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Info "lost" in floods provided after SIC intervention
11/22/2015 12:09:54 AM
ET Report
SRINAGAR, Nov 21: The State Information Commission (SIC) has taken a serious note of an RTI order wherein the Block Development Officer (BDO) of block B K Pora district Budgam had told an information seeker that he lost official records in the 2014 floods. The commission has now issued a show cause notice against the BDO seeking his explanation as to why he denied information to RTI applicant initially under the garb of floods and then provided the same after SIC's intervention ?
The details available with Early Times reveal that one Abdul Manaan Bukhari a resident of BK Pora in Budgam filed Second Appeal before the State Information Commission (SIC) on 09.10.2015 against PIO/BDO B.K. Pora and ACD Budgam (First Appellant Authority -FAA) The appellant submitted before SIC that he filed an RTI application on 18.05.2015 addressed to ACD Budgam seeking information about earth filling , construction of protection bund etc near the grave yard (bus stand) in BK Pora area of district Budgam.
A communication dated 21.05.2015 was received by Abdul Manaan Bukhari from ACD wherein RTI application was transferred to BDO B.K. Pora under Section 6(3) of the Act. RTI applicant received a communication dated 20.06.2015 stating that the information provided in the said communication is regarding two applications, whereas the same is incomplete and vague information regarding another/different RTI application and no information regarding the said application was provided by the PIO. He then filed First Appeal before ACD Budgam (FAA) dated 08.07.2015 and in response he received a communication dated 16.07.2015 from FAA, wherein First Appeal was disposed off in the appellants favour and the PIO (BDO BK Pora) was directed to provide the point-wise complete information within three days.
That even after the orders of the FAA and expiry of the statutory period specified in the RTI Act, no communication/information/reply was received from the PIO concerned. The appellant has prayed that the information sought by the him be provided to him and exemplary costs/fine as prescribed under the RTI Act be imposed upon PIO for his inaction. As per the RTI application, the appellant has sought information regarding earth filling, protection bund and fencing of the grave yard near Kanipora main Bus stop with name of scheme, estimated cost, total amount utilized and name of the executing agency.
As per the statement of BDO given before SIC , the RTI applications has been disposed off vide letter 20.06.2015, wherein he has given reference to two RTI application dated 18.05.2015 endorsed by ACD Budgam vide letter No. ACD/Bud/WS/RTI/2011-12 and No. ACD/Bud/WS/RTI/2011-12 both dated 21.05.2015. BDO has enclosed the desired information comprising of 64 leaves for the two RTI applications and has further stated that pending information, if any, has been washed out by the previous floods.
In response to the SIC notice, BDO field reply on 30.10.2015, wherein inter-alia it is submitted that his office thought appropriate to dispose of both applications simultaneously, because in them he had sought information already provided to him in response to RTI application dated 21.05.2015 received on 29.05.2015 and disposed of on 20.06.2015. The information so provided was sought from ACD Budgam's office. The BDO submitted before SIC that he received another RTI application dated 23.07.2015 in which the applicant demanded information which was provided on 08.08.2015. The BDO also drawn the SIC attention towards the application wherein information of all schemes and works taken up was sought and subsequently provided to the applicant. He has further submitted that whole information of all schemes and works taken up lying available with the office was provided which addressed the points raised with the ACD Budgam (FAA) on 16.07.2015.
During proceedings at State Information Commission (SIC) on 10.11.2015 the BDO pointed out that information sought in the present RTI application is available in the Review Book of the year 2012-13 at serial No 112, which has already been provided to the appellant in response to another RTI application dated 23.07.2015.
SIC order reads as :
"Upon perusal of the documents enclosed with the appeal and the reply of BDO dated 20.10.2015, the Commission has observed that information comprising of 64 leaves provided to the appellant on 20.06.2015 is in respect of another RTI application. In so far as information sought in this RTI application is concerned, BDO has admitted that this information is available in the documents provided to the appellant in response to another RTI application dated 23.07.2015. Prima facie it is evident that initially BDO has not provided information stating that pending information has been washed away by the floods; whereas, subsequently he has stated that this information is available in the documents provided to the appellant, later on. In view of above BDO is directed to dispose of the RTI application by enclosing relevant information as per records available with him. He is further directed to explain as to why he denied information in the first place citing floods as the reason, whereas the information was available with him, as is evident from the facts stated herein above. The commission directed the BDO to send his explanation to the State Information Commission (SIC) within two weeks to enable the Commission take a view regarding initiating penalty proceedings under section 17 of the Act. He was further directed to file a compliance report regarding compliance of the directions of the Commission. Pertinent to mention that Early Times has carried several news reports wherein many Government departments / public authorities have denied information to RTI applicants citing the reason that they lost their official records during floods. These organizations include Agro Industries Corporation , Royal Springs Golf Course , Public Service Commission (PSC), J&K High Court , Srinagar Development Authority (SDA) , Vishwa Bharti College Rainawari Srinagar. RTI activists have been demanding that Government should constitute a Special Investigating team (SIT) which would probe into these allegations."
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