R'than officials slapped with Rs 1.5-cr penalty

R'than officials slapped with Rs 1.5-cr penalty

In separate cases, several officials in Rajasthan have been slapped with a whopping penalty amounting to Rs 1.52 crore for not providing timely information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

The amount will be deducted from the salaries of the defaulting officials, who have shown no interest in depositing it to the state information commission.

Sources said the commission has written to the state government seeking suitable arrangements for deducting the penalty amount from the officials’ salaries and deposit the money to it.

Ever-increasing penalty

It may be mentioned here that in 2010-11, the total amount of financial penalty imposed on government officials was around Rs 25 lakh.  The amount has increased every year in the state, reaching Rs 1.52 crore by this month. The penalty has been imposed under 951 cases in the last few years.

“Rajasthan was the first state in the country to introduce the Right to Information Act.

But officials do not care to provide timely information under this act. As a result, penalties were imposed on officials and the amount has reached to Rs 1.52 crore. But officials are not depositing this amount because they are confident that nothing will happen to them,” said RTI activist Megha Joshi.

The act must have provision of disciplinary action against such officials, she added.
The maximum penalty so far has been Rs 46.6 lakh, imposed on officials of the Urban Development and Housing Department.

The Panchayati Raj Department ranks next with Rs 30.5 penalty charges impending against its officials.

The revenue and education department officials have been slapped with penalty charges of Rs 13.35 lakh and Rs 11.9 lakh, respectively.

The state information commission, which was constituted in 2006, has been facing shortage of key staff members, including information commissioners. The post of the chief information commissioner has been lying vacant for the last two months, as a result of which hearing of appeals has come to a grinding halt in half of the state.

Around 15,500 appeals are currently pending and it has been ordered that they have to be disposed off in one to two years.

According to experts, the delay in hearing is one of the reasons why officials are not taking the RTI Act seriously.

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