Another state information commissioner (SIC) is in the line of fire. After PK Verma, it is time for the complaint against another SIC Surinder Singh to reach governor house here. It is alleged that Singh, in reply to a query under the RTI Act, chooses to hand over fresh demand drafts instead of the information demanded by the complainant. There is a case of RK Singla versus PIO chief engineer irrigation works at Shahpur Kandi, where Singh, along with Lt Gen PK Grover, in their judgment did this.
TOI has reported the earlier petition pending before the governor against Verma, alleging he gave favours to a fellow IAS officer Priyank Bharti, and reviewed his own judgment in back date. In the present case, a complaint was made to Punjab governor SF Rodrigues, who is appointing authority of these information commissioners to consider the application and refer to the chief justice of Supreme Court for removal of Surinder Singh in particular.
Singh, incidentally, is a retired chief engineer from the irrigation department, and according to the complainant, is a close friend of the respondent. "It was a favour given to the respondent, and SIC lied under oath," Singla said. He tried his best to hush up the matter and defend the corrupt officers in irrigation department, Singla said.
He cited Section 2 of RTI Act defining "information" as any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models and data material held in electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force.
"It was not the information which I demanded," said Singla, who is posted as JE with the irrigation works department. Moreover, he said, Surinder overstepped his powers, as he is not a judge but an information commissioner, and fresh demand drafts are no information. "I was asking for details of the drafts issued to me in the last 20 years, and the department has done fraud with few drafts issued to me. I was aiming to expose them," he said.
After this, Singh allegedly became party to the fraud committed in the irrigation department. Talking to TOI, Singh said demand draft is also information, and was handed over to the complainant as he had put forth many queries.
"He wanted to know about the status of the drafts issued to him; the respondents gave new drafts instead," said Singh.
But his comment is not bought by many. Hatinder Jain of Resurgence India, a leading RTI activist in north India, said, "Information is what we demand, not what you give. Moreover, demand draft cannot be termed as information; he had to give details of the documents," said Jain.
Meanwhile, chief information commissioner Rajan Kashyap told TOI the information commissioners have to work under the purview of Right to Information Act 2005 and there is no scope of venturing outside it.
"I cannot comment on the situation before doing an analysis," he said.