LUCKNOW: To make the erring public information officers (PIOs) fall in line, the State Information Commission (SIC) has cracked its whip once again. After penalising the departmental appellate authority of local bodies in February, fine has now been imposed on the PIO of administrative reforms department.
According to the order issued by chief information commissioner MA Khan on Thursday, a penalty of Rs 25,000 has been slapped on the PIO of administrative reforms department for not providing information to applicant Shailendra Singh. "I had placed my important some three months ago and today (Thursday) was my third hearing at the commission," said Singh, on whose complaint the order has been issued.
On the last hearing on March 18, the applicant was asked to send a notice to the opposite party under section 20 of the Right To Information (RTI) Act, still no one represented the case on Thursday.
The order, hence, has asked the PIO to deposit the amount of penalty with the commission within a month and to be present in the commission for hearing on April 30. In all the three hearings held so far, no one has represented the department and the applicant has not been provided with the needed information, observed the order.
There are 10 commissioners who have been appointed to dispose off cases at SIC but constraintsdo not allow all of them to function together. This makes them work for just four hours when their duty hours are not less than eight. Consequently, there is growing pendency at the commission.
Singh has sought information from administrative reforms department as to why has the SIC not been provided with the needed infrastructure . "But, I have not been given any information and today I appealed to the commissioner to take necessary action against the authorities in question," said Singh.
Singh's application also highlights other shortcomings in the infrastructure of SIC. "The commission has nowebsite and hence applicants face difficulty in knowing about their date of hearing," he said. The commission informs applicants about the dates through post and many a time due to late delivery appellants cannot turn up for the hearing and the dates keep on getting deferred.
The logic the commission offers for not maintaining a website is shortage of staff. "I wanted to know about all these shortcomings and where the lacuna exists but I have been denied information. If these things continue SIC will be defunct," added Singh.
In February, a similar order had come from SIC to fix the responsibilities on the authorities that have the power to provide the information sought under RTI Act. The order was the first to come.
The commission had penalised the director of local bodies for not entertaining the first appeals by appellants against the PIOs of the municipal corporations of Ghaziabad and Lucknow. These PIOs had not provided the information sought by the appellants.