MUMBAI: The Maharashtra Information Commission has imposed a penalty of Rs 25,000 on an official of the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Board (MHADA) for causing inordinate delay in providing information sought by an RTI applicant. This is the highest fine imposed by the Commission in the state since the RTI Act came into effect last year.

Kandivli resident S K Nangia had filed a RTI query with joint chief officer, MHADA in March 2006 asking for details on proposed plans to develop gardens, playgrounds and hawking zones in the Charkop locality of Kandivili (west). Over the last few years, Charkop residents have been fighting for civic amenities that will improve their quality of life.

"When the MHADA initiated the Charkop project with the assistance of World Bank in the eighties we were promised amenities like playgrounds, gardens and hawking zones. But today Charkop has become a congested residential suburb," says Nangia who filed the RTI query in March 2005.

Instead of implementing the proposed plan, the vacant spaces are now used for dumping garbage and construction debris. Since there are no specified hawkers zones here, the hawkers squat on the road and bylanes and sell vegetables and fruits.

"If you go around Charkop you will find open spaces which are today a breeding ground for mosquitoes. In fact, in last year's floods, the entire area was under water because open spaces are being gradually encroached or filled up. For the last 15 years, except for new buildings nothing else has come up here to improve quality of life," he said. MHADA did not respond to Nangia's application forcing him to approach the state Information Commission.

Btu even then, the MHADA failed to take note. The housing body's public information officer did not turn up for the hearing on September 26 last year. The Commission then set a second hearing for September 30. "The PIO finally turned up, but he came without relevant papers. The Information Commissioner then gave MHADA seven days to file a reply," Nangia said.

MHADA then wrote to Nangia asking for a copy of his RTI application saying it was missing from their records. "When I finally got the reply from MHADA, I sent a complaint to Commission stating that the agency had delayed my query without any reason and they should be penalised. The Information Commission then passed an order in December 27 stating that the seven-month delay "was a mockery of the RTI act."

The commission also directed the vice-president and CEO of MHADA to deduct Rs 25,000 from the salary of the Public Information Officer.

Maharashtra official fined for delaying response-India-NEWS-The Times of India