CIC warns to initiate penal action against ACR, XEn for obstruction in info dissemination

‘Furnish status of enquiry into corruption allegations’

No end to casual approach towards RTI applications

Mohinder Verma

JAMMU, May 16: Continuing to expose the slack and casual approach towards implementation of transparency law in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has warned to initiate penal action against the Assistant Commissioner Revenue (ACR) and Executive Engineer of the Roads and Buildings Department for creating obstruction in the dissemination of information under the Right to Information Act. Moreover, the Commission has issued directions for furnishing status of enquiry ordered into the allegations of corruption to the RTI applicant.
The case before the Commission was that on July 30, 2019 an application was filed before the CPIO seeking information about several revenue matters including the detailed report regarding implementation of the High Court order vis-à-vis Khasra Nos. 1235 and 1236.
Having not received any information from the CPIO, the appellant filed a First Appeal on September 9, 2019, which was also not adjudicated by the First Appellate Authority. Aggrieved of non receipt of the information, the appellant approached the Central Information Commission with the Second Appeal.
During the course of hearing before the Commission, the appellant was present and heard through video conference but none was present from the respondent-Assistant Commissioner of Revenue despite service of hearing notice in advance.
“It is noted from the records of the case that no response seems to have been provided by the respondent to the queries raised by the appellant. The respondent has neither attended the hearing nor deputed any representative or submitted any written statement to assist in the proceedings”, the Chief Information Commissioner Y K Sinha has mentioned in the decision.
Accordingly, the Commission has directed the Registry to issue show-cause notice to the Assistant Commissioner of Revenue-Zaheer Ahmad Kaifi to explain why maximum penalty should not be imposed on him for violation of the provisions of the RTI Act by causing deliberate obstruction in the dissemination of information and vitiating the proceedings by his absence and for not submitting any record.
“A response to the show-cause notice must reach the Commission by June 15, 2022 and in the event no response is received from the Assistant Commissioner of Revenue by the stipulated time, the matter shall be decided on the basis of the available records”, read the order issued by the Commission.
The same applicant had also filed RTI application on January 15, 2019 seeking information on 29 points from the PIO-Executive Engineer PWD (R&B) Poonch Division. However, neither the PIO provided the information not the First Appellate Authority decided the First Appeal and finally matter was brought to the notice of Central Information Commission.
Now, the Commission has observed, “the Executive Engineer Harvinder Singh has not submitted any proof so far, in support of his claim that the information held by them has been duly provided to the appellate in response to RTI queries”.
Accordingly, the Commission has directed the Executive Engineer to send complete information to the appellant and submit compliance report before the Commission by June 15, 2022. The Commission has made it clear that non-compliance of these directions shall attract penal action as per the law.
As per another case before the Commission, an applicant had filed application seeking information vis-à-vis works executed by the Block Development Officer Padder in Kishtwar district. However, as usual required information was not furnished to the applicant.
During the course of hearing of the Second Appeal, the officer representing the BDO submitted before the Commission that issues raised in all these applications pertained to allegations of corruption in the public work carried out by the office of the BDO Padder. He informed the Commission that inquiry was ordered into the matter by the local jurisdictional court in Kishtwar and the same is being carried out by the Additional SP Kishtwar, Although, the latest status of the enquiry was not available with him.
However, the Commission observed, “a vague and cyclostyled reply has been provided to the appellant which is in contravention to the requirements under Section 7 of the RTI Act, 2005”. Accordingly, the Commission has directed the PIO and BDO Padder to provide point wise response to the RTI application along with the status of the inquiry proceedings after procuring the same from the Additional SP Kishtwar under intimation to the Commission.