Special Correspondent

For needlessly making petitioner attend enquiry

MADURAI: The Tamil Nadu Information Commission has directed the Commissioner, Commercial Taxes Department, to pay a compensation of Rs. 1,000 to a petitioner for needlessly making her attend an enquiry in Chennai, and frame charges against both the Public Information Officer (PIO) and the Appellate Authority of the department.

The petitioner, A. Fathimabee of Anna Nagar in Madurai, had in an application sought certain information from the Assistant Commercial Taxes Officer, Madurai, on November 14, 2008.

However, the officer had allegedly refused to receive the letter and it was returned by the postal authorities with an endorsement on the envelope ‘sender refused’ on the ground that the correct address was not written on the envelope.

When the petitioner sent a fresh letter on December 16, 2008, the officer had issued a memorandum refusing to supply information on the four queries citing exemption under the Right to Information Act.

She went on an appeal wherein the Appellate Authority refused to receive the envelope, citing it was addressed to the DCTO (East), KK Nagar, Madurai. When the applicant sent her representation again, the Appellate Authority issued an order on February 23, 2009, directing the PIO to provide information for the first three items and rejected the fourth query citing Section 57 of the TNGST Act.

Hence the petitioner preferred a complaint with the Commission on May 28, 2009.

When the Commission enquired, the Public Authority, who was summoned, stated that he had supplied all information sought by the petitioner. The officer had no explanation to offer except to say that it was done by his predecessor.

The Commission termed as bizarre the behaviour of the Public Authority in this case.

Returning the envelopes by the officers was an offence under the RTI Act. The applicant had sought information about the closure of business by a person who was using a particular building as godown.

As the person had died, the petitioner wanted to know under whose name the business was being carried out as the TNGST licence was obtained in the name of the person who had died.

Hence, the Commission directed the Commissioner to call for personal explanation and frame charges under 17 (b) of TN Government Servants (Disciplinary and Appeal) Rules against both the PIO and the Appellate Authority for refusing to accept an RTI petition and report the results of the action taken within six weeks to the Commission.