The Central Information Commission (CIC) has pulled up All-India Radio for 'laxity and negligence' of senior officials and for 'harassing staff for no justifiable reason', which has forced them to seek information under the Right to Information Act.

In a strongly-worded decision, information commissioner M.M. Ansari has said, "The director-general, Prasar Bharati, AIR, is directed to review and strengthen the grievance redressal mechanism so that the complaints of the employees could be duly redressed within the reasonable timeframe, lest they should be constrained to resort to the provisions of the RTI Act."

The appeal to the CIC was filed by Prakash Khemachandani, who is a Sindhi translator at AIR but who has not been regularised though he has been working there since October 1995. He filed an application under the RTI Act to ask when he would be confirmed, why was the normal process taking so long, who were the officials responsible for this delay and what action would the department take against them (the erring officials).

The central public information officer (CPIO) of AIR responded on November 17 and said that Khemachandani was appointed on October 10, 1995 but since his annual confidential report (ACR) for the year 2002 during his posting for one year at AIR Mumbai was not yet received so far by this office, and since the self-assessment forms of ACRs were not submitted by the appellant, therefore the reporting office had not completed the ACRs and hence the delay.

Khemachandani filed a first appeal but the appellate authority did not respond so he filed a second appeal to the CIC. The appellant was heard on October 31.

After the hearing, information commissioner Ansari observed, "In the instant case, the appel lant has made a mention of his grievances relating to service matters, mainly regularisation of his services. As redressal of such grievances as above are not covered under the provisions of the act, the appellant is advised to approach the competent authority, who may do the needful. But, it would be appellant's misfortune if the respondent (read appellant authority) does not respond, as has happened in this case."

Ansari observed in his decision, "Even though the appellant was informed by the deputy director of administration that the requested information would be sent in due course of time, it has not been done till now.
Clearly, the attitude of the officials of the respondent smacks of malafide intentions and harassment of staff without any justifiable reasons. The responsible officials should be identified and they ought to be told of their lapses that tantamount to shirking of duties and responsibilities."

Ansari said, "It shows laxity and negligence of the concerned officials who are holding the ACRs for five years for recording their assessment remarks. It must also be borne in mind that a major concern of the RTI Act is to promote good governance across the public authorities. Hence, the matter is of serious concern to the commission also. The appeal in question could have been avoided had there been efficient handling of the issue raised by the appellant."

Ansari observed that without assuring personal and professional well-being of the staff, it is not understandable how an organisation can progress or justify its existence on public funds. He ruled that the information should be furnished to him within 15 working days from the date of issue of this decision, failing which penalty proceedings would be initiated

Deepasree Venugopal
New Delhi - Nov 10, 2007 -