Friday, July 28, 2017

Info panel slaps Rs 25,000 penalty on former Balaghat collector

Times of India: Indore: Friday, July 28, 2017.
In a first, MP State Information Commission has slapped a penalty of Rs 25,000 on the former district collector of Balaghat for not giving information under Right to Information Act, 2005.
While examining the seven-year-old case, the commissioner Hiralal Trivedi found the then Balaghat collector Dr Navneet Mohan Kothari guilty of delaying the matter and giving wrong information about his tenure in a bid to misguide the commission.
Kothari is presently posted as personal secretary (PS) to Union Minister for Steel and Mines.
The commission asked him to pay the penalty, under section 20 (1) of RTI Act-2005, within 30 days of receiving the order, warning that else action will be taken to recover the amount under MP RTI (Fees and Appeal) Rules, 2005.
"This is a historic and trendsetting decision on imposing penalty upon a senior IAS official for not discharging his duties as defined under RTI Act. Other officials concerned should learn from the decision" senior official from MP State Information Commission, Aatmdeep said.
Applicant Ashok Motwani, on July 27, 2010, had demanded copy of logbooks of the vehicles allotted to the then collector and district programme coordinator (NREGA) from April, 2009 till the date of application.
On getting no reply to the application, Motwani had made first appeal to the collector on September 9, 2010 and second appeal with the commission on November 9, 2010.
While hearing the case, the commission on June 12, 2014 instructed Jabalpur divisional commissioner to investigate the case but no reply was filed by him.
In its order, the commission mentioned that because it was the then collector's instructions to attach the vehicles from NREGA to his office and thus, maintaining the logbook is his responsibility as he was also the head of "Lok Pradhikaran Karyalaya".
Under section 5(5) of RTI Act, the commissioner considered the then collector equivalent to the public information officer and found him violating Section 3 and 7 (1) for not providing information to the applicant within the time frame set for it.
Following this, Kothari was issued show-cause notice, under section 20 of RTI act, at two occasions.
In his reply to the commission, Kothari said he was transferred elsewhere on April 14, 2010 from the post of Balaghat district collector while the aforesaid RTI application was filed on July 27, 2010. It was later found that Kothari was posted as Balaghat collector between July 14, 2009 and April 15, 2011. In its order, the commission mentioned that Kothari tried to misguide it by reducing one year of his term as Balaghat collector.
The commission said in its order that the applicant had clearly mentioned about the required information of logbook of as many as six vehicles as he wanted to expose misuse of these vehicles.
"In place of fulfilling his duties of maintaining logbook of the vehicles and providing the required information, the collector levelled allegations against the applicant which is not respectful for a public servant" the commission mentioned.