When Prem Micheal Crasta, a resident of Neermarga, filed an RTI application with Mangalore Rural Police Station seeking to know the details of the criminal cases against panchayat member Melwyn D’Souza, he was brushed off.
The Public Information Officer (PIO), a Sub-Inspector, had said that the details could not be given because the cases were being investigated.
Not discouraged, Mr. Crasta moved the First Appellate Authority. There, too, his application was rejected. But the curious case was that it was rejected again by the same Sub-Inspector, this time as the First Appellate Authority.
This conflict of interest was brought to the notice of State Information Commissioner D. Thangaraj — hearing the case via video-conference from Bangalore — by the petitioner’s representative Parkash Bhat. The petitioners and respondents attended the proceedings in Deputy Commissioner’s office.
“Here the PIO sits on the appeals that question his own judgement. There is lack of clarity in many departments here about who the PIO is and who is the First Appellate Authority,” Mr. Bhat said and demanded imposition of fine against the PIO for denying information related to Mr. D’Souza.
Earlier, Mr. Crasta had sought the information from Dakshina Kannada Zilla Panchayat. But the panchayat’s PIO dismissed the application filed in April last year.
Zilla Panchayat Chief Executive Officer, the Appellate Authority, dismissed the appeal on July 23 last year without informing the appellant about it. Mr. Bhat sought imposition of fine for the delay.
The bitterness between Mr. Crasta and Mr. D’Souza goes back to 2011. In September 2011, Mr. D’Souza had led a team of zilla panchayat members to Mr. Crasta’s house to acquire land for road-widening. When he objected to it, Mr. D’Souza called the police, who came and allegedly thrashed Mr. Crasta. The Neermarga resident then filed a civil suit and also launched proceedings before the National Human Rights Commission. Mr. D’Souza is accused by several people of resorting to highhandedness to acquire land for development.
Police Inspector Mr. Nayak admitted to the “mistake” of having a same person as the PIO and First Appellate Authority, but held the Sub-Inspector responsible for it.
He said initially an Assistant Sub-Inspector was the PIO and the Sub-Inspector was the First Appellate Authority. Now Sub-Inspector was the PIO while the Police Inspector was the First Appellate Authority. This had been displayed on the notice board.
Mr. Nayak said he would give the name of the PIO at the next hearing.
The State Information Commissioner, Mr. Thangaraj, directed Mr. Nayak to complete indexing of records of the police station in the format prescribed by the State government in two months.
He also directed Neermarga Gram Panchayat Secretary D.M. Bhogamallanna to complete at the earliest indexing and cataloguing of records pertaining to the panchayat and publish the same to comply with Section 4 (1) (a) of the Right to Information Act.