DEMANDING a massive fee for providing information to an RTI applicant has cost a Punjab government office dear.
After initially asking the applicant to pay around Rs 1.4 lakh with a claim that the sought information ran into nearly 70,000 pages, Sector 17-based Punjab Dairy Development Board has been left in a spin ever since the move back-fired. Reason: the Information Commission ordered the department to “provide complete information to the appellant free of cost” on account of delay in providing the information.
After the commission’s order, the dairy board only provided a bundle containing a few hundred documents. The board had earlier asked the applicant to pay “Rs 1.38 lakh as charges for 69,000 pages containing requisite information”.
Mohali-based RTI activist H S Hundal, an advocate, had sought information pertaining to the employees, works and expenditure incurred by the board office in Sector 17, Chandigarh, in September last year. After failing to get the information within the prescribed time of 30 days, Hundal filed his first appeal with the board on October 8.
When even the appeal did not elicit a response, Hundal approached the commission in second appeal on November 20. During the first hearing, representatives of the board stated that they had sent a letter to Hundal in October, asking him to pay Rs 1.38 lakh by ordinary post.
“The appellant (Hundal) states that he has not received the said letter. He questions as to why the said letter has been sent by ordinary post whereas earlier, a letter (by the board) asking him to write his name in the postal order was sent to him by registered post,” noted the commission in January.
Commissioner Ravinder Singh Nagi observed, “It appears that the department is not serious to provide the requisite information… therefore, the respondent is directed to provide the information free of cost.”
Recently, the board delivered a bundle containing a few hundred pages to the commission’s office. When contacted, Dairy Development Board director Inderjit Singh said, “We have provided only the relevant information as the applicant stated that he would inspect the other pages in our office.”
Hundal, however, rubbished the claims. “It is a complete lie. I never back-tracked from my demand for full information,” he said.
The commission has adjourned the proceedings till May 14.