Hardly any Info officer pays penalty

Between 2007 and February 15,2011,the State Information Commission (SIC) imposed fines on public information officers (PIOs) of various departments across the state to the tune Rs 1.89 crore in more than 800 cases.

Written by Prashant Pandey | Allahabad | Published: September 8, 2012 7:42:42 am

Between 2007 and February 15,2011,the State Information Commission (SIC) imposed fines on public information officers (PIOs) of various departments across the state to the tune Rs 1.89 crore in more than 800 cases. The fines were imposed for giving incomplete or wrong information,besides unexplained delays,in providing information sought under RTI Act. However,these fines,to be realised by the state government and deposited in the exchequer,were recovered only in 18 of these cases.

The information,which is now part of a PIL in the Allahabad High Court,has been furnished by the Administrative Reforms Department in response to an RTI application.

The PIL,filed by Saleem Baig,a social activist from Moradabad,sought directions from the high court for realising the fines from the officers concerned. It has sought a CB-CID inquiry of the circumstances under which these fines were not realised from the officials.

A division bench of Acting Chief Justice Amitava Lala and Justice P K S Baghel on August 31 issued notices to the SIC,the state government and the Administrative Reforms Department wanting to know the circumstances under which these amounts were not realised. It has given three weeks’ time to the respondents.

“The court has also directed the petitioner to file a supplementary affidavit saying that various departments across the state were yet to begin disclosing public information — like processing of various applications,their status and the total number of pending cases etc — on their websites,” said D K Tiwari,counsel for the petitioner.

As per information furnished,a total of 827 public information officers were imposed fines of varying amounts not exceeding Rs 25,000 in the given period. The total amount of fines imposed during the period concerned was Rs 1,89,31,050. But the total fine amount realised was only Rs 3.39 lakh from 18 PIOs.

The information also reveals that of the 827 cases,the maximum cases of fines pertained to the rural development department (around 125),mostly on Block Development Officers (BDOs). Some of the other departments with high number of such cases were Revenue (79),Secondary Education (82),Basic Education (65),Labour (66),Urban Development (62),Panchayati Raj (59) and Higher Education (35).

Baig filed an RTI application with the Administrative Reforms Department on February 24,2011,seeking information on fines imposed and recoveries made in this regard since the constitution of the SIC in 2005 to February 15,2011.

“However,the information initially provided by the department was incomplete,following which the petitioner approached the SIC,which directed the administration to provide complete information. So far,however,the department has provided details of fines imposed only from 2007 till February 15,2011. This information was supplied early this year,” said Dr Tiwari,adding that it took a few months to prepare the petition.

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