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news details
SIC issues penalty notice against ACD, BDO Rajouri
For charging fee of Rs 25000
4/17/2019 11:09:41 PM
Early Times Report

Rajouri, Apr 17: The State Information Commission (SIC) has issued a penalty notice against Assistant Commissioner Development (ACD) Rajouri and the local Block Development Officer (BDO) for violating the provisions of J&K RTI Act 2009 and demanding exorbitant xerox charges of Rs 25000 from an information seeker. The Commission while disposing off the second appeal said that information be provided free of cost to the RTI applicant. While making remarks against the officers of Rural Development Department, the SIC said that officers of the department treat the RTI requests as challenge to their authority and power.
Details available with Early Times reveal that an RTI application was filed by one Advocate Ishfaq Bukhari before the ACD Rajouri on 08.05.2018 who forwarded the same to BDO Rajouri and subsequently the RTI application was sent to Secretary Panchayat concerned. The information seeker filed First Appeal with the FAA/AC (D), Rajouri on 25.07.2018. Subsequently, the appellant filed Second Appeal before the SIC on 19.08.2018 which was admitted on 06.12.2018.
The second appeal came up for hearing before the SIC on 15.02.2019. None of the parties were present during the hearing. The hearing was adjourned with a direction to PIO to file counter statement in the appeal and also to be present on the next date of hearing. The appeal again came up hearing on 05.04.2019. The appellant Advocate Ishfaq Bukhari was present.
ACD Rajouri had filed a counter statement dated: 16.02.2019 before SIC . In the said counter statement ACD Rajouri also the First Appellate Authority (FAA) informed the Commission that the RTI application dated: 08.05.2018 was received in his office on 14.05.2018 and he forwarded the same to the PIO/BDO, Rajouri on 23.05.2018 with a direction to provide the requisite information to the appellant directly through registered post. The FAA has also informed that the PIO/BDO, Rajouri further transferred the RTI application to Secretary, Panchayat Halqa Dhanore Dhindian/Gorsian on 25.05.2018. Secretary, Panchayat vide his communication dated: 28.05.2018 asked the appellant to deposit photostat charges of Rs. 25,000/- per Panchayat
Information Commissioner M A Mir in his order said that conduct of the ACD and BDO Rajouri was highly questionable. SIC in its order said that these officers have tried every trick to discourage the appellant from seeking information. The SIC order reads:
"The BDOs have been nominated by the RDD as the public information officers for their respective blocks. The RTI application filed by the appellant with AC (D), Rajouri was first transferred by the AC (D), Rajouri to BDO, Rajouri for furnishing information directly to the appellant. The BDO further transferred it to Secretary, Panchayat for furnishing information to the appellant. Secretary, Panchayat is not designated as PIO.
The transfer of the RTI application by the PIO to Secretary, Panchayat is abuse of the provisions of the J&K RTI Act, 2009. By doing so, the PIO has simply shifted the responsibility. Secretary, Panchayat vide communication dated: 28.05.2018 asked the appellant to deposit photostat charges @25,000/- per Panchayat. He has not indicated as to how many pages of information were to be provided to the appellant and how he calculated the amount of Rs. 25,000/- per Panchayat.
"Such a demand by the Secretary, Panchayat is outrageous and illogical, besides being beyond his competence and authority. The role of FAA/AC (D), Rajouri in this matter has also been irresponsible. He has not decided and disposed of the First Appeal filed by the appellant in the appropriate manner. Instead, he too has directed the appellant to deposit the photocopy charges as demanded by Secretary, Panchayat without calculating the fee in accordance with the provisions of the Act and the rules."
The order further reads:
"The aversion to transparency and openness on the part of the officers of the RDD reinforces the wildly held belief that these officers hide information because the works shown to have been executed on papers do not actually exist on ground and most of the BDOs draw money from the State Exchequer for non-existent works. A prima facie case is established against ACD Rajouri and BDO, Rajouri for initiating penalty proceedings against them."
The Information Commission disposed of the appeal with a direction to the PIO (BDO Rajouri) to furnish complete information to the appellant, free of cost, within a period of 02 weeks from the date of receipt of the order. The ACD and BDO Rajouri were directed to explain as to why penalties as envisaged under section 17 of the J&K RTI Act, 2009 shall not be imposed upon them for violating the provisions of the J&K RTI Act, 2009.
Pertinent to mention that same tainted ACD Rajouri Akhtar Qazi had threatened to shoot an information seeker Adil Khan of Baderwah when the officer was posted as ACD Doda last year. The audio recording had become viral on social media, the officer had then managed to get posted to Rajouri.
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