Show cause notice issued to BDO, other officers cautioned
JAMMU, Mar 19: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has asked several Public Authorities in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir to ensure strict compliance to the time-frame fixed for furnishing replies to the applications under the Right to Information Act, 2005. Moreover, it has issued show-cause notice to a Block Development Officer (BDO) and cautioned other officers for casual approach in this regard.
Section 7 of the Right to Information Act, which deals with disposal of request, states: “The Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, on receipt of a request under Section 6 shall, as expeditiously as possible, and in any case within 30 days of the receipt of the request, either provide the information on payment of such fee as may be prescribed or reject the request for any of the reasons specified in Sections 8 and 9”.
Likewise, Section 20, which pertains to penalties, read: “Where the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be, at the time of deciding any complaint or appeal is of the opinion that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer has, without any reasonable cause, refused to receive an application for information or has not furnished information within the time specified under Section 7, shall impose a penalty which shall not exceed Rs 25,000”.
The Central Information Commission, which dealing with several Second Appeals filed against the Public Authorities of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, has noticed non-compliance to the timeline fixed under the RTI Act. Accordingly, the Chief Information Commissioner Y K Sinha has asked the Public Authorities to furnish replies to the applications filed under the transparency law within the specified time limit so as to achieve the objective behind the law.
In one such instance, an application was filed before the Assistant Director, Directorate of Indian System of Medicines on July 31, 2021 seeking information on certain points. Having not received any response from the CPIO, the appellant filed a First Appeal dated 20.09.2021 which was not adjudicated by the First Appellate Authority. Aggrieved over non receipt of the information, the appellant approached the Central Information Commission with the Second Appeal.
During the course of hearing, the appellant submitted that though he has received the relevant information as sought in the RTI application from the respondent but the same has been furnished to him after filing of the Second Appeal before the Commission.
Even the respondent represented by Dr Shujaat Shuja, Assistant Director and Bashir Ahmed Shah, Section Officer admitted that sufficient information has been provided to the appellant vide letter dated 28.02.2023—more than 18 months after the receipt of RTI application.
After hearing both the sides, the Chief Information Commissioner observed, “the respondent has provided adequate information to the appellant only after receiving the hearing notice from the Commission”. Accordingly, the Commission has cautioned the respondent Public Authority that in future, they shall ensure that replies to the RTI applications shall be provided within the mandated time-frame as specified in the provisions of the RTI Act failing which action as per the law will be taken.
In another similar instance, an application was filed before the Executive Engineer Jal Shakti Department on August 12, 2021 seeking information list of land owners who had donated land for construction of reservoirs. Having not received any response from the CPIO, the appellant filed a First Appeal dated 19.10.2021 which was not adjudicated by the FAA.
After hearing both the sides, the Chief Information Commissioner observed, “though appropriate information has been provided to the appellant by the CPIO on 07.02.2022, but the same has been given more than three months after the receipt of application in blatant violation of the time frame as mandated in the RTI Act”.
“The Commission cautions the Public Authority that in future replies to the RTI Applications shall be provided within the mandated time-frame as specified in the provisions of the RTI Act”, read the decision of the Chief Information Commissioner. These are just few instances of non-adherence to the timelines and every month the Commission issues warning notes to one or the other Public Authority of Union Territory of J&K.
Meanwhile, the Commission has issued show-cause notice to Block Development Officer Mandi in Poonch district Akanksha Gupta for denial of information to the appellant.
“Despite passage of more than sufficient time and reminder sent by the Registry of this Bench, the PIO/BDO, Mandi has not submitted any document to corroborate her contention. Thus, there is nothing on record which indicates that information was ever furnished to the appellant”, the CIC said, adding “in the given circumstances, the Registry of this Bench is directed to issue show-cause notice to BDO seeking explanation as to why maximum penalty to the tune of Rs 25,000 should not be imposed upon her for causing deliberate obstruction in the dissemination of information thereby violating provisions of the RTI Act, 2005”.