Fine time at Mumbai: 2 Officers come under State RTI decision
State commission cracks down on information officers who delay providing information to citizens
The state information commissioner recently levied a fine of Rs9,750, to be recovered from the salary of SP Sangane, divisional joint registrar, co-operative housing societies, for delaying information sought under the RTI.
Tarun Ghia, a Mumbai resident, had demanded copies of the orders of appointment of chartered accountants and certified auditors to audit co-operative housing societies, on January 23, 2006. Ghia was provided the required information on April 20 — 84 days after the application. Under the Act, only 30 days to provide information is permissible and another 15 days to intimate the applicant about photocopying charges. But even after counting those days, there was still a delay of 39 days.
Ghia then filed a complaint and, in the hearing before the state information commissioner, Sangane cited administrative reasons such as the ongoing assembly session, large number of appeals, urgent notices and the chief officer going on sick leave as causes of delay. State Information Commissioner Suresh Joshi, however, said the reasons did not justify a 39-day delay.
In another case, Gaurang Vora sought information regarding MMRDA projects that required trees to be chopped or replanted, through the RTI Act. The information was delayed by 29 days. SR Nandargikar, superintendent engineer and engineering and information officer, MMRDA was fined Rs7,250 (Rs 250 per day of delay). “I’m quite satisfied with the action that the commissioner has taken but the need of the hour is 10 chief information commissioners in the state,” Vora said.
Suresh Joshi, chief information commissioner, Maharashtra, said: “We look at the gravity of the case and then impose a fine or order departmental proceedings. If it’s a tehsildar in Gadchiroli, who has very little administrative exposure, then we are lenient and may issue a warning but if it’s a corporator in Pune or Mumbai, who is well aware of administrative responsibilities, we take stricter action.”
The message sent to Public Information Officer appears to be loud and clear: discharge functions effectively under RTI. I believe the need for appeal will reduce exponentially once the PIO understand their reponsibility.