Mr. Rebates

Saturday, January 8, 2011

People facing criminal charges can use RTI

Dec 30, 2010

NEW DELHI: In a judgment of far-reaching consequences, the Central Information Commission(CIC) has held that ongoing criminal proceedings of an RTI applicant cannot be a reason to deny information.

This ruling comes from A N Tiwari, the Central Information Commissioner, while deciding on a case, B Ashoka versus Prasar Bharti, the state-run television channel.

The ruling is also rare, as it has levied maximum penalty of `25,000 against the Central Public Information Officer and also the Deputy Director General of Doordarshan Kendra, Bangalore, Mahesh Joshi, for withholding information for more than two years. “The head of the public authority, Director General, Doordarshan Directorate, New Delhi, is directed to ensure that the above recoveries are made from Joshi’s salary bills from January to May 2011”, Tiwari said in his ruling.

However, Joshi is yet comply with orders of CIC Tiwari who had directed him to furnish the information demanded by Ashoka within two weeks. “We are yet to receive the information,” Mohan Ram, a Bangalore-based RTI activist who appeared for Ashoka told Express over the phone.

Holding Joshi responsible for deliberately causing delay in disposing Ashoka’s application between 8 September 2008 and 20 November 2009, Tiwari lashed at the CPIO. “He is liable to be penalised for this long and unconscionable delay.” In his eight-page order on 10 December, Tiwari also ruled that ongoing criminal proceedings should not be factored as a reason for denying information to a RTIapplicant. “The CPIO could well be reminded that appellant’s personal credentials could not be cited as reasons for his entitlement to receive information under the RTI Act. If the appellant was found culpable in a criminal proceeding already initiated against him, he will face consequences, but that could not be the reason for withholding information from him under the RTI Act,” Tiwari noted.

For his part, Mahesh Joshi had reasoned that he was in correspondence with the Central Information Commission whether to give information to Ashoka, who he believed, was an extortionist who was intimidating Joshi’s lower staff. The CIC held that this cannot be cited as the reason for withholding the information within the meaning of the RTI Act.

On 26 November 2009, Joshi informed Ashoka that an information of 9,120 pagea was ready to be provided to him on payment of `18,240, which was worked out as per-page cost of the information to be provided. In less than a month as Ashoka filed a complaint before the bench of CIC headed by Annapurna Dixit, Joshi slapped the applicant with additional payment of `31,920.


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