Citizens being given the run-around from bureaucrats, the Right to Information Act notwithstanding, can derive heart from this.
A Joint Chief Officer of the Maharashtra Housing & Area Development Authority (MHADA) Abhimanyu Kale has earned the dubious distinction of becoming Maharashtra's first official to be slapped with a penalty of Rs 25,000 — the maximum permissible under the information law — for not giving a citizen information. The fine must be deducted from the January salary.
State Information Commissioner Suresh Joshi has imposed the fine, after Charkop resident and retired bank official S Nangia complained to the Commission in May about not getting any response to his March 21 RTI application.
Nangia says, "My RTI application 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. If a builder had done the same, he would be accused of cheating, but here a state agency is reneging on its duty."
The sunshine law required Kale, Joint Chief Officer at MHADA and designated Public Information Officer 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 HT "the great carelessness of the 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?" The maximum fine Joshi has imposed before this is Rs 10,000.
Kale says, "I do not have any knowledge about this order." He added, "Anyway, I am no longer PIO. 100-150 applications were coming and the Joint Chief Officer was only one PIO. Giving information was difficult. Then we added about 20-25 PIOs. There shouldn't be a delay again."
Nangia, also a co-coordinator for the civic NGO Action for Networking & Good Governance, says he hopes the fine would "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!"