SPIOs face MIC wrath over failure to disclose information

The Imphal Free Press

IMPHAL, Jun 22: In a series of pronouncements delivered during the last few days, the Manipur information commission has pulled up several state information officers belonging to several different departments for with-holding information sought by a citizen under the provisions of the Right to Information Act.

Apart from being told to furnish the documents sought within a specific time, many of the SPIOs concerned have been asked to show cause why fines as provided for under the RTI should not be imposed on them.

Three of the cases relate to the cooperation department/office of registrar of cooperative societies, government of Manipur.

In one case, the appellant, Prof Akham Biradhaja, had sought documents relating to the registration of the Siroi Transport Cooperative Society Ltd, and the North Transport Cooperative Society Ltd, in March 2006, but the documents were not provided either by the SPIO/SAPIO or the appellate authority concerned.

In hearings before the Manipur Information Commission, the department raised reservations on providing documents as per the existing Acts and Rules relating to the co-operative societies in the state. This was however overruled by the commission, which pointed out that the provisions of the RTI shall have effect notwithstanding any inconsistency with any other law for the time being in force.

Another objection raised to the effect that the documents sought relate to a third party was overruled on the grounds that the documents are neither provided by such third party, nor are they confidential.

In a decision delivered on June 19 last, the MIC has directed that the documents sought for should be provided within 15 days. It has also asked the SPIO to show cause why penalty including a maximum fine of Rs 25000, and recommendation for disciplinary action should not be imposed on him for his violation of the provisions of section 7 of the Act, and compensation amounting to Rs. 1200 paid to the appellant.

In another case, documents sought relating to the Manipur Public School Society were not provided, while in a third case, documents sought relating to the registration of altogether 13 cooperative banks were only partially provided.

In both cases, the MIC directed that the remaining documents should be provided within 15 days, and also served show cause notice on the SPIO concerned as to why penalty should not be imposed on him.

The SPIO, directorate of rural development and panchayati raj, was also pulled up by the MIC in yet another case, and told to furnish complete information sought by the appellant (Prof Biradhaja), relating to the Kontha Khabam gram panchayat, within a period of seven days. He was also served show cause notice why penalty should not be imposed on him.

The MIC. in one more case, has directed the MAHUD to furnish a certified copy of the ded of lease/hire/rent of the office premises of the Koirengei Octroi Checkpost of the Imphal Municipal Council as desired by the appellant within one week`s time.

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