Denying info on pretext of non-availability of record since 2015
*DGP asked to take note of baffling stance of officers
JAMMU, Sept 20: Expressing serious concern over denial of information to the RTI applicant during the past nearly five years on the pretext of non-availability of record and repeated shifting of onus between multiple Public Authorities, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Headquarters of Jammu and Kashmir Police to conduct detailed inquiry into the matter and fix responsibility of omissions and commissions with regard to record keeping.
Moreover, the Commission has asked the Director General of Police (DGP) to take note of baffling stance of police establishments in terms of availability of records and take corrective measures.
The case before the Central Information Commission was that in the month of October 2015 an application was filed before the Public Information Officer (PIO) in the Police Headquarters Jammu seeking copies of the testimonials submitted by a police official at the time of applying for the post of Sub-Inspector in the years 1993-1994-1995 as well as verification reports submitted by various agencies including that of CID upon the appointment of individual as Sub-Inspector.
However, the PIO referred the matter for a CID inquiry against the appointment of the individual regarding whom information was sought on the allegation of submission of fake certificate. It was also submitted before the Central Information Commission that even after the First Appellate Authority dubbed the action of PIO as inappropriate and directed for disclosure of information vide order dated March 24, 2016 the PIO didn’t comply with the order.
The applicant further submitted that following direction of the First Appellate Authority he personally visited the respondent office many times but no information was provided and instead they claimed that relevant information was not available on record.
During the course of hearing, the applicant submitted before the CIC that instant application was examined in the Police Headquarters and it was observed that since Inspector in respect of whom information has been sought was appointed by the then DIG Rajouri-Poonch Range, the RTI application was transferred to his office.
However, the Range Police Headquarters Rajouri instead of replying directly to the complainant inadvertently addressed reply to the respondent office stating that record pertaining to the appointment is not available. Thereafter, the RTI application was transferred to PIO, Sher-e-Kashmir Police Academy Udhampur, who transferred back the application to DIG Rajouri-Poonch stating that they had only conducted the basic training of the police official whereas his appointment was done by DIG Rajouri-Poonch.
After hearing complainant and SP Admn and PIO in the office of Inspector General of Police Jammu through video-conference, the Central Information Commission observed, “the apprehension of the complainant regarding the absurdity of PIO’s claim of non-availability of records related to the appointment of an officer in their force is not out of place”.
Pointing towards repeated, shifting of onus of providing information between multiple Public Authorities, the Commission said, “it is a matter of serious concern that even after the lapse of several years no material information has been provided by either of the Public Authorities”, adding “though the information sought in the RTI application would fall under exemption of Section 8(1(j) of the RTI Act yet given the fact that multiple Public Authorities of police administration of J&K are affirming that no record of recruitment of a public officer is available, the matter would fall under the proviso to Section 8(1) of the RTI Act which provides for disclosure of information in larger public interest”.
While exercising powers conferred under Section 18(2) of RTI Act, the Commission has directed the Inspector General of Police Headquarters J&K Police to cause an appropriate inquiry into the matter to ascertain the facts and for fixing the responsibility of omissions and commissions with respect to record keeping and providing access to relevant records.
“The inquiry may be ordered to be conducted by an office of competent rank under the overall supervision of the Director General of Police J&K Police and inquiry report including inter alia the submissions of concerned record holders an sworn affidavits should be sent to the Commission by the IGP Headquarters J&K Police within 45 days”, read the order of the Central Information Commission, the copy of which is available with EXCELSIOR.
Even Director General of Police has been asked to take note of the baffling stance of the respondent office as well as other concerned police establishments in terms of availability of records.
Since larger issue of concern is non-availability of records related to the appointment of a police officer, the DGP should ensure proper supervision of the inquiry, the CIC has further mentioned in the order.