Rs 25000 penalty on SKUAST-K PIO for ‘disregarding RTI’
CIC seeks explanation from VC
Srinagar, Aug 23: In a first judgment of its kind, the State Information Commission has slapped a penalty of Rs 25000 against the Public Information Officer of the SK University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology-Kashmir (SKUAST-K) after holding him “guilty of showing total disregard” to the J&K Right to Information Act of 2009.
Disposing off a complaint in the case of Syed Nasrullah Shah, Sampat Prakash, others versus SKUAST-K, the Chief Information Commissioner GR Sufi has ruled: “Having found no reason not to provide information from 1st October 2010 till date, I hereby hold the PIO Abdul Karim Najar who is Assistant Registrar (L) in SKUAST-K to be in default in terms of Section 17 of the RTI Act, 2009.”
The CIC said “it has been one of the rare cases where PIO has not provided information even after Commission was seized with the matter.”
“The PIO is thus guilty of showing scant respect and total disregard to the provision of the Act which is mandated for bringing transparency in the system and society. If erring and defaulting officers are not brought under the net of RTI Act provisions, the undersigned would be failing in his duty to uphold and safeguard the mandate of the state legislature and ensure that the writ of law is established,” the CIC ruled. “Accordingly, excluding the period from 01-07-2010 to 30th September 2010, which is considered as disturbance period in Kashmir Valley, a penalty of Rs. 25000 is imposed on the PIO.”
The CIC has made the calculation on the basis of number of days in default from 01-10-2010 to 19-08-2011 (323 days). The penalty for each day of delay is Rs 250 and maximum of Rs 25,000. “The imposition of penalty is restricted to 100 days only which means Rs 25000,” Sufi ruled.
The CIC has asked the “Drawing and Disbursing Officer of SKUAST-K to ensure deduction of this amount from the salary of Abdul Karim Najar and remit it to Government Account with an intimation to this Commission. In case of any default by DDO, he will be personally liable for making the payment. This order has to be complied within 15 days,” the CIC ruled on Tuesday.
The complainants have also claimed compensation under the Act. The CIC has however ruled that they are required to prove how delay in furnishing information has caused any loss to them.
“The public authority, the Vice-Chancellor of SKUAST (K) is also required to explain why compensation may not be awarded,” the CIC has ruled.
The complainants Nasrullah Shah, Sampat Prakash and others had filed a complaint before the SIC against the SKUAST PIO, complaining therein that they had filed an RTI application on 28 May 2010 which was received in the office of Registrar, SKUAST (K) on 31 May 2010.
The Registrar being the First Appellate Authority himself had forwarded the application to the PIO.
Though during the proceedings before the Commission on 13-05-2011, the PIO initially did not confirm the actual date of receipt but the complainants produced evidence confirming the date.
“The PIO did confirm that the information was to be provided or denied to the applicants by 30-06-2010 which the PIO claims to have been given on 10th of May 2011, thus causing the inordinate delay in passing an order u/s 7 of the Act,” the CIC ruled. “Therefore penalty proceedings were initiated and the PIO was given reasonable opportunity to explain why penalty many not be imposed for delaying the information.”
The PIO, SKUAST vide his communication on 26-05-2011 submitted that the Information Seeker had submitted application to Registrar, SKUAST (K) on 28-05-2010 instead of addressing the same to the PIO.
The PIO submitted that immediately after submission of application, the valley faced turmoil for about 4 months w.e.f. June 2, 2010 and that information for about 9 years was to be retrieved from various stations/Units of the University. “The SKUAST-K is a multi-campus university with stations/units at far flung areas like Gurez, Kargil, Leh Pombay Kulgam, Kupwara, Bandipora, Balpora Shopian, Khudwani Anantnag, Wadoora Sopore and Mansbal. Therefore, the information was to be retrieved by the University from these units and then compiled. Kargil, Leh, Gurez units remain cut off during winter months, the information could not be received, as no fax facilities was available at these offices,” the PIO claimed. “In the meanwhile, the information which became available was sent to the applicants on 10-05-2011.” The information was, however, only partial.
The PIO submitted that “efforts were made by to retrieve the remaining information from these units and accordingly rest of the information after its receipt from the units was sent to the applicant through speed post.”
Regarding another communication on 22-02-2011 addressed to the PIO, the PIO claimed: “The information was to be collected from the Shalimar Campus of the University and as such I got the information obtained from the Comptroller and Head, Library Services of the University and sent the same to the applicants vbide No. Au/Adm./RTI-459/7076-78 dated: 17-03-2011.”
The SIC later addressed another communication to the PIO asking him “to substantiate his assertions that information was to be collated and collected from associate concerns.” In response, the PIO submitted that information was collected from various stations/units/Divisions on different dates from time to time and after sorting out and compiling/consolidating the same was sent to the concerned information seekers.
“The information which was received from other sections suffered with certain discrepancies, therefore, was returned back for rechecking the same,” he submitted.
“I have gone through relevant papers as attached by the PIO with his explanation. I could not find any Annexure B as referred by the PIO. The letters which are being produced as a proof to show that the PIO made an effort to collect the information from other associated concerns does not bear the signature of the PIO,” the CIC ruled.
He said: “The second reminder is being sent not by the PIO but by his Assistants after a gap of 8 to 9 months. Similarly the plea that some information was to be collected from Kargil, Gurez and other snow bound areas hence delay, even this plea is devoid of merit. The Information Seeker had sought information in the month of May, 2010. This is the period when these areas are cleared from snow and communication is restored. The Information is given in May 2011 that is after a year and that also when the Commission takes cognizance of the complaint. Hence this explanation is nothing but an attempt to obfuscate the failure or the PIO to comply with the statutory duties cast on him under the State Right to Information Act, 2009.”
The applicants later filed a complaint before the SIC.
“During hearing the PIO confirmed that information was to be provided to the information seeker by 30-06-2010 which was not given on that date,” the CIC ruled. “The Commission was informed that the information was given on 10-05-2011 which the complainant contested. The PIO was directed to furnish evidence in support of his claim that information was given on 10-05-2011. It was revealed on the date of hearing that obviously the information was not provided even when the Commission had sought the comments of the PIO. During the hearing it was admitted that only 40% information was complete which was handed over to the information seekers. It is seen that the complainants had again filed another application dated 22-02-2011. Again, the PIO failed to provide any evidence that information even on subsequent application referred above was given within the maximum period of 30 days as required under the Act. Accordingly the Commission initiated penalty proceedings as provided under Section 17 of the Act.”
Lastupdate on : Tue, 23 Aug 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 23 Aug 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 24 Aug 2011 00:00:00 IST
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