While the state Department of Industries and Commerce claims it has no record regarding the original ownership of a premium industrial plot at the Industrial Area-B in Ludhiana,the Punjab Information Commission has,however,refused to buy the claim. It has asked the department to either secure the record by reconstructing it or take legal action including registration of a criminal case against the concerned officials.
In a recent order,the states Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) RI Singh and State Information Commissioner (SIC) Harinder Pal Singh have noted that this record is of a permanent nature and the department has not shown any rules under which the record can be disposed of or destroyed. The mere fact that the record is old or that the dealings hands have retired is no valid ground to shut eyes to the loss of a valuable record, the Commission has observed.
Kasturi Lal,a resident of Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar in Ludhiana,had filed an RTI application to the District Industries Centre,Ludhiana,in July 2011. Lal had sought information on three issues relating to the original ownership of plot number 103-R at the Industrial Area-B in Ludhiana. Lal first addressed his query to the general manager,the Public Information Officer of the District Industries Centre.
After his query was not answered,he filed an appeal before the First Appellate Authority – the Director of Industries and Commerce,Punjab. After the information was not provided to him,he filed an appeal in the State Information Commission.
In its reply submitted in the Commission in December 2011,the department stated in the court of the State Information Commissioner (SIC) Kulbir Singh that the relevant record is very old and not traceable. The SIC directed the department to search for the record and also conduct an inquiry regarding its loss. After Kulbir Singhs superannuation,the matter came up before the bench of the Chief Information Commissioner,and the department submitted in February 2012 that the inquiry was still going on.
In the recent hearing held regarding the case,the department stated that the Inquiry Committee constituted to look into the loss of record has completed its investigation.
The Committee concluded that the file had gone missing since 1984,and that all the dealing hands who had handled the case file since then have retired. The department said that hence,no legal action could be initiated against them at this stage. A copy of the Inquiry Report was also placed on record before the Commission. On these grounds,the department requested that the case be closed.
The Commission has refused to accept the stand taken by the department. The CIC and the State Information Commissioner observed that loss of record is a serious matter,and have asked the department to take concrete measures in this regard. The Commission has sent a copy of the order to Principal Secretary,Department of Industries and Commerce,and has closed the case.