For showing a rigid and narrow mindset that does not support transparency in the functioning of public authorities,the Central Information Commission (CIC) has berated the conduct of Upkar Singh,former Director Public Instructions (DPI),schools.
So much so that the Chief Information Commissioner Deepak Sandhu recommended disciplinary action against Upkar Singh. The PCS officer has earned wrath of the CIC for denying information to a teacher demanded by her under the Right to Information Act.
Peeved with Singhs conduct,the Commission has recommended his immediate removal from the post of First Appellate Authority (FAA),Education Department. The Commission has held that Singh needs to be given training under the RTI Act. Also,the Commission has imposed a fine of Rs 5,000 on the UT Education Department for harassing her own teacher.
The directions have been passed on an appeal filed by Sangeeta Rani,a headmistress in a local school. Rani had sought information under Right to Information,on November 11,2011 from the District Education Officer (DEO),Chandigarh Administration. Rani had sought information pertaining status of her case relating to anomaly in pay.
On Novemer 29,2011 the DEO had furnished the requisite information. Not satisfied with the reply,she approached the DPI schools on December 12,2011 who is the first appellate authority but to no avail. She then approached the Commission on January 25 seeking directions to decide her appeal.
The Commission in July last gave two weeks time to the DPI to decide Ranis appeal. Much to her chagrin,her case was not decided. She again approached the CIC on September 17,2012. Surprisingly,the Education Department in its defence took the ground that neither it had received Ranis application nor it had received the Commissions orders.
However,the departments lie was nailed by Rani after she produced a copy of the receipt of e-Jan Sampark Centre and other documents to prove that her appeal and Commissions orders were received by the department.
Rani further alleged that in violation of directions of the Commission,she was never called for hearing by the DPI. Shockingly,the DPI asked her to appear for hearing after a year,as alleged by Rani.
Recording contentions of both the parties,the CIC rubbished the ground taken by the Education Department that it had not received Ranis appeal and Commissions orders. The CIC has issued show cause notices to the concerned Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) and other official who received the RTI application to show cause why penalty should not be imposed upon him/her for not having provided information within the time frame prescribed under the RTI Act.
The concerned officials have been directed to appear before the Commission in second week of November. Commenting on the conduct of DPI,the CIC has ruled,Such an approach is contrary to the true spirit of the RTI Act and is indicative of a very narrow and rigid mindset which does not support transparency in the functioning of public authorities. Recommending removal of Upkar Singh from the post of FAA,the CIC ruled out that Singh be provided training as per relevant provisions of the RTI Act. The Commission has taken strong note of the mental and physical harassment suffered by the teacher and that she had to run from pillar to post in order to obtain the requested information without any success for the last almost two years.
Imposing a penalty of Rs 5,000 on the department,the CIC has directed that information demanded by Rani be furnished within two weeks.