The Central Information Commission (CIC) has ruled that excuses like ‘shortage of staff and work overload’ cannot be considered as reasons for not providing information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act and fined a local official for ‘delay’ in responding.
The commission penalised Mahesh Sharma, an officer of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), Rs.25,000 for delaying answers to a petition filed by Shiv Babu, who wanted information about the number of illegal cycle-rickshaws caught and the number of employees in the rickshaw department of the civic agency.
The application was filed Oct 15 last year.
The MCD PIO (Public Information Officer) had sought assistance of Sharma on the petition filed. But the information was provided by Sharma only on Jan 18 and that too was incomplete.
“The commission asked Sharma to explain the reasons for the delay. He states that he is very busy and has to move in the field to catch the illegal rickshaws. He states that he did not have enough knowledge on how to manage his work. He also states that he had a shortage of staff,” Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi observed in his order.
The RTI Act stipulates that information should be provided within 30 days.
“These cannot be considered as reasons for not providing information under the RTI Act. All officers have to do all the jobs which their duty enjoins on them. Claiming shortage of staff and overload cannot be considered as excuses and the RTI Act has very clearly put the responsibility on the individual officers who are either PIOs or deemed PIOs. Mahesh Sharma has not advanced any reasonable cause for not providing the information,” Gandhi noted.
The commission directed the PIO to provide all the information to the petitioner before April 5.
The CIC ruled this was a fit case for penalising the official and said: “Since the delay in providing the correct information has been over 100 days, the commission is passing an order penalizing Mahesh Sharma Rs.25,000 (Rs.250 per day).”
The commission directed the MCD commissioner to recover the amount from Sharma’s salary in five months starting from April by deducting Rs.5,000 every month.