A sum of Rs. 22.69 lakh penalty, in all, has been levied on State Government officials for failing to provide information under the Right to Information Act till last year, said acting State Chief Information Commissioner H.N. Krishna.

Interacting with members of Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce on Industry (FKCCI) here on Thursday, he said the penalty was levied on 599 officials of various cadres since the Act came into being in 2005.

It is sad that the Act is not being used by the elite sections of society. The media, which usually trains its guns on most laws, has not criticised the RTI Act and this shows it has become a formidable people's weapon, he said.

Dr. Krishna said that the RTI became a necessity because bureaucrats were denying information to the people. “It has showed bureaucrats are not the rulers but public servants answerable to the people,” he said.

However, vacancies in the State Information Commission are resulting in increasing pendency of cases.

Act's impact

Dr. Krishna cited some instances of the Act's impact. He said that an application seeking information on an IAS officer's Delhi visit revealed that he had claimed reimbursement of business class air ticket, though he had travelled economy class.

In another case, the Bruhat Bangalore Mahangara Palike (BBMP) had sunk a borewell inside the premises of Hotel Ashok by spending Rs. 1.37 lakh but was also paying Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 4,000 as electricity charges per month to maintain the borewell which supplied water to the hotel.

Last resort

Another IAS officer was forced to pay from his pocket for his stay at a Shimoga resort when he should have stayed at Kuvempu University's guesthouse when he went on official visit.

A Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board engineer provided water connection within 24 hours to a citizen, who, after waiting for months, filed an application under RTI Act seeking data on water connections provided before and after the date on which he submitted his application.

The dead ‘voted'

It was revealed through an application that the proceedings of the annual general meeting of Urban Cooperative Bank in Mandya had paid homage to 360 members who had died during the last five years. It was also revealed that all these 360 persons had “voted” in the latest annual general meeting.

Collection of user fee in a public toilet in Chintamani was stopped the day after the authorities received an application seeking information about the name of the contractor collecting the fee.

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