing an application. It might be more than 7 months when the commission decides to impose penalties. During this period there is every possibility that the PIO may get transferred. In such situation, can the PIO who is in service during the last lap of hearing be fined?

    In my opinion the error is in the order to impose penalty. The information Commissioner should have ordered the penalty by name only.

    N. Anbarasan

  2. captainjohann said

    Sir,
    These hiccups will come in initial stages of the implementation.What is important is that this lacunae is rectified in other areas of country by immediately informing about this to other PIOs and information officers

  3. Manoj k. kamra said

    Sir,

    Guilty PIO can be traced from the date of filing application upto 30 days only.No other person should be fined.
    The decision should specifically mention the name of PIO to be fined.

    Manoj K. Kamra
    Bikaner

  4. Ramesh said

    Sir,

    RTI is an enabling act and there is a need to frame the rules and procedure to tackle such questions. In most of the States, SAPIOs and SPIOs have been listed by designation and not by name. It is very difficult to fix the personal accoutability under such circumstances. Formula must be drawn on commutation of period for the officer(s) concerned by name only.
    The finding of CIC that thee RTI Act does not mention the time frame within which the fine has to be paid is disputed and against the spirit of RTI-2005. Originally there was a provision that the Fine recovery shall be made within Six months from the salary of the concerned officer and execution would be same as a decree of the court. CIC is given all powers of Civil court then CIC is fully empowered to execute the penalty within six months.
    Ramesh

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