Haryana info panel orders warrants against officials for ignoring summons
The commission issued these directions via three orders dated July 13, copies of which were obtained by the Hindustan Times on Friday. Each order relates to a separate RTI request filed by activist Harinder Dhingra.Updated: Jul 31, 2018 15:11 IST
The Haryana State Information Commission (SIC) has directed the Gurugram commissioner of police to issue bailable warrants against certain officials of the Haryana Shahari Vikas Pradhikaran (HSVP), formerly Huda, the district town and country planning (DTCP) (enforcement), and the district development and panchayat officer, citing their failure to appear before the Commission despite repeated summons.
The commission issued these directions via three orders dated July 13, copies of which were obtained by the Hindustan Times on Friday. Each order relates to a separate RTI request filed by activist Harinder Dhingra.
Gurugram police commissioner KK Rao said the order had not reached his office yet and that “it must be with the special police officer”. “I will have to check,” he said.
As per the SIC orders, Ved Parkash Sehrawat of the DTCP (enforcement) and Jyoti Phogat, the state public information-cum-accounts officer (SPI-O) at the HSVP office in Gurugram, had been summoned in relation to the issue of parking fee violations by city malls and hospitals.
Dhingra had filed these RTIs between August 8 and 9, 2017.
“Shopping malls and hospitals in Gurugram are not allowed to levy parking fee because there is no provision in the law which taxes this source of commercial income,” Dhingra said. After noticing that this was a common practice, contrary to the law, Dhingra filed a complaint with the Chief Minister’s Office in May 2017. The CMO directed the HSVP and the DTCP to carry out an inquiry based on his complaint.
Having received no information months after he had first requested it, Dhingra filed RTI requests in August 2017 to ascertain the status of his complaint. After the RTIs failed to elicit any response within the stipulated 30-day time frame, Dhingra appealed before the Huda administrator’s office in Gurugram and the Chief Town Planner’s office in Chandigarh. The appeals were filed on October 25 and October 26, 2017, respectively.
A second appeal was filed before the SIC on January 24, 2018, after Dhingra failed to receive any information on unauthorised parking fee being levied.
Invoking Section 18(3) of the RTI Act, which provides the SIC with powers equivalent to that of a civil court, the HSVP and DTCP officers were summoned for a hearing on July 13, which they were not present for.
In relation to another request filed by Dhingra in February 2016, the district development and panchayat officer was summoned. Dhingra sought information on the funds spent and permissions sought for a panchayat ‘oath taking ceremony’ held at Leisure Valley ground in the same month.
Having received no reply to the RTI within 30 days, Dhingra filed a first appeal on August 28, 2016, before the director of panchayats. After this failed to elicit a response to the RTI, the SIC issued a show-cause notice to the DDPO on February 22, 2018, which reportedly was not complied with.
Consequently, SIC has now summoned all three officials to another hearing on November 5, 2018, to be held at the Deputy Commissioner’s office in Gurugram.
“The Commission’s move is welcome because it will show other officials that they are accountable to the public and need to be responsive,” Dhingra said.
Responding to why Dhingra’s appeals were “ignored”, all the officers cited ignorance.
DTCP officer Sehrawat said he was unaware of any such RTI request or SIC directive. “I am a new incumbent, and have assumed my post on July 6. The honourable commission’s orders must be complied with and I will make sure of the same. I will follow up on Dhingra’s case,” he said.
Narender Sarwan, DDPO, also said he was unaware, but added, “I will make sure to be present at the next hearing and will provide whatever information the commission has asked me to produce.”
First Published: Jul 31, 2018 15:10 IST