In an order that could have far-reaching implications, the Odisha State Information Commission has directed the state government to furnish information on top government officials facing corruption charges.
The state transparency watchdog’s order last month came on a Hindustan Times petition. The government, which was told to make the information public as a part of self-disclosure under the Right to Information Act within a month (by the last week of May), has sought one more month from the commission to comply.Using the RTI Act in February 2011, HT learnt the state vigilance department had registered corruption cases against 26 Indian Administrative Service, two Indian Police Service and 13 Indian Forest Service officers of Odisha cadre between April 1, 2000, and December 31, 2010.
During the same period, the vigilance department had sought sanction to prosecute 19 officers.
While the state government refused sanction to prosecute four officers, it kept pending for one to five years its decision in the cases of seven others as on December 31, 2010, the answer to the RTI query revealed. The answer did not mention the other cases.
The Supreme Court stipulates sanction or refusal for prosecution has to be given within three months, whereas the state’s time frame is two months.
In May 2011, HT had sought information under the RTI Act from the general administration (GA) department — under chief minister Naveen Patnaik — on the why prosecution sanction was denied in some cases and kept pending in others.
The GA department had replied, “… Disclosure of information won’t serve larger public interest. Rather it will hamper the process of investigation.” The GA department’s first appellate authority — after HT appealed — had upheld the decision to deny the information. The state information commission has set aside the first appellate authority’s order.