Saturday, July 15, 2017

HC stays recovery of penalty from law college public info officer, aide

Times of India: Mumbai: Saturday, July 15, 2017.
Offering relief to a public information officer and a head clerk at Government Law College, the Bombay high court on Friday stayed recovery of Rs 25,000 penalty imposed on each by the state information commissioner (SIC) last month. The fine was for failing to comply with an order to furnish information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Anita Desale (33), an assistant professor at GLC and its PIO since 2015, and Sandhya Gole (56), head clerk who doubles as the PIO's aide, had moved HC to challenge the imposition of fine on the grounds that no hearing was given to them though mandatory under the RTI Act.
Last July, Dadar resident Surendra Bansode had filed a RTI application with the department of technical and higher education (DTE) seeking details, including minutes of meetings and resolutions passed by the governing council of GLC. On not getting the information, he filed a second appeal. Then, in March, the SIC, Ajit Jain, directed the college and DTE to collectively furnish the information.
Desale informed the SIC, in April, that information sought from the college about the resolution passed by the governing council was confidential. The council is presided over by a Bombay HC judge and includes the state advocate general, principal secretaries of law and judicary, higher education and distinguished alumni.
"The SIC had imposed on them the maximum penalty under the Act without hearing them," said their lawyer Yasmin Tavaria, while seeking a stay on the order which would result in deduction of Rs 5,000 per month from their salary. The compliance was to start from July 15. Desale's monthly salary is Rs 40,000, while Gole's is Rs 30,000.
Tavaria argued, "There was no show-cause notice served on the PIO or her aide to appear before the SIC. Instead, there was only a letter from the DTE to the GLC principal to remain present before the SIC on June 9 and explain why no information was furnished." She added that though Desale had sought an adjournment on medical grounds, the SIC proceeded to impose the penalty on her and Gole without giving her a chance to be heard. A bench of Justices Anoop Mohta and Anuja Prabhudessai issued a notice to the SIC, the principal of GLC, and stayed the implementation of the fine till further orders.