Close on the heels of the confrontation within over the allegation of favouring the Punjab officers, Punjab State Information Commission on Wednesday disposed of a petition that had only sought to look at the record about the collection of education cess on liquor.
Punjab information commissioner Nidhadak Singh Brar's disposing of the petition has relieved the excise and taxation department of its obligation of allowing the petitioner to inspect its record about the collection and utilisation of the cess in Patiala district.
The denying of information has come when state information commissioner Surinder Awasthi is accusing chief information commissioner SS Channy of allocating of the "most important departments to himself (Channy) and being generous in granting prayers of bureaucrats and police officials". The HT had reported the confrontation last Friday.
Right to Information (RTI) activist Shivraj Singh of Patiala had petitioned for direction to the excise and taxation department to let him see the record under Section 2 (j) of the RTI Act, 2005, after the department had declined the request this January.
The section states: "The right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or is under the control of any public authority and includes the right to:- (i) inspection of work, documents, records; (ii) taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records; (iii) taking certified samples of material; (iv) obtaining information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode, or through printouts where such information is stored in a computer or in any other device."
In the communiqué declining the request, the excise and taxation department had cited the financial figures in the name of public-money collection under the "additional license fee" head in the financial years from 201011 to 2013-14.
It washed its hands off the duty to provide the information regarding the fund-utilisation certificates, replying to the petitioner that the details concerned the headquarters based in Patiala. The communiqué had come from the headquarters only.
On Wednesday, Brar acknowledged the department's standing against the inspection, pronouncing that it wasn't required now after the department's reply to the petitioner. The petitioner, who had earlier exposed the multi-crore-rupee herbs scam, had sought the data only because the department had failed to make it public voluntarily, though required to under Section 4 of the RTI Act. HT found no mandatory details of the educationcess collection on the department website.
WILL ACT ONLY ON COMPLAINT: CIC
When confronted, Punjab chief information commissioner SS Channy said the commission would surely take a call on the department's not updating its website "if someone comes up with any complaint". He, however, stated that state chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal had also instructed all the departments to update their websites.