The apathy of senior officials in the Punjab government towards the Right to Information (RTI) Act is now coming to the fore in a spate of cases.
For negligent attitude,the Punjab Information Commission has imposed a maximum penalty of Rs 25,000 each on Z R Khan,executive officer of the Ludhiana Improvement Trust (LIT) and Babita Kaler,former Jalandhar district transport officer who is now the Deputy Director of Local Bodies (Ludhiana). The penalty is to be deducted from these officials salary and deposited in the state Treasury.
How highly the LIT thinks of the Act is evident from the fact that in a number of cases against the Trust for explaining its inaction on RTI queries,it had sent a peon to represent its position in the Punjab Information Commission.
In an order delivered on Friday,Information Commissioner Kulbir Singh noted that one Harpal Singh,a peon,has represented Ludhiana Improvement Trust in five different cases and has marked his attendance as clerk in 33 hearings. Taking a serious note of this attitude,Singh stated: This shows that PIO is not taking the RTI Act seriously and has scant regard for it. This type of action will put the whole system unworkable.
He added that Z R Khan was the executive officer of the Trust when the information was sought and that the LIT deliberately does not want to give information to the RTI seeker.
The information under RTI was sought by Rohit Sabharwal a resident of Model Gram. The Commission,which has directed LIT to pay Rs 2,000 to Sabharwal for the harassment caused to him,has specified that the information sought must be supplied to him before the next date of hearing on December 16.
Meanwhile,the information commissioner has imposed a penalty of Rs 25,000 on Babita Kaler,former Jalandhar DTO,for not taking the RTI Act seriously. In spite of three hearings in the Commission,information was not provided to the complainant. The Commission noted that the DTO did not even bother to file a reply to the showcause for delay in providing the information sought by Harpreet Singh a resident of Kharar. It has directed the transport office to pay Rs 2,000 to Singh as compensation for the harassment caused to him and give him the information before the next date of hearing on December 16.