Jalandhar, February 19
Though the RTI Act has given a platform to the public to seek information, its implementation has raised questions several times. One such incident came to light when a central public information officer (CPIO) in Jalandhar denied information to a person citing certain sections of the RTI Act, but disclosed the details to another applicant who filed a similar application almost a month later.
The case involves two local advocates who asked for similar information through separate applications in the office of the CPIO-cum-senior superintendent of post offices, Jalandhar division, recently.
Advocate Sukhdeep Singh, who filed an application on December 13, 2007, had asked for the names, ranks and present postings of the savings bank officials against whom action was being taken for making payments above Rs 20,000 in cash. The transactions were in violation of section 269 (T) of the Income Tax Act, 1961, as the payments above Rs 20,000 should have been made by cheques.
The CPIO in his reply to Sukhdeep admitted that a departmental action had been taken against the officials and stated, “Further information cannot be supplied under section 8.1 (g) and (h) of the RTI Act-05. The appellant has the right to appeal against the decision to director (staff and vigilance) in the office of the chief postmaster general, Punjab circle, Chandigarh.”
On the other hand, when Rajinder Bhatia, another advocate, asked for similar information on January 31, 2008, he was given complete details with the names of the 12 officials concerned along with their ranks and present postings. He was even told that the action had been taken under rule 16 of the CCS (CCA) Rules, 1965.
Terming it as double standards, Sukhdeep wrote to the appellate authority on January 2, 2008, saying that sections 8.1 (g) and (h) did not support the CPIO’s denial. Substantiating his point, he said the first section pertained to prevention of disclosure of information that could endanger the physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes. He said section (h) pertained to prevention of divulging of information that could impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders. He said he felt that if these could be implemented on his application, then these should have also been applied on Bhatia’s submission.
Sukhdeep said he had now put up his complaint before the central information commission stating that he failed to receive a response to the complaint filed before the first appellate authority.
Meanwhile, senior superintendent of post offices N.R. Meena was not available for his comments as he was said to be away.