The state information commission (SIC) has observed that officials in the Haryana department of elementary education (DEE) have been defeating the spirit of the Right to Information Act repeatedly.
Passing an order on December 10, state information commissioner Rekha Rani said that the department officials holding the responsibility for providing applicants with details under the RTI Act were not only refraining from appearing before the commission for hearings but also ignoring its directives. She observed that their dillydallying has cause financial losses to the state exchequer, because if information was delayed, it had to be given to the applicant free of cost.
She has directed the DEE administrative officer to streamline his team dealing with the RTI applications and appeals, and told its director to take necessary action against the lax officials. State information commissioner Rekha Rani is wife of Virender Singh, a confidant of former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.
On June 4 last year, Panipat-based RTI activist PP Kapoor had written to the DEE to know the details of the financial and administrative powers of headmasters for running the government middle schools. Kapoor had sought the details of promotions as well as the copies of different orders and circulars issued to the headmasters.
“While the middle schools are run independently in Haryana, many of these are part of the high or senior secondary school managements. As far as I know, the headmasters (of middle schools) are unable to exercise their financial and administrative powers independently when their schools are in higher categories where principals manage everything,” Kapoor had stated, adding that the DEE had ignored his application and appeals.
He was given only partial information for full fee, and the state public information officer (SPIO) in the department concerned and the first appellate authority (FAA) also failed to act. “While the SPIO did not reply to my queries, the FAA failed to take a decision on August 4 last year, even as the department SPIO had failed to furnish information within the stipulated two months,” stated the applicant.
Issuing a show-cause notice to the DEE regarding penalty for delayed information, the SIC also directed the FAA to discharge his obligatory duty and pass orders in the stipulated timeframe.
“The information (given in this case) is incomplete. In so many cases, the SPIOs don’t appear before the commission on the given dates and also do not comply with its directions while deciding appeals. Also, all SPIOs (of the DEE) have failed to perform their duties under the Act,” reads the commission order.