The State Information Commission has in two recent orders slapped the maximum fine of Rs 25,000, under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, on a government official and a Bandra educational trust for not revealing information.
Abhimanyu Kale, Joint Chief Officer of the Maharashtra Housing & Area Development Authority (MHADA), has earned the dubious distinction of becoming Maharashtra’s first official to be slapped with the penalty. The Rs 25,000 must be deducted from his January salary.
Information Commissioner Suresh Joshi imposed the fine after Charkop resident and retired bank official S Nangia complained to the Commission in May about not getting any response to a RTI application he made on March 21.
Said Nangia: "I sought details about the encroachment of plots in Charkop reserved for gardens, markets and other public amenities, that have been awaiting development by MHADA, since over a decade under a World Bank loan scheme."
The law required Kale, Joint Chief Officer at MHADA and designated Public Information Officer (PIO) for the issue, to reply to Nangia in a month. Joshi’s December 27 order concludes: "The PIO has made a complete mockery of RTI."
Joshi told Hindustan Times: "The great carelessness of officials and the over 100-day delay brought on the maximum penalty." He said: "I held two hearings, and MHADA officials came completely unprepared. In the first one in September, they said the application was untraceable. Why did the PIO not tell the applicant this before?"
In response, Kale said: "I do not have any knowledge about this order. Anyway, I am no longer the PIO."
Nangia, also a co-coordinator for the civic NGO Action for Networking & Good Governance (AGNI), says he hopes the fine will: "help end the complete indifference of MHADA officials towards RTI. Even after this, MHADA has given me some cursory information. I have filed another appeal."