Panaji, June 22 The Goa State Information Commission has ruled that it can suo moto initiate penalty proceedings against the public information officer of a department and there is no need for a complainant to move separate application or make specific prayer for imposition of penalty or recommendation of disciplinary proceedings.
The commission gave the opinion in its recent order against the South Goa superintendent of police and the former sub-divisional police officer of Margao, Mr Tony Fernandes.
In the same order, the commission penalised the above officers by stating that it was ‘’inclined to impose a penalty of Rs 5000 each’’ on the South Goa SP who was the public information officer and the former Margao SDPO. The commission also directed the joint director of accounts, south branch, Margao, to recover from the salary of both the officers this amount from the salaries for the month of June 2007. The order was given by the state chief information commissioner, Mr A Venkataratnam and the state information commissioner, Mr G G Kambli.
The order penalising the officers came despite the complainant seeking to withdraw his complaint which he had lodged with the commission because the police officers failed to give him the requested information within the time frame stipulated under the Goa Right to Information Act.
The commission noted that “Once the commission forms its opinion to invoke the provisions of the Section 20 of the Act, the appellant or the complainant has no role in such penalty proceedings and even if the complainant or the appellant withdraws from the penalty proceedings it cannot affects the same.’’ The commission observed that in this specific case the appellant had moved an application for the withdrawal of the appeal after the commission had passed its order and therefore, no cognisance could be taken of such application by the commission. “In all probability there might be some pressure on him to say so. There is no way of finding out one-way or the other. However, a reading of the Act shows clearly that the appeal should continue even if the appellant is absent.’’
The commission also severely castigated the police officials for the delay and for their reasons for the delay in providing the information. Their orders states thus, “But nowhere we have found such an inordinate delay as in a present case and such a casual approach of entering into correspondence as in the present case of the police department. We have also got commented on this delay in our main order dated February 23, 2007 as to how the police department itself, which is a uniformed department based on hierarchy and the subordinates did not submit the reply in time to their own superiors and how the public information officer pleaded helplessness in the matter.’’
‘’If we accept this situation as beyond the control of both the public information officer and the deemed public information officer, we will be setting a wrong precedent in the matter of implementation of the Right To Information Act,’’ the commission’s order stated.