What is it about Cola drinks that the Ministry of Food Processing Industries is trying to hide?
Ministry officials are apparently willing to pay the penalty imposed by the Central Information Commission rather than reveal details of the ingredients of cola drinks sold in the country.
One year and seven months have passed since RTI applicant S C Agrawal enquired why ingredients of Cola drinks were not printed on Cola bottles. He has yet to get an answer.
Under the Right to Information Act a person seeking information has to get an answer within one month.
This seemingly deliberate delay angered Central Information Commissioner Deepak Sandhu so much that she imposed the maximum allowable penalty of Rs 25,000 on the Ministry official — the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO).
Sandhu directed the Joint Secretary of the Ministry to recover the penalty from the salary of the CPIO.
In her order,Sandhu expressed concern that the CPIO had “held back the RTI application for as long as one year seven months and sought to absolve himself of any responsibility by merely forwarding the Commission’s show-cause notice and RTI application to the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India on June 1,2010.”
Agrawal had petitioned the Information Commission asking why his application of November 2008 had not received any reply from the Ministry. Agrawal had sought to know whether Cola drinks were considered a packaged drink and if so they why were the ingredients not printed on the containers. And why were they allowed to be sold when the ingredients were not mentioned?
But the RTI enquiry received no response from the Ministry and neither did a show-cause notice issued by Sandhu.
The CPIO did not attend the Information Commissioner’s hearing at which she announced the imposition of the maximum allowable penalty against the official concerned.