SIC sends strong message, imposes Rs 25000 penalty on KAS officer

Inordinate delay in providing information about ICDS

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, May 26: Sending a strong message to all those Government servants who are reluctant to facilitate implementation of J&K Right to Information Act, the State Information Commission has imposed a penalty of Rs 25,000 on a KAS officer with the direction to the Drawing and Disbursing Officer to deduct the amount from his salary and file compliance report.
As per the case before the State Information Commission (SIC), which led to the imposition of such a huge penalty, an RTI applicant on June 21, 2016 applied for information vis-à-vis implementation of Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) and the PIO of Directorate of Social Welfare Kashmir transferred his application to the PIO of State Mission Directorate ICDS.
Though the then PIO State Mission Directorate—Pran Singh (KAS Officer) received the application on June 23, 2016 yet he failed to take any action till the applicant filed first appeal which unfortunately also resulted in non-provision of requisite information.
Subsequently, the applicant filed second appeal in the State Information Commission and on the order of the Commission dated June 19, 2017, the information was finally provided to the applicant by the PIO of the State Mission Directorate ICDS.
Taking serious note of inordinate delay in providing information to the appellant, the Chief Information Commissioner Khurshid Ahmed Ganai initiated penalty proceedings in respect of PIO Directorate of Social Welfare Kashmir and PIO of State Mission Director ICDS and explanations were called from both the officers.
In his response to the penalty proceedings, the present PIO of Directorate of Social Welfare Kashmir submitted that the then PIO of the Directorate had promptly transferred the application to the ICDS Mission Director as such penalty may not be imposed on him. However, the then PIO of State Mission Directorate ICDS Pran Singh (KAS officer) failed to put up any convincing explanation despite being given multiple opportunities to defend himself.
Though he, in his letter of explanation to the Commission dated April 25, 2018, stated that he saw the first appeal only on November 27, 2016 yet he admitted that RTI application transferred on June 23, 2016 was received in the office of State Mission Director ICDS J&K.
After conducting several hearings in the penalty proceedings and going through the submissions made by the then PIO State Mission Directorate ICDS Pran Singh, the Chief Information Commissioner observed, “it has transpired that the RTI application was transferred to the PIO State Mission Directorate ICDS on 23.06.2016 but the PIO failed to provide the requisite information and took cognizance only on 27.11.2016 after filing of first appeal. Even then the information was not given till the filing of 2nd appeal by the appellant, which was finally disposed of on 19.06.2017”.
“Clearly, the then PIO State Mission Directorate ICDS is in default and in violation of Section 7(1) of the J&K RTI Act which lays down that information has to be provided by the PIO within 30 days from the date of filing of the RTI application. The PIO has failed to produce any evidence to show that he acted promptly on the RTI application received in his office on 23.06.2016 or that such an application was never received in the office of the State Mission Directorate”, the Chief Information Commissioner observed.
Keeping in view the provisions of Section 17 of the J&K RTI Act, 2009, the findings in the 2nd appeal and hearings in penalty proceedings, the State Information Commission has imposed penalty of Rs 25,000 on Pran Singh (KAS officer), the then PIO/Joint Director (Adm), State Mission Directorate ICDS and presently posted as Deputy Commissioner, Commercial Taxes (Recovery), Jammu.
“The Drawing and Disbursing Officer (DDO) Incharge of the office of Deputy Commissioner Commercial Taxes (Recovery) shall deduct the penalty of Rs 25,000 from the salary of Pran Singh (KAS officer) and deposit it in the appropriate account of the Government and file compliance report within a period of one month”, the Commission has directed.
It is pertinent to mention here that Section 17 of J&K RTI Act states: “Where the State Information Commission at the time of deciding any complaint, appeal or reference is of the opinion that the 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 Sub-Section (1) of Section 7 or malafidely denied the request for information it shall impose a penalty of Rs 250 each day till application is received or information is furnished. However, the total amount of such penalty shall not exceed Rs 25,000”.
This particular case has also brought to the fore that non-compliance to the provisions of transparency law is prevailing even nine years after the enactment of J&K RTI Act and repeated communiqués of the Information Commission and General Administration Department have not been taken seriously at various levels in the administration.