JAMMU, Jan 10: State Information Commission (SIC) has initiated penalty proceedings against Assistant Commissioner Development (ACD) and three Block Development Officers (BDOs) under Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act for their failure to discharge statutory duties and denying information about developmental activities carried out under various schemes. This has established that the field functionaries of the Rural Development Department are still creating hurdles in the implementation of transparency law.
As per the details of the case before the State Information Commission, an applicant had sought complete list of works carried out under Constituency Development Fund (CDF), Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS), Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF) and Contingent Register of MGNREGA and SBM from 2010 till date of filing of the application in Gundna Block of Doda district.
However, neither BDO Gundna in his capacity as Public Information Officer (PIO) furnished the information within the period specified under the RTI Act nor Assistant Commissioner Development Doda (First Appellate Authority) disposed of the first appeal within the statutory period.
During the proceedings before the State Information Commission under second appeal, no explanation was filed by the BDO Gundna for the delay in furnishing the information that too incomplete to the appellant.
While issuing directions for furnishing complete information to the appellant, the State Information Commissioner Mohammad Ashraf Mir has passed orders for issuing show-cause notice to the BDO Gundna asking him to explain as to why penalty proceedings be not initiated against him for his failure to furnish the information to the appellant within the period specified under Section 7(1) of the J&K RTI Act, 2009.
Even show-cause notice has been issued to Assistant Commissioner Development Doda asking him to explain as to why he should not be reported to the Government for his failure to discharge statutory duties cast upon him under the RTI Act as he has failed to dispose of the first appeal within the statutory period.
Both these officers have been asked to file written statements of defence/explanations before the Commission within a period of 15 days.
Another case before the State Information Commission was pertaining to denial of information by BDO Chassana regarding the bills of works carried out by Rural Engineering Wing Reasi despite direction from the Assistant Commissioner Development Reasi in his capacity as First Appellate Authority.
During the course of proceedings under second appeal before the State Information Commission, the present BDO Chassana Miran Baksh passed the buck on his predecessor Subash Dogra. However, his assertion was not accepted by the State Information Commission.
“The present PIO joined as BDO on October 23, 2018 and on October 31, 2018, the Commission issued a notice to him for appearance and also for filing counter statement. The notice may have reached the PIO by the first week of November 2018 and at that time he was posted as BDO Chassana. Therefore, he is equally responsible for not furnishing information to the appellant”, the State Information Commissioner Mohammad Ashraf Mir observed.
“A prima-facie case is established against the then PIO Subash Dogra, presently attached in the office of Director, Rural Development Department Jammu, and present PIO Miran Baksh for imposition of penalties as envisaged under Section 17 of the J&K RTI Act for their failure to furnish information to the appellant within the specified period”, the Information Commissioner said.
Accordingly, the Commission has issued show-cause notice to both the BDOs asking them to explain as to why penalties under Section 17 of the RTI Act are not imposed upon them. They have been asked to file their explanations within a period of 15 days.
“The present PIO is directed to furnish complete information to the appellant within a period of two weeks failing which proceedings for non-compliance shall be initiated against him”, the Commission has made it clear in the order.
These cases are the testimony to the fact that field functionaries of the Rural Development Department are still creating hurdles in implementation of transparency law. “The dilly-dallying approach in providing timely information to the applicants is notwithstanding the fact that the General Administration Department, on the request of the State Information Commission, has passed instructions on numerous occasions to the Government departments particularly the PIOs and FAAs to play effective role in implementation of RTI Act in letter and spirit”, official sources remarked.