The Jharkhand State Information Commission (JSIC) may soon have some clarifications to provide to the High Court regarding its jurisdiction to impose penalty on officers of the state Government. The state Government has filed a writ petition in the Jharkhand High Court, challenging CIC Harshanker Prasad's order slapping a fine on its senior officer for not providing peons to JSIC.
Prasad has claimed that he is prepared to reply to the petition filed by the state's Personnel Department (PD) on January 3. "I will reply as and when the court asks me to do so," he said. However, the court has not yet responded to the petition that involves a resident of Palamau, Binod Prajapati.
Prajapati had approached the JSIC with a complaint that Palamau District Education Officer had not furnished information sought by him last year under the RTI Act. While disposing of the case in his favour, Prasad in his order, dated December 20, complained about the shortage of 'good' staff in the JSIC and held then PD Secretary S K Satpati, an IAS officer of 1986 batch, responsible for it.
"Several letters were written and the Commission also desired that seven peons be deputed. But the PD deemed it fit to post some assistants who were not equipped to do the job. For non-cooperation and failure in performing statutory duty of providing personnel, the Commission, under Section 19 (8 read with Section 20 of the RTI), imposes a penalty of Rs 5,000 on Satpati. The penalty will be deducted from his salary in five monthly installments of Rs 1,000 each, beginning from January," stated Prasad in his order.
The PD's secretary R S Sharma, who succeeded Satpati recently, moved the court with a writ seeking to quash this order. "The main question involved in the case is whether the CIC has any jurisdiction to pass any order against the petitioner in an appeal wherein he is not a party," asked the petition. Another question was whether the law conferred any jurisdiction upon the JSIC to impose punishment not violative of the RTI Act. "We are waiting for the court to hear our submissions," said Sharma.