Govt official fined under RTI

IMPHAL, Dec 26: The Manipur Information Commission has for the first time imposed a stiff monetary penalty upon a senior official of the state government for failing to furnish information sought by a member of the public under the provisions of the Right to Information Act.

The information commission has ordered IAS officer S Budhachandra to pay a total amount of Rs. 9250 as fine within a period of 30 days for his failure not only to furnish the information sought under the RTI Act, 2005, but also to respond to orders issued by the commission in connection with the matter, while he was serving as state public information officer, SPIO, directorate of education (schools).

The order was issued on December 22, in connection with an application made by Prof Akham Biradhwaja Singh to the SPIO, directorate of education (s) in October 2006 seeking disclosure of certain information.

The commission, in its order imposing monetary penalty on the officer, noted that its orders dated April 4, 2007 directing the latter to provide the requested information was not complied with till he left the office on April 19, 2007.

A show cause notice was issued on May 5, 2007, asking as to why recommendation for disciplinary action or penalty should not be imposed on him for his failure.

In his reply, dated May 18, 2007, the officer responded that the orders of the commission, dated 4.4.2007, 18.4.2007 and 5.5.2007 were never brought to his notice while he was SPIO, directorate of education (schools), and hence he should be exempted.

The commission however did not accept the contention, that the then SPIO was not aware of the orders in question as they were received by his office.

Moreover, it noted, at the relevant time he was functioning as the commissioner, education (schools), as well as ex-officio director of education (schools) and copies of the commission`s orders were also served to these offices

As a commisisoner, there is no reason why he should not have processed the matter, it commented, and further noted that over and above this, during hearing on the main case (appeal case no. 1 of 2007), the respondent never responded nor turned up despite notices for five times, `which itself shows how indifferent the respondents are in this case`.

The application of the present appellant was first filed on October 10, 2006, to the SPIO. Till then to the disposal of the second appeal stage, the respondent never responded in connection with the case. Therefore he is liable for penalty as prescribed under section 20 fo the RTI Act 2005, the commission ruled.

Budhachandra has accordingly been directed to pay Rs. 9250 by depositing the amount in form of treasury challan under major head of account -0070- other administrative services, within a period of thirty days, through the GAD, government of Manipur. The commission has also directed the DDO of the GAD to submit a compliance report within 45 days from the date of issue of the order.

MPSC case: In a separate case relating to the Combined Manipur civil services examination 2005, the commission has ordered the Manipur Public Service Commission to make available the copy of the answer script of a particular candidate for an optional subject, as sought by the mother of the candidate.

The ruling was made in connection with an application filed by one Irom Jamini, mother of Laikangbam Shalini, a candidate in the combined civil service examination, seeking a copy of her answer script for zoology paper II.

In its order issued in this regard, dated December 5, 2007, the commission ruled that a citizen has the right of access to answer script of any competition if his expectation is not upto his or her satisfaction.

`It is in the interest of the public that such disclosure of answer script are highly warranted, for transparency and accountability in such competitions which are the cynosure of all eyes of many aspiring youths`, the commission opined.

The commission however ruled that the identity of the answer script examiners need to be protected, and hence their identity should not be disclosed. Accordingly it directed that a photo copy of the requested answer script after concealing the identity or signature of the examiner, should be furnished to the petitioner within 15 days of the order.

As the concerned SPIO had also failed to furnish the information within the specified time (of the submission of the request for information), the commission has directed the SPIO to show cause as to why penalty or recommendation for disciplinary action should not be imposed on him.

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