While thousands of cases are pending for years in the UP state information commission, a recent order passed by Karnataka Information Commission (KIC) has directed a public information officer (PIO) to provide the information sought under RTI free of charge for missing the 30- day deadline.
The order also asked the PIO in the district police office in Bidar district of Karnataka, to return Rs. 62 that was charged from the petitioner from Lucknow as photocopy amount.
This order can serve as a precedent for others to follow as for proper implementation of the landmark transparency act is concerned. More importantly, even if the petitioner hails from some other state, the essence of the act remains the top priority. This order assumes significance as the act enters its eighth year of enactment on Friday.
“The commission directs the PIO, office of the SSP, Bidar district to pay back this fee of Rs. 62 collected from the petitioner. The petitioner was entitled to get the information free of charge as per Section 7(6) of the act,” reads the order of KIC (KIC 1854 PTN 2012) state information commissioner JS Virupakshaiah.
Urvashi Sharma, an activist from Lucknow, filed the plea seeking details about the condition of traffic in the district. “My friends in Bidar requested me to file the application,” said Urvashi.
“It has perhaps happened for the first time. What matters is the commission asked charged terming it as the violation of the act,” Sharma said.
On the contrary, from the time when the act was enacted in UP, till February 15, 2011, the UP State Information (UPSIC), the state’s RTI watchdog, imposed fine to the tune of Rs. 1.89 crore on public information officers (PIOs) of government departments, according to the reply.
Worse, the state government, which is supposed to realise the fines, has recovered only R 3.39 lakh of this amount, the information mentioned in the reply, a total of 827 PIOs were fined with varying amounts. The total amount of fines imposed during the period was Rs. 1,89,31,050.
This is not all. For over two months now three individuals are managing the 11-member strength UP State Information Commission (UPSIC).
Not surprisingly then, there is flood of applications from all walks of life for the coveted posts of information commissioners (ICs). As of now, eight posts are vacant.
While four of them retired on July 12, another four retired in 2011. Since then, there has been only one new appointment of Khadijatul Qubra as a new IC.