Haryana’s State Information Commission has directed that a bailable warrant be issued against the State Public Information Officer (SPIO) for allegedly failing to furnish information requested by an RTI activist, and not responding to a showcause notice issued by the Commission seeking his presence during hearings on the matter.
The matter pertains to an RTI filed by activist Ramesh Yadav in October 2018, seeking information about action taken by the Department of Town and Country Planning against unauthorised colonies in Gurgaon. With officials allegedly failing to respond, Yadav had filed an appeal to the Commission in March this year.
The matter had come up before the Commission on June 20 and August 2 this year, when SPIO Ved Prakash Sehrawat, who is also DTP (Enforcement), was directed to inspect relevant records and furnish information to the activist. He was also directed to be “personally present” on the next date of hearing, November 15.
In an order passed on that date, the Commission stated that the case file had been “perused” and the SPIO had “neither furnished any information to the appellant nor has he replied to the showcause notice”.
“The Commission further observed that the respondent SPIO never attend the hearings in the Commission, which shows that the respondent SPIO has no regards for effective implementation of the RTI Act, 2005,” states the order, going on to direct that a notice be issued against the SPIO under Section 18 (3) of the RTI Act, 2005.
“A copy of this order shall be endorsed to Dy. Commissioner of Police (HQ), Gurugram for executing the bailable warrant… The Dy. Commissioner of Police (HQ), Gurugram is hereby also directed that after serving the bailable warrant… to respondent, report be sent immediately to the Commission for necessary action,” it added.
The order also directed the SPIO to be personally present, along with his reply to the showcause notice, on the next date of hearing on March 11, 2020, “failing which the case will be decided on merits without giving him any further opportunity to be heard”.
Emphasising the importance of SPIOs following protocol,
the Commission directed the Director General, Town and Country Planning, Haryana, to “issue necessary directions to SPIOs in his department to attend the hearings in the Commission regularly whenever asked”, to ensure appeals are decided on time.
Speaking to The Indian Express, SPIO Sehrawat denied the allegations, claiming he had written to the Commission seeking an exemption.
“I had sought exemption in this case and had also responded to the Commission via email, but this seems to be a case of miscommunication. They may not have received the email, which is why they have issued this order,” he said.
When contacted, DCP (Headquarter) said he could not provide an update about the matter offhand.