Thursday, July 27, 2017

CIC seeks explanation from NCW chairperson for obstructing

India Today: New Delhi: Thursday, July 27, 2017.
The CIC has sought explanation from the chairperson of the National Commission for Women for "obstructing" access to the records sought by a former woman research assistant who had levelled allegations of sexual harassment against an official of the Commission.
The Central Information Commission also slapped maximum penalty under the RTI Act on--a former official at NCW who is now with NITI Ayog and an Under Secretary of the NCW, on whom the allegations were levelled--for not giving access to the information.
The Commission also announced a compensation of Rs 50,000 to be paid by the NCW to the victim.
The victim who was a research assistant between 2010-16 had levelled allegations of sexual harassment. When her employment contract was not extended, she had filed an RTI application seeking to inspect files related to her complaint, contract and reports of officials of the NCW.
When she failed to get response, she approached the Central Information Commission.
"If this is the fate of a woman who is working as research assistant in National Commission for Women, what will be the plight of ordinary women outside the NCW?
"The National Commission for Women has a Constitutional duty to explain reasons for breach of two statutes on Sexual Harassment and Right to Information in case of this appellant," Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said.
After the Commissions order on June 16, the NCW called the victim for inspection of records but she alleged that files were not properly shown to her and an important file was denied on the grounds that it was with the chairperson.
The Commission again heard both the parties including the official of the NCW against whom the allegations of sexual harassment were levelled.
"The allegation of sexual harassment against one of the important officer in NCW is a serious issue, which should have been in the knowledge of the chairperson," he said.
He said it was not proper on the part of the NCW to withhold some of the files on this excuse, which amounts to non-compliance of the order of the CIC and attracts penal proceedings under Section 20 of the RTI Act.
Acharyulu said the material placed before and the contentions made by the parties leads the Commission to inevitable inference that the chairperson, knowing the order of the CIC, has obstructed the access to a key file by withholding it in her custody from inspection.
"As the files and contentions prove that one file could not be accessed because it was held by the chairperson, the chairperson has a duty to explain why Section 20 should not be invoked against this obstruction, before July 28, 2017," he said. PTI ABS IKA