Right to information (RTI) applicants are having a tough time as the Punjab finance department and the Punjabi University pass the buck over who should provide the details.
On 28 June this year, Vinod Kumar applied to the public information officer (PIO) in the office of the principal secretary (finance) for information on auditing by Punjabi University's local fund examiner's office. Local fund auditing is in the purview of the finance department and is controlled by special secretary (expenditure).
Kumar's had sought details of audited and unaudited or pending cases of counting of past service of the varsity's teachers - a big issue in the university faculty. Nearly three dozen such applications are pending in which the university has allegedly not granted benefits of previous service despite guidelines set by the University Grants Commission (UGC).
Instead of replying to Kumar's application, the assistant PIO in the finance department(expenditure 2) sent him a copy of a memo sent to the principal secretary (higher education). This memo says the information may be sent directly to the applicant "strictly within the prescribed time frame".
However, the "time frame" had been exceeded: the memos/endorsements are dated August 3 in typed letters, while the copy to Kumar has July 23 as the date in handwriting, allegedly to cover up the delay in replying.
According to Kumar, the principal secretary (finance) office should have got the information from deputy controller (local audit), who works under it, instead of writing to principal secretary (education). "This is an attempt to shield someone and bypass the law," said Kumar.
Kumar had filed another RTI application with the office of secretary (higher education) on May 24 seeking information on the "replies, diary entries and file notings" in its records.
The office of the secretary (higher education) asked the registrar of Punjabi University to send the required information "directly" to the applicant.
More than two months later, Kumar received a copy of the reply sent by the registrar to the superintendent (department of higher education) stating that as the information concerns the action taken by the department of higher education in response to the registrar's letters, the former was in possession of the information.
Despite several attempts principal secretary (finance and planning department) Satish Chandra remained unavailable for comment.