State info commission tells govt to make public report on disconnection of power supply to Deshmukh’s Nagpur residence

The State Information Commission (SIC) has asked the government to make public the fact-finding report prepared six months ago on the disconnection of power supply to Ramgiri — the official residence of Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh in Nagpur — owing to non-payment of bills.
The deadline set is June 5, 2007. The order was issued by the Chief Information Commissioner, Suresh Joshi, following a hearing with officials from the General Administration Department (GAD) and activist Shailesh Gandhi, who filed a Right to Information (RTI) application.
As it is known, LN Borikar, superintendent engineer with the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd (MSEDCL) gave orders to disconnect electricity supply to Deshmukh’s residence last September, which owed bills to the tune of Rs 1.5 lakh. Borikar was served a suspension notice, which said there was no justification for carrying out the disconnection before the media. Though Borikar was reinstated after protests, a fact-finding report was prepared by Jairaj Phatak, the then principal secretary, General Administration Department (GAD) on the episode.
When Shailesh filed an RTI application on October 29 seeking the Phatak report, the Public Information Officer (PIO) of GAD declined to give information, stating that the decision-taking process based on the said report was not taken. When Shailesh filed an appeal, the appellate officers reasoned that since the decision whether to take action against Borikar and energy secretary based on the report is still under consideration, report cannot be made public.
GAD’s argument for not giving the preliminary report was that it did not violate natural justice as per a 1996 SC order, which said the report did not form any foundation for passing the order of dismissal of employee. Since handing over the copy of the report to the officer is not against justice, giving the same to an “outsider” was out of question, argued GAD.
In his order, Joshi said, “Whenever the government has ordered inquiry into any significant issue, its report should be made available to public as early as possible. In this case, public has the right to know if disconnection was done as per rules. With there being no complex issues to deal with, six months seem to be reasonable enough time to process the report and make it public.”

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