Should the Information Commissions ask for the challans in cases of penalty?
The Right to Information (RTI) Act has a provision to impose penalty on those public information officers (PIOs) who deny or delay the information in a malafide manner.
Section 20 (1) of the RTI Act reads “Where the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be, at the time of deciding any complaint or appeal is of the opinion that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, has, without any reasonable cause, refused to receive an application for information or has not furnished information within the time specified under sub-section (/) of section 7 or malafidely denied the request for information or knowingly given incorrect, incomplete or misleading information or destroyed information which was the subject of the request or, obstructed in any manner in furnishing the information, it shall impose a penalty of two hundred and fifty rupees each day till application is received or information is furnished, so however, the total amount of such penalty shall not exceed twenty-five thousand rupees…”
The Information Commissions have been criticised often by the RTI activists for being lenient and for not imposing penalty on the PIOs even when it is warranted. In addition, it has been alleged that even in cases where the penalty has been imposed, the recovery of the same is not done. The Uttar Pradesh (UP) State Information Commission (SIC) has decided to call upon the erring PIOs to submit a ‘challan’ receipt at the SIC as a proof of having paid the penalty levied for delay or denial of information to RTI applicants. In case PIO errs again, commission will initiate contempt proceedings against the officer.
The information commissioner at UP SIC, Hafiz Usman has said that that PIO will get a receipt from treasury where he deposits the fine and submit it at the commission and those who fail to do so will get contempt proceedings initiated against them. The SIC intends to direct the DMs and SSPs of the district to take necessary action against the concerned officials.
The UP SIC gets 90% complaints and very few appeals from applicants and as a result, the cases of penalty are said to be higher in UP when compared to other states.