CIC expresses grave concern over PIOs of J&K UT deptts vitiating proceedings in 2nd Appeals

  • Explanations sought from BDO, Tehsildar, many other officers

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Apr 21: Central Information Commission (CIC) has expressed grave concern over Public Information Officers (PIOs) of several departments of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir vitiating proceedings in the Second Appeals by their unexplained absence despite receiving advance notices and has sought explanations from several officers including Block Development Officer (BDO), Tehsildar and J&K Special Tribunal. Moreover, the transparency watchdog of the country has made it clear that willful violation of the Right to Information Act cannot be allowed.

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In a Second Appeal/complaint filed before the Central Information Commission for denial of information regarding job cards of those engaged under MGNREGA Scheme in Chilla block of District Doda and Bonjwah block of District Kishtwar, advance notice of hearing was served upon both the concerned Block Development Officers.
While BDO Chilla explained that he had recently taken charge of the post and will furnish the information as permissible under the RTI Act at the earliest. However, BDO Bonjwah neither participated in the hearing nor sent any written submission about the case at hand.
“His absence has led to the proceedings being vitiated in clear violation of the provisions of the RTI Act. Hence, he is directed to submit an explanation for willful violation of the provisions of the RTI Act by unexplained absence during hearing”, read the order of the CIC. Four weeks time has been given to the officer to submit the explanation. Moreover, the Commission has made it clear that non-adherence to the direction shall attract penal action as per the law.
Similarly, Second Appeal/complaint was filed before the CIC after the appellant was denied copies of judgments, decisions and orders announced by Benches of J&K Special Tribunal Srinagar in case titled Ruksana Jabeen and Others Versus Srinagar Municipal Corporation Commissioner and Others.
During the hearing, the representative of the appellant submitted that information has not been provided in violation of the RTI Act and First Appellate Authority’s order. However, none was present on behalf of J&K Special Tribunal despite service of hearing notice in advance.
Taking serious note of the conduct of the Public Authority, the CIC has directed the respondents to send point wise reply to the appellant and submit an explanation for willful violation of the provisions of the RTI Act by non-furnishing of any response to the appellant, defying the FAA’s order and unexplained absence during hearing.
The unexplained absence of the PIO in the Directorate of School Education Jammu was also noticed by the CIC in another Second Appeal/complaint. “The officer has vitiated the proceedings in utter disregard to the provisions of the transparency law as such he is directed to submit an explanation within four weeks failing which appropriate action will be taken against him”, read the order of the Central Information Commission.
Similarly, explanation has been sought from Tehsildar Akhnoor for not participating in the hearing in the Second Appeal whereby denial of information was challenged. This officer/PIO was also served advance notice of hearing by the Registry of the Commission but he preferred to avoid participation in the proceedings.
In yet another Second Appeal, the CIC, while considering the failure of CPIO in the office of Deputy Superintendent of Police, Crime Branch Jammu in attending the proceedings to make submissions about the case at hand, has sought explanation by dubbing his act as clear violation of the provisions of the RTI Act.
Likewise, explanations for unexplained absence have also been sought from PIO in the office of Executive Engineer, Rural Engineering Wing, Rajouri, Executive Engineer, Electric Division Baramulla and PIO of the Revenue Department of J&K Government.
They have been asked to justify the conduct failing which action under Section 20(1) and 20(2) of the RTI Act will be initiated against them. “In case explanations are not submitted ex-parte action will be initiated”, read the orders of the Commission.