The Pune Bench of the State Information Commission (SIC) has warned the Pune district collector Vikas Deshmukh, sub-divisional officers and the district teshildars of “penal action” if they failed to furnish the information on stone quarries as demanded by an RTI activist by September 25 as per the provisions under the RTI . RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar had sought information about leases awarded by the district collectorate to various firms for stone quarrying, number of leases that have been renewed, the amount of money paid as royalty and the number of firms that have been issued notices for defaulting payments of royalty.
“On September I, I went to the mining office for seeking this information under the Section 4 of Right to Information Act. But I was told that the office didn’t have any of the above information. After this I filed an appeal in the State Information Commissionarate,” said Kumbhar.
At the time of the hearing at Information Commission, the district mining officer said he had failed to provide the requisite information because of insufficient staff and lack of cooperation from the divisional officers and the tehsildar, who are responsible for keeping the data.
While giving the verdict, State Information Officer Vijay Kuvalekar held the district collector responsible for the delays as it is his duty to ensure proper implementation of RTI Act in his office.
Kuvalekar said as information pertaining to the stone quarries is of public interest, it assumes more significance and thus has to be looked into urgently. “As per the provisions under RTI, the information should have been made available by the collectorate on it’s website within 120 days of the enactment of the RTI law. Even after passage of 5 years the failure of the authority to do so is a glaring mistake,” he said
The commissioner directed the collector to ensure that all information regarding the stone quarries is put on the official website of the district collectorate by September 25.
When contacted, District Collector Vikas Deshmukh said he does not look after mining section and would ask officials to respond to SIC directives.