It may be difficult getting information out of babus sitting on top of government files. The Central Information Commission may tell you it is harder to get them to pay penalties for infringing the transparency law.
The right to information watchdog has been able to recover just one-fifth of the penalties imposed on government servants over the last two years.
According to information released on a RTI request by Delhi citizen, Dev Ashish Bhattacharya, the Central Information Commission gave a list of 70 cases where it imposed penalties totalling Rs 10 lakh over the last two years.
It has, however, been able to recover only Rs 1.81 lakh from the secretive babus. "The officials concerned have approached the high court in a few cases, deposited the penalty in about two dozen cases. But in the vast majority of the cases, the commission has not been able to recover the penalties," said Bhattacharya.
Officials at the commission said an audit had recently arrived at a similar conclusion but point out that a tight staffing position did not make matters any better. "Yes, the monitoring of recovery of penalties has to be improved," a senior commission functionary said. In an effort to improve compliance, the commission asked department heads of the office concerned to deduct the penalty from the salary of the delinquent official and deposit it with the commission rather than require the official to do it on his own.
Chief Information Commission Wajahat Habibullah, however, suggested the commission wasn't doing too badly.
Not if one were to consider, he said, that most of the penalties had been levied during the past year when he decided against leniency towards babudom on the plea that they were getting used to the law and cracked the whip. There is some time lag between the imposition of the penalty and its recovery, Habibullah said.
The chief information commissioner, however, acknowledged that the growing list of pending cases had him concerned. The commission, that had just about 1600 pending cases in October last year, saw the figure jump to 4,000. And nearly 100-200 cases get added up to this list every month.
The commission has last month requested the central government to give them another commissioner. The Right to Information Act empowers the government to appoint 10 commissioners. The commission started with half this number two years ago; all of them retired government officials.