Published On : Wed, Nov 15th, 2017

An RTI query from a former Information Commissioner does not get a reply for two years resulting in Rs. 25,000 fine on CM’s Information officer

Mumbai: A former Central Information Commissioner files an inquiry into a vital subject with Maharashtra government officers. And see the result!

The state information commission has had to levy a fine of Rs 25,000 on an officer from the Chief Minister’s Secretariat for not giving information on time … in fact when you learn all the facts, you will see information was not given at all.

Gandhi files query asking for status on grievances made on govt’s online portal

Shailesh Gandhi, the former Commissioner, had asked for information on number of grievances filed and redressed on the Maharashtra government’s online portal, and also for a copy of these on a CD, on November 13, 2015.

The general administration department (GAD) said it did not have the information and sent it to the CM’s office, which returned it to GAD on December 4, 2015. On January 2, 2016, GAD transferred this to the Technical Directorate, which in turn appears to have passed on the case. Ultimately, the principal information officer (PIO) in the CM’s office, Desk Officer Anagha Sathe, in a letter dated April 2 (posted on May 3), said about 9,000 grievances were filed and most were resolved, Gandhi said.

Information denied on ground of it being ‘information received from foreign country!’

“To my request for copies of the grievances, the PIO [Sathe] invoked Section 8 (1) (f) of the RTI Act, which exempts ‘information received in confidence from foreign government’.” Gandhi told Mirror. Sathe first sent it back to GAD, and ultimately gave only part information, Gandhi said.

Subsequently, an intrusion into the privacy of complainants was cited as a reason to withhold the information.

“In a reply dated January 2, GAD said the grievance redressal portal was developed with the cooperation of the Technical Directorate, hence the information sought by me was discussed informally with the concerned officers of the directorate. My original application dated 13/11/2015 was being sent to the Technical Directorate, Mumbai with a request to provide the required information to me,” Gandhi said.

In a reply dated June 15, 2016, Sathe sent a response giving some figures, but refused to provide a CD of the grievances, or how they were redressed, claiming exemption under Section 8 (1) (f), Gandhi said.

Finally this year, Gandhi filed a second appeal with the State Information Commission. The commission, unfortunately, upheld the denial of the CD, claiming it could lead to the disclosure of information relating to privacy, and was hence exempt under Section 8 (1) (j) of the RTI Act. But last week, the commission imposed a penalty of Rs 25,000 on Sathe.

Is the grievance portal just a facade asks Gandhi

“This indicates that the grievance portal is perhaps just a facade, since nobody seemed to know who handles it. The PIO [Sathe] in the CMO gave part-information and claimed the grievances were given in confidence by a foreign government, meaning they are ‘secret’ secrets. The reason for not giving detailed information was put down to intrusion on the privacy of the complainants,” Gandhi said. “This is a unique, hilarious experience for me in RTI. It was a ping-pong match ending with a penalty.”

( courtesy, MumbaiMirror)