The Biju Janata Dal government in Orissa headed by Naveen Patnaik has denied Hindustan Times information on corrupt officials —sought under the Right To Information (RTI) Act — on the flimsy ground that this would ‘disproportionately divert’ its resources.
The state is not known for effective implementation of the Act. Since the Act came into force in 2005, the Orissa information commissioner has penalised 253 public information officers (PIOs) for failing to provide information. The highest penalty of Rs25,000 has been imposed on as many as 61 PIOs.
On December 20 last year, the Hindustan Times sent an application to the PIO in the general administration department in the state secretariat containing the following three questions:
From 2000 to 2010, how many vigilance cases have been registered against IAS, IPS, OAS (Orissa Administrative Service) officers and engineers working with the Orissa government?
Please furnish the details, i.e. names, designations, allegations, etc.
Out of those, in how many cases has the vigilance department moved the state government for according sanction to submit chargesheets?
In how many cases has the government refused to give sanction? Copies of the notesheets/file notings, where sanction was refused, may be furnished.
This application was transferred to the vigilance department two days later.
On Tuesday, HT got a letter from the vigilance department, dated December 31, which expressed its inability to furnish the information.
"Supply of the above information would disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority, so it cannot be supplied to you as per the provision laid down under section 7(9) of the RTI Act," wrote BK Dash, state PIO-cum-assistant inspector general of police (vigilance).
"This is a ridiculous excuse taken by the vigilance department though chief minister Naveen Patnaik always claims that he runs the state with utmost transparency," said Biswajit Mohanty, noted RTI activist and board member of Transparency International, India.