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Saturday, February 7, 2009

BMC moves to punish officer for RTI delay

Publication: Times Of India Mumbai; Date: Feb 4, 2009; Section: Front Page; Page: 1

Mumbai: The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s city engineer has issued a show cause notice to a public information officer—in this case, the deputy chief engineer (planning and development)—asking why his increment for next year should not be withheld.

The order comes after state information commissioner Suresh Joshi levied a fine Rs 25,000 on the officer for not despatching a Right To Information (RTI) application to the department concerned in time. The state information commissioner had also said in his order that the municipal commissioner should investigate the delay and take action as necessary.

Probe against errant info officers welcome

Mumbai: Besides the Rs 25,000 fine on the public information officer (PIO) of the BMC city engineer’s office, state information commissioner Suresh Joshi has ordered an inquiry into his counterpart in the industries department for violating the norms of the Right To Information (RTI) Act. RTI activists have welcomed both orders. “We hope that the babus will now be more careful about denying information to RTI applicants,’’ said RTI activist Bhaskar Prabhu.

The case against the PIO of the city engineer’s office came up for hearing at the state information commission after RTI applicant S K Nangia complained that both the urban development department and the BMC denied him a copy of the report on a state committee’s investigation into the collapse of Laxmi Chhaya building in Borivli.

“I had wanted details of this report as it was of immense public interest. Thirty people lost their lives, and there was extensive damage to

the property due to the building collapse,’’ Nangia said.

The PIO of the city engineer’s office told Nangia his application had been forwarded to the urban development department, since the latter had the report. The urban development department in turn told him that the files had been forwarded to the municipal commissioner’s office, which in turn had forwarded them to the city engineer’s office.

“The shuttling of files went on for quite some time. So, I had to file a complaint with the state information commission,’’ Nangia said. Six months went by before he received the information he had sought. The state information commission has noted that this was in violation of the norms of the RTI Act.

“The manner in which the urban development department dealt with the application was appalling. Since the department had received the report, its PIO should clearly have provided the information. Also, even if the PIO of the city engineer’s office didn’t have the information, he should have sent the application to the department concerned within five days. The PIO of the city engineer’s office has therefore failed to discharge his responsibility and is liable for action,’’ Joshi said.

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