Information panel official gets away with a pittance fine

Information panel official gets away with a pittance fine

DCP Public Information Officer failed to reply RTI query for 540 days

The Karnataka Information Commission (KIC) has slapped a fine of Rs 5,000 on DCP Public Information Officer (PIO) V Ramaiah. But the figure is too small given the fact that Ramaiah failed to reply to an RTI query for a good 540 days.

An order passed by D Thangaraj, State Information Commissioner on January 18, said that if Ramaiah fails to provide an explanation on the cause for the delay, a fine of Rs 250 per day would be levied. Ramaiah also had never appeared before the KIC although it had asked him to do so on four occasions. 

Clearly, Thangaraj’s orders were not followed. When questioned about the matter, T Ashoka, PIO, KIC, said: “Each case is different and is dealt with differently. It is not wrong for the KIC to pass judgements varying from case to case.”

As per Section 20 of the RTI Act 2005, a fine of Rs 250 will be charged for each day of delay in providing information, with a maximum fine of Rs 25,000. Vikram Sinha, member of RTI Study Centre, said that KIC does not have discretionary powers vested with it.

“There is no loophole in the law that can be misused by PIOs. KIC even fails to provide explanation as to why it has not charged the maximum fine. Clearly, they have faltered on the law,” he said. 

Ramaiah was fined for his delay in replying to an RTI query filed by activist T Christy on  July 15, 2010.

A resident of Anthony Nagar, Hebbal, Christy was arrested and tortured in custody by Yelahanka Police and later framed in a false extortion case in February 2008. This was after he complained to BESCOM about misuse of power supply by his landlord. 

For the past two years, he has been waiting for the disciplinary action taken report that the State Human Rights Commission had ordered the police department to take against the two police officials involved in his arrest. While Christy’s case is apparently ‘not to be found’ in police records, both the police officials have been let off with nothing more than a warning.

It is interesting to note that KIC has conveniently compiled two RTI queries of Christy both seeking information on different points regarding the same case by Ramaiah. The first case was replied to only after 320 days. This would mean that the total fine should be Rs 50,000. An official from KIC, on condition of anonymity, said: “The applicant can move the High Court in this matter. The KIC will pass biased judgments when it involves important people.”

Surely, Christy plans to approach the High Court to ensure Ramaiah is fined a total of Rs 50, 000.

V Ramaiah was not available for comment. 

Hike in cases

From January 2006 to May 2011, 810 Public Information Officers have been fined by KIC for delay in providing replies to RTI queries on time. A majority of them belong to government departments in districts outside Bangalore. The numbers show a steep rise as compared to 103 officials fined for the same in January 2010.

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