Odisha Information Commission hobnobbing with delinquent Officials and acting as protective shield for corrupt bureaucracy
As per section 15 of the RTI Act, the State Information Commissioners shall function as independent and autonomous body and discharge their duties without being subjected to directions by any other authority under this Act. As per section 18, 19, and 20 of the Act, the SICs are required to hear complaints/appeals, dispose the case with direction to ensure the information to the complainant/appellant and impose penalty on disgruntled PIOs for denial or delay in supply of the information.
It is observed in Odisha that the people having failed and seriously harassed by the PIO in form of repeated denial of information, have approached the Information Commission by filling complaints and appeals with prayer to get the information and impose penalty on the PIOs. It is interesting to note that the information is denied by the PIOs for years together for which the common people suffer a lot and could not be able to address their problem due to lack of information. Many PIOs deliberately and consciously deny the information on the pretext that disclosure will expose and bring to limelight the corruption, malpractice and misappropriation of fund by the administration. So the provision of penalty under RTI Act has been made to act as deterrent and enforce effective implementation of RTI Act. If the penalty is not imposed, it will discourage the PIOs and the Public Authorities to continue to deny the information within stipulated time period. If this practice continues, the very objective of the Act will not only be defeated, but also cause negative impact on the Information seekers who will be discouraged to file RTI to get the information. The end result will be silent burial of RTI in the state. This situation has already taken place in Odisha since last ten years due to unholy alliance of Odisha Information Commission and corrupt bureaucracy. It has been witnessed that the State Govt. without following any transparent procedure has made arbitrary appointment in the post of Information Commissioners. Many corrupt people like Sri D.N.Padhi retired IAS, Sri Jagadanand Mohanty and Sri Tarun Kanti Mishra, former Chief Secretary have been appointed in the Commission who during their tenure have destroyed RTI Act in Odisha
The close observation about functioning of two newly-appointed Information Commissioners has substantiated the allegation that these Information commissioners are inefficient and ineffective and hand in glove with corrupt bureaucracy. Many of RTI Activists Sri Biswajit Mohanty and Sri Bhawani Nanda have exposed it within couple of months. I cite herewith an example of my case where the Information Commission has made scot-free the erring PIOs without imposing penalty.
1. On 16.8.13, RTI Application was submitted to the PIO, Dept. of Panchayat Raj, Govt. of Odisha seeking information about complete list of APL, BPL beneficiaries of village Dharpur, Kairpur, Raghunath Nagar, Moghalpatna, Gokalpur in Rahania Gram Panchayat under Mahanga Block, Cuttack district allotment of commodities and their quantities under PDS to the beneficiaries etc. The RTI Application was ultimately being forwarded to the PIO, Office of BDO, Mahanga Block who received the application on 19.9.2013.
2. Finding no information from the PIO, First Appeal was made on 30.11.2013 to the FAA-cum-BDO, Mahanga Block to get the information. The First Appellate Authority neither heard the case nor disposed it.
3. Then, the Second Appeal was made to Odisha Information Commission on 27.1.14.
4. After one year, the Commission started hearing in and appointed Sub-Collector, Cuttack Sadar to conduct an enquiry into the circumstances of delay and the persons responsible for the same. On 20.1.15, the Authorised officer submitted report to the Commission. The Enquiry Officer has indicated that incomplete information was furnished to the Appellant and as regards delay in supply of the information, the Sub-Collector had indicated that due to negligence at the level of In-charge Marketing Inspector, Mahanga, supply of the information have got delayed. The Authorised officer had also observed that the delay of 26 days was made by the PIO for providing the information to the appellant and the balance information could not be provided.
5. On 5.8.2015, acting upon the enquiry report, the Commission issued the show-cause notice to the delinquent officials holding them guilty of not furnishing the information and why penal action will not be taken against them under section 20 of the RTI Act.
6. The holding of the hearing fixing so many dates by the Commission, submission of response to show-cause notice by the delinquent PIOs, correspondence among themselves continued for 9 months.
7. On 5.5.16, both the Information Commissioners Sri L.N.Patnaik and Ms. Sashiprava Bindhani disposed and closed the case with the direction that as the delay was not intentional, the PIOs were exonerated from penalty.
8. The delinquent PIOs while leaving the Commission’s room after declaration of the decision of the Commissioners got relaxed, thanked God and decided to continue to defy the law, as there is no fear of penalty because the Information Commissioners have been appointed by Nabin Patnaik Govt. to protect their corrupt practice at the cost of RTI in Odisha.
This is the real character of Odisha Information Commissioners. The people of Odisha should be cautious about it.