Officer fined for denying information

Panel asks secy to recover Rs 25,000

As reported BY Sanjeev Singh Bariana, Tribune News Service Ludhiana, May 28

The Punjab State Information Commission has imposed a penalty of Rs
25,000 on Harinder Singh, a public information officer of the Ludhiana
Improvement Trust, for "denying information and causing mental and
physical harassment" to Sham Kumar Kohli, a senior citizen and
resident of Kichlu Nagar in the city.

P.P.S. Gill, state information commissioner, in his order on May 19,
has said, "A copy of the order should be sent to the principal
secretary, Local Government of Punjab."

"The officer should recover the amount of the penalty from the pay of
Harinder Singh within 15 working days of issueing the order and send a
compliance report to the commission".

Besides this, the commission has also awarded a compensation of Rs
3,000 to the complainant to be paid by the Improvement Trust at the
rate of Rs 500 for each attendance he made at the forum without
getting any satisfactory answer. The compensation is supposed to be
paid within the next seven days.

The information officer has once again been asked to file the
affidavit to the complainant within 15 working days with a copy to the
commission. "The respondent will, however, be at liberty to apply for
reopening of the complaint in case the needful is not done by the the
information officer", the order added.

On the eight hearing of the case on May 19, which began on December 3,
2007, the information commissioner noted that the public information
officer had not submitted an affidavit in reply to three points raised
by Kohli till May 9, which was the last date fixed by the commission.

The file records showed that out of eight hearings, the information
officer was present only twice.

A show-cause notice under Section 20 of the Right to Information Act
was issued to the information officer on February 18 wherein he was
also asked to file an affidavit and explain the delay in supply of
information to the complainant on his application.

The commission noted that, "It appears that respondent officer,
without any reasonable cause, has not furnished information within the
specified time under the Act.

He has also knowingly given incorrect, incomplete and misleading
information to the complainant, who received the same in driblet".
The commission also noted that, "It is evident from the papers on file
and from the proceedings held between December 3 and May 19 that the
information officer has wilfully disobeyed the orders of the
commission and has invited action under Section 20 of the Right to
Information Act.

"The failure on his part to supply information, in terms of the Act,
calls for imposition of exemplary penalty," the commission said.

The Tribune, Chandigarh, India - Ludhiana Stories