'Provide info about unsafe structures used as classroom by city school'

Information panel directs SMC; takes exception to Commission’s ‘causal approach’

The State Information Commission has directed Srinagar Municipal Corporation to provide information to an appellant on a complaint about “unsafe and insecure structures” used as classrooms by a renowned school in summer capital of Srinagar.

“In case the PIO (Public Information Officer) fails to provide complete information to the appellant within aforesaid period, the appellant shall be at liberty to file a complaint under section 15 of the Act before this Commission for non compliance by the PIO,” reads an order issued by Muhammad Ashraf Mir, State Information Commissioner (SIC).  

The SIC issued the order after First Appellant Authority (FAA) had failed to discharge his functions under Right to Information Act by not providing information to the appellant – parent’s association of the school – within the time period prescribed under the Act. 

“Registry is also directed to issue a show cause notice to FAA as to why he should not be reported to the government for his failure to discharge his duties.” the order reads.

The parent’s association had brought into notice of Municipal Commissioner, SMC, the issue of “unsafe, insecure and hazardous structure” of the said school and “pitiable conditions” in which students were being put through, endangering their lives. 

They had requested Municipal Commissioner to immediately demolish “unsafe structures” and take legal action against school authorities as warranted under law.

But when no information was provided to the association within the period stipulated under provisions of Right of Information Act, the appellant filed first appeal with FAA on 22 January 2018, praying that the appeal be allowed and information sought be furnished to them without any further delay.

Initially, the PIO didn’t furnish the information within stipulated time frame, but when the appellant finally got the information it was “incomplete”. 

The association said though two semi-concrete sheds existed in school premises, school management failed to produce permission from SMC for their construction.

In fact the association said no permission had been granted by the SMC from construction of these structures. “Also school authorities have not submitted any document regarding the said structures/sheds,” the order reads.

The appeal came up for hearing before the SIC 6 September. While appellant was present in person the respondents were represented by Muhammad Shafi, head assistant. However, the PIO was absent in spite of notice served to him by the Commission. 

In his counter statement the PIO however informed the SIC that Municipal authorities had tried to demolish the sheds on 1 May 2018 but they faced resistance from school authorities. When the SMC team returned next day the school authorities produced a court order restraining them temporarily from demolishing the structure.

“This is very unfortunate that the Municipal authorities are taking the State Information Commission very lightly and they do not care for upholding the rule of law. The absence of PIO is regrettable. The PIO has chosen to send a representative who does not know anything about this case. This attitude of the PIO indicates that he is not comfortable with openness and accountability,” reads the order.