Sujay Mehdudia, The Hindu, Saturday, Jul 01, 2006
"Chandra failed to issue a direction to the department concerned to supply the requisite information"
NEW DELHI: In a significant order aimed at ensuring compliance of penal provisions of the Right to Information Act and correcting the laxity of the Appellate Authority, the Lok Ayukta has upheld a complaint against the outgoing Public Grievances Commission (PGC) Chairperson Shailaja Chandra stating that there was sufficient ground for an enquiry against her for acting in a biased manner.
In his order passed on a complaint filed by Ravinder Balwani against the PGC Chairperson's order on his appeal against the competent authority for denying information under the Right to Information Act, the Lok Ayukta stated that all the preliminary objections raised by Ms. Chandra and her colleague Sudharshan Pathak were not tenable and the petition filed by Mr. Balwani was maintainable.
In his complaint, Mr. Balwani had alleged that Ms. Chandra was rude in her behaviour, autocratic and partisan, unbecoming of the post she was holding. The complaint further stated that the main function of the PGC Chairperson was to protect the interests of the appellants who have been denied information by the competent authorities or who are not satisfied with the information furnished. Instead of performing her functions sincerely and honestly, the complaint alleged that she was working as a tool and an agent of the competent authorities.
The complaint further alleged that she intentionally ignored the incompetent acts of competent authorities and acted in a most inefficient manner. A duty has been cast on the shoulders of the PGC Chairperson to impose a penalty on the defaulting authorities who do not furnish the requisite information asked from them within 30 days time or give false or unsatisfactory information.
Mr. Balwani complained that instead of giving succour to the appellants, Ms. Chandra humiliated them during the hearings. The PGC is supposed to dispose of appeals as speedily as possible as per Section 7 and Section 4 of the Right to Information Act but her record was "appalling". Hearing into the appeals went on indefinitely and in some cases it lingered on for months, it was alleged.
"In some cases, appeals were closed even in the first hearing without ensuring that information sought for has been provided or not."
"Her conduct is very hostile to the appellant and very patronising to the competent authorities. In spite of weighty evidence against the competent authorities, she is not taking any action against them and letting them off the hook,'' the complainant alleged.
In his order, the Lok Ayukta, Justice Mohamad Shamim stated: "Ms. Chandra also failed to issue a direction to the department concerned to supply the requisite information once she has come to the conclusion that it has not been furnished. A close scrutiny of the appellate order reveals that the Appellate Authority left to the discretion of the Competent Authority to give a reply in any maner, whatsoever. She contended herself by stating in the impugned order whatever be the position a written reply should go to the applicant. Instead of issuing a direction to supply information sought for, she left it to the discretion of the Competent Authority to give the information or not to give information by directing them only to give a reply whatever be the mode of that reply. Therefore, I find there is sufficient ground to make an enquiry against Ms. Chandra.''