Friday, October 22, 2010

No info about RTI penalties, says State CIC

No info about RTI penalties, says State CIC

Neelambari Bhoge

Posted on Friday, October 22, 2010 at 12:07:15 AM

Information Commissions in the state are failing to provide information about how penalties imposed for improper management of RTI appeals are being recovered. This loophole has convinced officers and activists that the RTI Act needs some amendment

If an answer to a Right To Information (RTI) application is not received within the given period of time (ie 30 days) or is not satisfactory, then the applicant may proceed with an appeal. 

If found guilty in any way, then the Public Information Officer (PIO) has to pay a penalty. However, the new State Chief Information Commissioner, Vilas Patil, feels that the implementation of the Act is not right, as there is no mechanism to collect the penalty imposed on the PIO.

When Pune Mirror got in touch with Vilas Patil, he said, "Applicants have to be enlightened about RTI applications. Even the PIOs should be given some training about RTI, like higher level officials. 

It is the reponsibility of the Head of the Department to collect a penalty, but there is no mechanism to ensure that the penalty imposed on the PIO is collected. 

When I was in Nagpur working as the State Information Commissioner, I had imposed penalties but there was no way to know whether the penalty had been collected. This Act needs amendment." 

Vihar Durve, an RTI Activist from Pune, revealed information about penalties imposed on officials with the help of RTI. 

"I had filed an RTI on August 25, 2010 to find out how much penalty has been recovered by the State Information Commission in 2008 and also who were the officials with the responsibility of recovering the penalty. 

Around Rs 5,14,000 has been imposed from cities comprising of Kolhapur, Satara, Sangli, Solapur and Pune. There has been no mechanism to find out whether this has been recovered. 

This information should atleast be put up on the website. When the reports of the Central Information Commission (in New Delhi) were compared, it was found that they possess data of recovery and have mentioned it in the RTI answer. 

On the other hand, this data was not mentioned in Maharashtra's RTI answer." 

According to information received from an RTI application, the commission had levied penalties of Rs 18, 52,850 for 143 cases, from Oct 12, 2005 to Dec 31, 2007. 

An order was sent to the respective officials to recover and credit the same into a government account. Out of penalties worth Rs 1,00,000 imposed during this period, Rs 78,750 were recovered. 

Out of Rs 1,76,000, Rs 56,459 were recovered, all recovered from the Mumbai region. 

Out of 17,336 cases of appeals and complaints under section 19(3) and 18 (1) so far disposed, penalties and enquiries have been imposed by the Commission only in 143 and three cases respectively. 

No penalty was imposed in the balance 17,190 cases, which were disposed of without any penal action. In 21 cases disposed of at the level of Chief Information Commissioner, a penalty of Rs 2,20,000 was imposed during Jan 1, 2008 to Dec 31, 2008. Out of this, only a penalty of Rs 2500 in three cases was reported to have been recovered and credited to a government account. 

Adds Durve, "The minimum penalty has to be atleast Rs 250 or it's multiples but in the Konkan Section two PIO's were charged a penalty of Rs 1 as well. 

Several times the PIO's do not give information within 30 days or provide wrong or vague information. It is the duty of the commission to impose penalty under the section (20)."

Pune Mirror got in touch with the PIO of Parbhani, Rajendra Sarag, who said, "The penalties definitely get recovered from the PIO's salary. It is the responsibility of the head of the department to keep track of it. 

His penalty is decided on the basis of the appeal made. The method of maintaining data of the penalties differs from office to office. We at our office never faced this issue, as we were up-to-date in giving information."

Speaking to Mirror, M C Sharma, Deputy Registrar of Central Information Commission, Delhi said, "The rules differ in various states but in our commission the recovery is done. 

The commission orders the department to recover penalties from the salary of the PIO and the Head of the Department keeps a check on it. 

When a penalty is imposed on any PIO, we do consider his side and if we find that he has a genuine issue then the penalty is cancelled. 

Proper data is maintained in the Central Commission about which member's penalties have been recovered."

Courtesy_

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The RTI Act was passed by the Lok Sabha (Lower House) on 11 May 2005, by the Raj Sabha (Upper House) on 12 May 2005 and received Presidential assent on 15 June 2005. Parts of the Act came into force upon Presidential assent, but the Act came fully into force on 12 October 2005, 120 days after Presidential assent.

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