The Punjab State Information Commission has ordered the office of Punjab Chief Minister to publish on the Internet all records pertaining to the beneficiaries of the Chief Ministers Relief Fund,as required under the provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
It was while hearing an RTI appeal by Hitender Jain,general secretary of NGO Resurgence India,that the commission passed the order. The CM office has also been directed to make available the complete records to the petitioner within two months.
During the hearing,the public information officer (PIO) of the Chief Ministers Office (CMO) said that the information,in question,was related to a third-party and most of it was also not available. The PIO later pleaded that it will take too much time for compiling the information.
Not accepting the contentions submitted by the PIO,the Punjab Information Commission Bench comprising Surinder Singh and Darbara Singh Kahlon held; The information about the beneficiaries is of public importance and comes within the definition of public information. Therefore,not only should the CM office provide it to all,the information should also be proactively published on the state Governments website.
Earlier,the CMs office had refused to divulge information sought by Jain on December 17,2008,on grounds that it was personal information,which had no relation to any public activity or interest. The disclosure,the CMO argued,would seriously jeopardise the confidentiality and social security of the beneficiaries.
Based on information gathered from audit reports,the NGO recently released a report that claims the CMs Relief Fund has been misused. The relief money has been doled out for expenses of the CMs office,grant for foreign tour,sangeet sammelans,treatment of MLAs,press club,bar associations,sports clubs and adventure clubs,among other ineligible beneficiaries,states the report.
The Chief Ministers Relief Fund is utilised as an immediate and forthwith financial assistance to our brethren affected during natural calamities/disasters like floods,draught,earthquake,accidents/incidents resulting in human casualties,loss of property,cattle and crops,said CM Parkash Singh Badals in his public appeals on October 17,2002 and December 31,2004.