Friday, June 30, 2017

HSIC recommends action against Wakf board official

Press Trust of India: Chandigarh: Friday, June 30, 2017.
The Haryana information commission has advised Additional Chief Secretary to take "appropriate action" against an official of state Wakf board Ambala for showing "total disregard and apathy to the spirit of the RTI Act, 2005."
In its order delivered on June 20, HSIC Prahlad Rai Meena, a retired IPS officer, said "Ram Niwas, Additional Chief Secretary (Jail and Judicial Branch) is advised to take appropriate action against Imtiyaz Khizar, First Appellate Authority at the office of Haryana Wakf Board, Ambala, who had shown total disregard and apathy to the spirit of the RTI Act, 2005, at his end."
The order was given during the hearing of second appeal filed by Gurgaon-based RTI activist Harinder Dhingra.
Dhingra in May last year had sought district wise information from the Wakf board regarding details of the land that was in its possession.
Dhingra's RTI application was transferred to all districts of the state by Ambala State Public Information Officer (SPIO) R L Saini for the information to be directly provided to Dhingra by the districts, Meena observed.
However, on the orders of Khizar, the then ASPIO R U Siddaqqui of the department asked all districts to send the information back to the headquarters than giving it directly to Dhingra, the order says.
On Dhingra's first appeal, Khizar, the first appellate authority, denied information to him, Meena noted.
On the second appeal by Dhingra, the HSIC found that Saini and Siddaqqui were only abiding to the orders of first appellate authority.
In its order, the HSIC also asked the SPIO to keep entire record pertaining to RTI applications in his personal custody and not hand over to any of the authority except Ram Niwas, who is looking after the affairs of the Haryana Wakf Board, Ambala on behalf of Government of Haryana.
The Commission observed that there was no initial delay on the part of Saini as he had transferred RTI application under section 6(3) of the RTI Act, 2005 to all the SPIOs of the districts through his letter dated May 2, 2016.
The Commission further observed that Siddaqqui, the then ASPIO Haryana Wakf Board, Ambala had also acted on the verbal directions given by the First Appellate Authority (Khizar).
The Commission, has also observed that SPIO and the then ASPIO both have acted upon the directions of the first appellate authority, who had intervened in the matter, prior to deciding the first appeal.
"Commission is therefore, convinced that in the instant case, both respondents were not allowed to exercise their wisdom as per the spirit of the RTI Act, 2005," Meena observed.
The Commission further observed that respondents present before it were thus bound by discipline of the hierarchy of the service.
"Commission is aware of the fact that appellant had sought information from one SPIO, which was scattered to all the twenty one SPIOs of the State and all the SPIOs except seven SPIOs have provided information, directly," Meena observed.
"Commission is further aware of the constraints and limitation of junior officers, when their seniors interfere with their working with ulterior motive with a view to defeat very purpose of transparency which is cardinal part of RTI Act, 2005, hence for the sake of the plea of the respondent, they cannot be penalised for no fault of theirs," he observed.
Commission has taken an adverse view of the acts of the first appellate authority, who had not only interfered with the independent functioning of the SPIO but also gone out of way to deny information, which has defeated the very purpose of the RTI Act, 2005.