The state information commissioner (SIC), during a recent hearing of a case under the Right To Information (RTI) Act, observed that an RTI request was handled in the office of principal secretary, health, in an inapt manner, which reflects the sorry state of affairs prevailing in that office.
"It also puts question mark on the functioning of the office of the principal secretary (health), and also creates doubt in the minds of people at large that when the officers concerned have failed to deal with the RTI request in lawful manner for nearly 45 days then how those officers could ensure that everyone gets health care as per the policy of state government." SIC Chander Parkash observed in a case pertaining to Amarjit Singh Dhamotia, who had sought information from PIO, director, health, under the RTI Act.
When he was not given information, he filed an appeal before the SIC. The latter issued show-cause notice to the officers concerned. During a hearing of the case, Avtar Chand Sharma, additional secretary, and Dr Balbir Singh, assistant director, health department, in their replies claimed that the office of the director, health, delayed in supplying the information from October 23, 2012 to May 11, 2013.
Sharma submitted that he was never a PIO in the office of principal secretary, health. Responding to the show-cause notice, Sharma along with Manmohan Singh and Kamla Devi, both under secretaries, health, filed another reply in which they stated that the RTI request was received in the principal secretary's office on September 19 last and the same was marked to additional secretary, health, Rupanjali Kartik, who further marked it Manmohan Singh. The latter marked it to Mohinder Pal Goel, who further marked to another person.
The RTI request was further transferred to two-three branches. When it finally reached Karam Chand, superintendent, he, after making enquiries, found that the information sought by Dhamotia is to be supplied by the PIO, director, health, and he transferred the RTI request to the PIO.
He also sent two reminders to supply the requisite information without any delay. The SIC observed that the RTI request of Dhamotia was not dealt with as per provisions of the RTI Act at the very first stage. The request was dealt with in a casual manner at the first stage and the same treatment was meted out to it in subsequent stages, he said. The RTI request was made to shuttle between different branches of office of the principal secretary for more than six weeks, the SIC observed.
Avtar Chand Sharma, additional secretary, submitted that Vinni Mahajan was principal secretary, health, at the time the RTI request was made by Dhamotia. The commission directed Vinni Mahajan to put her claim in the reply that as to why Dhamotia should not be suitably compensated. If she fails to submit her reply, it will be presumed that she has nothing to say in this case and the commission will take decision accordingly. The case will come for hearing on July 3.