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Refusal to comply with RTI: Prez staff may face action

Central Information Commissioner threatens to initiate action under IPC against officials of the Rashtrapati Bhawan and DoPT for not obeying his orders, reports Chetan Chauhan.

india Updated: Jan 12, 2008 23:41 IST
Chetan Chauhan
Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times

Central Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah has threatened to initiate action under IPC against officials of the Rashtrapati Bhawan and Department of Personnel and Training for not obeying his orders.

Habibullah had asked Rashtrapati Bhawan's Central Public Information Officer Nitin Wakankar to provide file notings to RTI applicant SS Bamra, an employee in the President's Secretariat. Bamra had sought information about relaxation given in promotion to his colleagues.

What apparently irked Habibullah was that Wakankar had sought the advice of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) on his order on whether to provide a copy of the file notings to Bamra. The department informed Wakankar that it had not taken a final view on whether the file notings were part of the information defined in RTI law or not.

When Bamra approached him, Wakankar said there were no further file notings to be provided. This was despite Habibullah specifying that the file notings were to be provided to Bamra.

Wakankar's senior in Rashtrapati Bhawan and Appellate Authority for RTI Rasika Choubey washed her hands off the controversy saying she has no comments to offer and the action on Habibullah's order was required to be taken by Wakankar.

And, when the case for non-compliance of Habibullah's order was listed for hearing in December, Wakankar and Fayaz Ahmed Kidwai, a deputy secretary in Rashtrapati Bhawan, who assisted him in the case, failed to appear. Bamra was present.

From the sequence of events, Habibullah reached the conclusion that there was a deliberate violation of his orders.

What annoyed him further was Wakankar's insistence that the information provided was complete, even though it was incomplete. "Denial of information made knowingly appears to be rather malafide," Habibullah said in his order.

Habibullah said that by disobeying orders of the commission, the functionaries of President's Secretariat and the Department of Personnel and Training appear to have committed offences punishable under various sections of Indian Penal Code for not providing information to a public servant, obstructing a public servant from discharging his or her duties and disobeying orders issued by a public servant.

The punishment for these offences is simple imprisonment upto six months.

In a showcause notice issued to Wakankar, Kidwai and PK Misra, the central public information officer of the personnel department, Habibullah has sought replies from them why action should not be taken under the penal provisions and section 20 (1) of RTI Act.

The section is about imposing penalty and disciplinary action against officials for not providing information.