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Madhya Pradesh State Information Commissioner Issues Arrest Warrant Against Non-Compliant Public Information Officer

Sparsh Upadhyay
23 Sep 2021 9:26 AM GMT
Madhya Pradesh State Information Commissioner Issues Arrest Warrant Against Non-Compliant Public Information Officer
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In a first, the Madhya Pradesh State Information Commissioner Rahul Singh has issued an arrest warrant against a Public Information Officer (PIO) for non-compliance with orders passed over a period of two years. The arrest warrant has been issued against Dr. Vikram Singh Verma, the CMHO Of District Bhuranpur [who is also the public information officer...

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In a first, the Madhya Pradesh State Information Commissioner Rahul Singh has issued an arrest warrant against a Public Information Officer (PIO) for non-compliance with orders passed over a period of two years.

The arrest warrant has been issued against Dr. Vikram Singh Verma, the CMHO Of District Bhuranpur [who is also the public information officer (PIO)]

State Information Commissioner Singh has also slapped a show-cause notice for disciplinary action on Akash Tripathi, the Commissioner, Directorate of Health Services of MP and has summoned him for a personal appearance on account of his 'blatant disregard' to the orders of State Information Commission (SIC).

The matter in brief

RTI Appellant Sadashiv Sonwane filed an RTI Application with the CMHO Burhanpur Dr. Vikram Singh Verma in the year 2017 seeking information related to posting and appointment of drivers with the health department in Burhanpur district.

However, Dr. Verma didn't respond to the RTI Application within the stipulated 30 days, therefore, the Applicant filed a first appeal where the First Appellate Authority FAO issued an order to Dr. Verma asking him to disclose the information to Sonwane,

However, despite FAO's order Dr. Verma refused to give the required information to Sonwane, and hence, aggrieved with non-compliance of FAO's order Sonwane filed a second appeal with the SIC in March 2018.

The SIC issued numerous summons to Dr. Verma, but he failed to attend any proceedings or produce any document in compliance with the summons without providing any justifiable reasons or lawful excuse.

The SIC then directed the Commissioner of health to ensure the appearance of the PIO, but the Commissioner of health didn't ensure compliance violating rule 8 (4) of MP RTI Appeal and Fees Rule 2005 which says that the Commission's order is final and binding.

Finally, the SIC imposed a penalty of Rs 25K against Dr Verma in December 2020 and asked Commissioner Health to recover the penalty amount from Dr Verma, in case if he fails to deposit the amount with the SIC within a month's time.

Despite all these orders and directions over two years, there was a failure to ensure the appearance of the PIO and recover the penalty amount.

Information Commissioner Rahul Singh in his order said "conduct and demeanor of the PIO and the Commissioner clearly reflects apathetic disregard of the law passed by the Parliament for creating transparent and accountable governance."

Singh added, "it is disheartening and disappointing to see Officers, who are responsible and obligated to citizens under the RTI Act, are actively neglecting, violating, and obstructing the operation of the RTI Act, which is part of the Fundamental Right to Freedom of Speech & Expression under Article 19(1) of the Constitution of India."

SIC invokes powers of Civil Court

In the instant RTI Appeal case, first, the CMHO, who is the Public Information Officer, showed continued flagrant indifference and non-compliance of SIC's successive orders, following which, the SIC imposed a penalty of Rs 25000 against the CMHO.

However, the non-compliance attitude continued and the Controlling officer of the PIO, the Commissioner Health Department also turned a blind eye to several orders issued by the SIC, first to secure CMHO appearance before the SIC, and later for recovery of the penalty amount.

Therefore, the SIC, in its order noted that he has been compelled to exercise powers as are vested in a civil court while trying a suit under Code of Civil Procedure 1908 by virtue of Section 18 (3) (f) of RTI Act read with Rule 8 (6) (ii) of MP RTI (Fees & Appeal) Rules 2005.

Calling for strict action in this appeal Singh said that "the SIC, as a statutory body established to promote and uphold the letter & spirit of the RTI Act, can't remain a mute spectator to such blatant repeated violations of the RTI Act. If such violations are not addressed properly, it will create a mockery of the law and institutions established to uphold the law."

State information Commissioner Rahul Singh issued an arrest warrant under O.XVI, r.16 C.P.C. and Section 18(3) of RTI Act, 2005.



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