The Madhya Pradesh State Information Commission has imposed a penalty of Rs 25,000 on undersecretary of Revenue Department RS Verma for alleged malafide and wilful intention of not sharing the information sought by an RTI applicant related to a corruption case in the urban development and housing department.
The state information commission had earlier penalised Jabalpur Collector Bharat Yadav with a fine of Rs 5,000 for not furnishing documents in the same case.
The commission has also castigated other officers, including Mandsaur Collector Gopal Chandra Dhad, for their roles in hiding the documents, in contravention to the RTI Act. All these officers came under the scanner of the commission as they were posted in state headquarters of urban development department during the disposal of the RTI application.
RTI applicant Achal Kumar Dubey had filed a complaint of corruption against the then chief municipal health officer R Kartikeya, who was posted in Vidisha, home district of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, in 2016. Dubey had filed an RTI query seeking details of the investigation in 2017. The officers kept dodging the query for over three years.
Dubey filed a complaint with the office of Information Commission, but despite the first appellate officer’s order, the information was not passed on to Dubey.
During the hearing, undersecretary and Public Information Officer RS Verma claimed he had made all efforts to access the file but he could not as the file was with another department. But he failed to provide any documentary proof in support of his claim.
But Information Commissioner Rahul Singh said the PIO faulted on many counts as he did not transfer the RTI application to other department whom he thought had the information for providing the response. Besides this, he also remained incommunicado despite being approached by Dubey several times.
Singh, in his order, listed documents which prove that the PIO was in fact part of the investigation done against the then CMO and he had details sought by the applicant but chose to withhold the information.
Verma, during the hearing, also pleaded before the Commission that investigation was quasi-judicial in nature and sensitive documents cannot be given to the applicant during the course of the investigation. The Information Commission turned down this plea and said he brought up this point only after being served a show cause notice to pay a fine.
“The applicant has every right to know the status of their complaint as the department had found merit to launch investigation on the basis of applicant’s complaint,” Singh said, and also pointed out that nowhere during the course of pendency of three years did the department say that giving out this information could impede the process of investigation.
The commission has also asked the department to pay a compensation of Rs 2,000 to Achal Dubey.
The Information Commissioner ruled out that the PIOs cannot escape their responsibilities by merely saying that the file was not put up before them by the relevant department, and they will be held responsible and accountable for any mismanagement in their office.