The Gwalior bench of MP high court has issued a notice to the superintendent of Jayarogya Hospital, Gwalior, asking him to explain why he should not be accused of fraud for not providing desired information to a right to information applicant after charging him Rs1,000 for the purpose.
Hearing the petition filed on behalf of RTI activist Ashish Chaturvedi, who is also a whistleblower in the multi-crore Vyapam scam, a single bench of justice DK Paliwal sought a reply from Dr JS Sikarwar, asking him to respond within two weeks as to why the application of the petitioner to book him for fraud under section 420, 467 and 468 of the IPC should not be conceded.
Appearing on behalf of Chaturvedi, senior counsel DK Singh in his petition said when his client sought a definite information from the hospital administration through RTI on November 14, 2014, he was asked to pay Rs1,000 as fee. He paid the fee on December 26, 2014, but was not furnished the information.
When information was not provided for over six months, Chaturvedi tried to lodge a complaint with the Kampoo police station in Gwalior against Dr Sikarwar on charges of cheating, but the police refused. Thereafter the RTI activist moved the court on July 2 seeking its intervention. Chaturvedi also sought the court's intervention to direct the police that denial of information under RTI, after all formalities were completed by an applicant, should also be treated as cheating.
Talking to HT, Ashish said RTI has become largely ineffective in MP as information is often denied to an applicant without assigning any reason. “In the absence of provision for punitive action for not providing information, public information officers and their superiors in various offices of the state government simply don't care to provide information if it were detrimental to the interest of powerful people in that office,” he said.
“Dr Sikarwar is not providing me information because the information concerns purchase of orthopaedic implants under Deendayal health scheme when head of neurology department at Gajraraja Medical College, Dr SN Aiyengar, was the superintendent. He has tremendous clout, so I am being denied of the information. This situation prevails everywhere in the state,” the RTI activist said.
When contacted former chief information commissioner (CIC) PP Tiwari said he would not comment on the matter that was sub judice. “But it's true that RTI itself provides that public information officer (PIOs) can't be prosecuted under any law for failure in their duty and it acts as a shield for them,” he said.