The Central Information Commission has slapped a penalty of Rs. 10,000 on the State Government's Social Welfare Department senior superintendent (administration) for delay in providing correct information to an RTI applicant.

The complaint to the CIC was filed by Subhash Baghel of non-government organisation Pratidhi pointing out deficiencies in the information provided by the Department on queries regarding any departmental enquiry against the officials accused in two cases registered by the Anti-Corruption Branch in 2008 and whether the name of any accused official was recommended for promotion.

The CIC had in August issued show-cause notices to a former and an incumbent public information official observing that the former appeared to have provided false information and the other had not supplied complete information within 30 days to two RTI applicants seeking details on the officials booked in the corruption cases.

The matter pertained to separate RTI applications filed by two Pratidhi representatives in November 2009 and in May this year.

In reply to the first application, the then PIO K.K. Bhalla had last year informed that enquiry proceedings had been initiated against some officials booked by the ACB. However, in reply to the second application this year, PIO O.P. Bhatti informed that no departmental inquiry was initiated.

First order

Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, in his first order on the issue, had directed PIO (Administration) R.K. Meena to give an affidavit to the complainant regarding the reply that no official had been recommended for promotion to the post of Joint Director in the Department during the month prior to the day the RTI application was filed.

During the show-cause hearing on October 1, the CIC stated that Mr. Bhatti and Mr. Meena had defied the Commission's order to provide affidavits before August 30 and September 5, respectively. “They have only given a statement on a simple paper to the complainant,” it said. The CIC also asked Mr. Bhalla to produce documentary evidence to substantiate that inquiry proceedings against some accused officials had been ordered.

The Commission also issued a show-cause notice to Mr. Meena as to why penalty under Section 20 (1) of the RTI Act should not be levied on him for failing to comply with the CIC order.

During the show-cause hearing on October 18, the Information Commissioner noted that Mr. Meena had failed to provide the affidavit to the complainant and had also failed to come before the Commission for explanation. He found it a fit case for levying penalty.

As the appellant produced documents before the Commission purportedly showing that the promotion of an accused official in a case was already in progress, the CIC directed Mr. Meena to show-cause on December 8 why penalty and disciplinary action should not be imposed on him for providing false information.

The CIC also pulled up Mr. Bhalla regarding information on departmental enquiries, stating that he should convey information verbatim based on the findings.

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