//RTI act: Information officer facing action

RTI act: Information officer facing action

K.P.M. Basheer, The Hindu, 2, Dec 2006

For not giving Marad report to petitioner

KOCHI: The State Information Commission is taking steps to penalise State Public Information Officer K.K. Ramani, an Additional Secretary to the Government, for disobeying its order.

The commission has, as the first step, ordered Ms. Ramani to appear in person before it on December 12 and explain why penalty should not be imposed on her, under the Right to Information Act, for not complying with its order.

If penalty were to be imposed, it will be the first time that an official is punished for disobeying the commission's order to provide information sought by a citizen under the Act. Section 20 of the Act provides for a penalty of Rs. 250 for each day of delay in providing the information sought.

The commission's action is on a petition by general secretary of the Human Rights Defence Forum, Kochi, D.B. Binu that the official had "deliberately flouted the direction of the State Information Commission."

Mr. Binu had petitioned the commission to direct the Government to provide a copy of the Marad judicial inquiry report to him. Invoking the Act, he had earlier asked the Government for a copy of the report. But the Government had refused, arguing that it was a secret document.

The commission, after summoning and hearing the Home Secretary Lissie Jacob, currently the Chief Secretary, overruled the Government contention, and on September 28, ordered it to provide a copy of the report.

Against this, the Government went to the Kerala High Court and sought a stay on the order. The court ordered notice to the respondents, but did not stay the order.

In view of this, Mr. Binu pressed the State Information Officer to comply with the commission's order. To this, Ms. Ramani sent him a letter saying, "You can obtain a copy from the Government Press, if so desires." Meanwhile, another person who had sought a copy of the report got it from the Government.

Mr. Binu went back to the commission seeking action against the official for "deliberately flouting its order and trying to humiliate the commission by sending him such a letter."

Commission sources said the quantum of penalty under Section 20(1) and (2) would be decided after the hearing.

There are four other complaints against officials pending with the commission for not providing information sought under the Act. One of them is against the Public Information Officer of the Kochi Corporation.