SPIOs liable for delay in giving RTI info

SIC holds sitting in Kannur, disposes of 19 appeals

The State Information Commission (SIC) K.L. Vivekanandan has said that State Public Information Officers (SPIOs) of public authorities will be taken to task for the failure to give proper reply or delay in giving reply within the stipulated period in response to information sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

Briefing reporters here on the appeals from the district under the RTI Act, considered on the first day of a two-day sitting here on Wednesday, Mr. Vivekanandan said he was forced to handle a huge number of appeals because of the delay on the part of SPIOs in either giving accurate information sought by the applicant or giving it within the period stipulated under the Act. He disposed of 19 appeals on Wednesday.

The SPIO of the College of Engineering at Thalassery under the Cooperative Academy of Professional Education (CAPE) would be imposed a fine not exceeding ₹25,000 for delaying information sought by an applicant regarding appointment in college faculty. It took more than 65 days for the SPIO to provide the information. As per Section 20(1) of the RTI Act, public authorities should provide the applicant information sought within 30 days. After that the SPIOs concerned could be imposed a penalty of ₹250 a day thereafter, he said.

The SPIO in the office of the Deputy Collector (Revenue Recovery, Devaswom) in the Collectorate here was also liable to be levied the penalty under Section 20(1), the SIC said. The appellant in this case sought an information. The SPIO said the information was given over phone, he said adding that the Act did not have a provision that allowed the SPIO to give information over phone.

The SPIO of the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (PCB) here was ordered to provide the information sought by the applicant on Wednesday itself, Mr. Vivekanandan said. While the SPIO showed the dispatch register showing that the information sought on criteria for starting stone crusher unit and quarry had been provided, the applicant was yet to receive it, he said.

The SIC said that in many offices the real date of despatch of information to the applicant was days after the date mentioned in the dispatch register. He said there were also cases relating to delay in transferring RTI application received in one office to another office. Under Section 6(3) of the RTI Act, transfer of application should be made within five days of its receipt, he said.

The SIC was also aware of dozens of RTI applications seeking the same information sought by applicants in different names. Unfortunately, the law did not have any provision to blacklist such applicants, even as there was a Supreme Court order barring use of 75% of manpower in an office for providing information sought under the RTI Act, he said.

He also said each of the SIC members was trying to clear the backlog of appeals by disposing of average 200 files a month.

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