Chandigarh, August 20: The Punjab State Information Commission has fined former Jalandhar Municipal Corporation (MC) commissioner and present Additional Secretary, SC/BC Welfare Department, S.S. Johal for not implementing the Right to Information (RTI) Act properly as JMC commissioner, misleading the Commission by providing wrong facts and not appearing personally before the Commission despite directions. The senior IAS officer has been fined Rs 25,000.

The Commission has also asked Punjab Chief Secretary to deduct this fine in two installments from Johal’s salary and inform the Commission by October 16 about it.

Section 20 of the RTI Act empowers the State Information Commission to impose penalty up to Rs 25,000 upon officials, provided the officials be given reasonable opportunity of being heard before any penalty is imposed on them. The orders in the case were given by a double bench of the Commission, comprising R.K. Gupta and P.P.S. Gill.

It may be noted that a complaint was made to the Punjab State Information Commission by Jalandhar-based Jasdeep Singh Malhotra on March 13 this year that Jalandhar MC authorities have been overcharging for filing applications under the Right to Information Act. Malhotra also alleged that Johal had pressured him to withdraw his complaint during the proceedings of the case. As per the rule, Rs 10 should be charged for filing an application seeking any information under RTI, but JMC authorities were charging Rs 76. Also, JMC authorities forced applicants to submit duplicate copies of the application. It was also mentioned in the complaint that it was nowhere mentioned on the JMC premises who the public information officer (PIO) was, which is mandatory under the RTI.

Interestingly, the JMC stopped charging the inflated amount during the proceedings of the case and reverted back to charging Rs 10. Also, 82 persons were refunded the extra money charged from them under the RTI.

The State Information Commission had initiated penalty proceedings against the then Joint Commissioner-cum-PIO, Gurpreet Sapra, as well, but she was provided relief after she pleaded that her promotion was due and she had no role in the case.

In Johal’s case, the Commission directed him twice to appear personally, but when he failed to do so, he was issued show-cause notices.

During the hearing of the same case, APIO H.S. Khosa was also rebuked by the Commission for trying to mislead the body by claiming that Rs 76 were charged because the notification regarding reduction in fee structure under RTI was not received by the JMC. The Commission took Khosa to task for the wrong statement, as the notification was very much listed on the JMC’s official website.

Ex-MC commissioner fined