In the first such case of its kind facing the Delhi Government, Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi has issued a show cause notice to a Deputy Commissioner seeking his explanation in a case of “dereliction of duty.”
In the order issued on Friday, which came in a case of short-listing non-government organisations for a Bhagidari project, the Information Commissioner has directed the First Appellant Authority and Deputy Commissioner (Central District) Akash Mahopatra, to send his explanation to the Commission before March 30 on “why the Commission should not recommend disciplinary action against him for dereliction of duty.”
The order assumes significance as disciplinary action is resorted to as a measure of last resort and fines up to Rs.25,000 are first imposed against officials.
In the immediate case, the appellant, Abha, a resident of Pushp Vihar, had in August 2009 sought information on the role of a district project officer, Sangeet Gaur, in the selection of non-government organisations. She had also asked of the office of the Deputy Commissioner if it had received any complaints against the DPO’s alleged corrupt activities and if so had demanded copies of the complaints. Also, she had asked if any complaints had been received then what action was taken. To this the Public Information Officer had replied that the query was “not applicable.”
To her demand to provide all copies of the minutes of the selection committee, the PIO had stated that the “file is not available with Additional District Magistrate or DPO. Staff of DC Personal Branch declined to give copy of the file notings.”
The appellant then made the first appeal and when it was not heard, she made a second appeal. In his order, Mr. Gandhi noted that “the appellant states that he has filed the first appeal on August 21, 2009, vide diary no-2842.” There, he said, the First Appellate Authority, Mr. Mahopatra, “appears to be guilty of dereliction of duty since he had not passed any order in the matter”.
Mr. Gandhi said denial of information under RTI can only be given under exemptions of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act. He also took serious note of the manner in which the appeal was allowed to be treated by an accused official herself.
“The deemed PIO in this case is Ms. Sangeeta Gaur who has sighed the letter providing the information to the Appellant. The PIO informs the Commission that Ms. Sangeeta Gaur was a contracted employee. It is not proper that contracted employees start giving information under the Right to Information Act,” the order said.