Information Officer fined ₹25,000 for not providing details of grievances filed on govt. portal to former CIC
Mumbai: Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s claim of bringing transparency to the administration received a setback, with the State Information Commissioner (SIC) imposing a fine of ₹25,000 on a Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) staff member for not providing information sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act within the time period stipulated for it.
The fine pertains to information sought under RTI by former Central Information Commissioner (CIC) Shailesh Gandhi on November 13, 2015, on the number of grievances filed and redressed on the State government portal, and a copy of these grievances on a CD. “This started a unique passing-the-parcel game,” Mr. Gandhi said.
The government’s General Administration Department (GAD) said it didn’t have the information and forwarded the query to the CMO, which sent it back to the GAD on December 4. On January2, the GAD forwarded the query to the Technical Directorate, saying the portal was developed with the latter’s co-operation. On April 2, 2016, five months after he filed the RTI application, Mr. Gandhi received a reply from the CMO informing him that 9,889 complaints were received between May 1, 2015 and October 31, 2015, and 9,460 of these have been resolved.
‘Portal a facade’
Mr. Gandhi said, “This indicated that the grievance portal is perhaps just a façade, since nobody seemed to know who is dealing with it. The PIO in the CMO gave part-information and claimed the grievances were given in confidence by a foreign government. Grievances are ‘secret’ secrets. Then, the reason for not giving detailed information was put down to intrusion on the privacy of the complainants.” He then filed a second appeal to the SIC.
In its order on November 3, 2017, two years after the application was first filed, SIC Ajit Kumar Jain imposed a fine of ₹25,000 on the CMO’s Public Information Officer (PIO) for the delay in providing information within the stipulated time frame.
During the proceedings, the PIO claimed the CM’s Officer on Special Duty (OSD) Kaustubh Dhavase was looking after the online portal Aaple Sarkar and it was him who had asked her to transfer the application to GAD. The SIC. however, observed that the file had no notings supporting the claim.