On March 29, 2011, a Right to Information application on AIIMS faculty members travelling abroad on official tours was filed. The applicant sought details of their reasons for the visits, money spent and sponsors of the trips.
AIIMS public information officer Lalit Kumar replied six days later saying, “The information is not available. Presently there are 450 committee members. The details for permission of this kind of work, thus the information is mentioned in the files of the committee members and no record is kept. The information asked by you is very difficult to reply (sic).”AIIMS authorities did not respond despite two appeals filed on April 24, 2011 and August 16, the same year.
On July 28, 2011, another RTI application on the beautification expenditure of the engineering department was filed. The applicant wanted to know how much was spent on laying artificial grass on the water tank outside the emergency ward at AIIMS, changes in structure of the director's house, building of a footpath around the director’s bungalow and whitewash of academic foyer and building, among other details.
The PIO replied on September 10, 2011, just missing the one-month deadline given to the information officers for replying to RTI queries, which said, “The appellant is requested to inspect the documents on any working day.” Despite two appeals, the appellant got no response.
A year ago, the Hindustan Times filed an RTI query on purchase of medical equipment and got no reply. HT filed an appeal a month later but, again, got no reply. Although AIIMS comes within the ambit of the RTI Act, 2005, it sends out frivolous replies for most RTI requests.
On March 23 this year, Janhit Abhiyan, a non-government organisation, launched a protest outside the Central Information Commission for not penalising AIIMS over its dodgy replies.
“Sometimes there are legitimate reasons for organisations to not reply, especially when the volume of information is huge. But in case there is a valid reason, we can impose a penalty of up to R25, 000,” said Sailesh Gandhi, information commissioner.
“It will, however, be unfair to penalise an institute for asking a petitioner to look up files himself,” he said.
At least three members of Parliament — Jyoti Mirdha and Motilal Vora from the Congress and Sushma Swaraj from the Bharatiya Janata Party — have written to the Union health minister complaining that the minutes of the governing body meeting at AIIMS are not accurately recorded. Copies of letters written by the MPs accusing the administration of repeated “inaccuracies” are with HT.
The letter by Vora sought Azad’s intervention in saving the jobs of the poor who served AIIMS for a long time.
Earlier, Mirdha had accused the AIIMS administration of tampering with minutes of 144th governing body meeting, which was regarding the review of essential qualifications for faculty posts in super-speciality disciplines at AIIMS.
While AIIMS director Dr RC Deka could not be reached for comments, AIIIMS medical superintendent Dr DK Sharma refused comment, saying he was unauthorised to speak to the media.