CHENNAI: While the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission is quick to penalise institutions for failure to comply with the stipulations of the Right to Information Act, the process of collecting fine is proving to be arduous.
The University of Madras was imposed the maximum leviable penalty by the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission (SIC) for not complying with the stipulations of the RTI Act. But, over a year and a half after the imposition of the penalty, it is yet to be realised.
An RTI petition was filed with the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the university in 2006 about the original circular prescribing an age limit of 50 years for teaching positions. But when the information was not forthcoming, the Commission directed the university to pay the maximum penalty of Rs. 25,000.
It also noted in its judgment on 4.1.2007 that the “oldest institution of higher learning in this country does not seem to take [the RTI Act] seriously and is least interested in providing information which it is bound to give under the law of the land.”
When contacted, the PIO said the penalty had not yet been paid as “no order imposing any penalty [had] been received from the State Information Commission.”
State Chief Information Commissioner S. Ramakrishnan, however, said that all judgment copies and orders passed by the Commission were immediately despatched to the parties concerned.
The maximum penalty is levied only in extreme cases where the PIOs have disregarded the Commission’s directives. According to an analysis, only 24 penalties had been imposed until May 2008, whereas the SIC received an estimated one lakh petitions in the same period. But activists say that many of the penalties have not yet been recovered.
In one case, the SIC asked the Director of Medical Education in March this year to pay Rs. 25,000 after the PIO ignored the directives of the commission four times. However, an RTI petition filed with the PIO of the DME shows that the penalty has not been collected yet.
In another case, the PIO at the office of the Commissioner of Police, Chennai, said penalty had not yet been paid as they had gone on appeal to the Commission. The CMDA too has gone on appeal on a penalty imposed on it. When the penalty was imposed because the PIO had caused delays in providing information, the appeal would only ensure even further delays, argue activists. The appeal itself is placed at the end of the queue of petitions, which the Commissioner says is growing at 400 each day at the SIC, resulting in inordinate delays, they say.
© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu