Pune, July 9: What happens when the big daddy of all state government departments, the one that keeps a hawk eye on other depa-rtments lest they allow files to get caught in red tape, loses a citizen’s complaint? Well, it graciously accepts its mistake and promises to redress the problem soon.

A rare gesture within the government apparatus, but the response isn’t entirely surprising since it’s the State Information Commission (SIC) we are talking about.

In January 2006, Sandip Thakur, a resident of Navi Mumbai, filed a complaint with the commission regarding an NGO with considerable government funding, the Mahatma Gandhi Mission, for not appointing a public information officer. But he did not receive a reply for a year.

In April 2007, he filed an application under the Right To Information Act (RTI) to ask about the status of his complaint. “I was shocked when I realised the public information officer of the SIC wasn’t replying to my application. I then filed my first appeal. The first appellate authority then directed PIO S D Sahasrabuddhe to reply within 15 days,” said Thakur.

Sahasrabuddhe said the commission had finally traced his complaint. It was first sent to the State Public Health Department. In June 2006, the file was returned to the commission where it was under the charge of then assistant, Gite. After this, the commission lost track of Thakur’s complaint.

Now, the commission has requested Thakur for a copy of his original complaint and placed it before the chief information commissioner. “This must be a rare instance where the file may have been misplaced. We are currently taking steps to even reduce this small margin of error,” said Chief Information Commissioner Suresh Joshi.

As a corrective, the commission is now working on the modalities of providing applicants an acknowledgement with a reference number for them to quote for future correspondence. Currently, only those who submit applications personally get an acknowledgment receipt. Others who send by post do not.

“We are chalking out the modalities with National Informatics Centre (NIC) and this new system is expected to be implemented in a month’s time. Once it’s in place, all applicants —irrespective of how they submit their complaints—will be given a reference number,” said Joshi.

A lost complaint, but change for the better