If a public information officer doesn’t have a valid reason to not provide information that is part of an investigation, s/he will have to provide the same to the applicant. In an order dated January 3, 2013, the state chief information commissioner, Ratnakar Gaikwad, has directed this.
Prof Premkumar Jamkhedkar, in his application in 2011, had sought information on the status of his gratuity that the department of medical education and drugs had stopped citing investigation on him. He had also sought to know the status of the investigation and the directions given by the secretary and minister of the department to release his gratuity.
“I went a few times but was not given any information. I then sought to know the information through the RTI route. They had stopped my gratuity and put me under investigation after my retirement, which is wrong. I wanted to know what have they done of the secretary and minister’s directives and the status of the investigation,” said Jamkhedkar.
Citing section 8 (1) (b) of the RTI Act, the PIO denied information stating it does not fit the definition of ‘information’ and can’t be provided also because his case is under investigation. The section states that any information is “expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law or tribunal or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of court”.
Gaikwad said the application of the section was wrong and the information should be provided to the applicant free. “We have given him the information and provided for inspection of all the documents that he had sought,” said Parag Wakde, the present PIO.
From July, hearing in 30 days
The long-standing issue of pending appeals will soon get sorted. From July, the state chief information commission’s bench will hear them within 30 days of filing.
An applicant is supposed to get information within 30 days. If s/he doesn’t, s/he can file a first appeal. The first appellate authority must inform an applicant within 45 days (with extension period granted) whether s/he is supposed to be given information. If the applicant is not satisfied, s/he can approach the commission within 90 days.
However, at the second appeal stage, as there is no time period in which appeals have to be heard, they get dragged on for years. “As on December 31, 2012, there were 2,098 appeals with my bench. These should get over by June. So, from July, whoever files a second appeal will be able to get a hearing date within 30 days,” said Ratnakar Gaikwad.