In a Rare Action under RTI Act, Information Commissioner Issues Arrest Warrant Against Non-compliant PIO
In a rare action, Rahul Singh, information commissioner (IC) of Madhya Pradesh (MP) has issued an arrest warrant on 20th September against Dr Vikram Singh Verma, chief medical and health officer (CMHO) of Burhanpur district, who is also the public information officer (PIO). Mr Singh was irked by the four continuous years of defiance and non-compliance with orders of the state information commission (SIC). Dr Verma had earlier been issued a show-cause notice asking why disciplinary action should not be initiated against him. In 2009, the information commissioner from Arunachal Pradesh had issued the first such arrest warrant against a PIO.
 
Dr Vikram Singh Verma and Akash Tripathi, commissioner of the directorate of health services of MP, are charged with disregarding their duties as PIO and showing blatant disregard to the orders of SIC.
  
This historic action emanates from an RTI (Right to Information) application filed by Sadashiv Sonwane on 10 August 2017, seeking information on posting and appointment of drivers with the health department in Burhanpur district.
 
When Dr Verma did not reply within the stipulated 30 days, Mr Sonwane filed a first appeal. On 7 October 2017, the first appellate authority (FAA) ordered Dr Verma to disclose the information; but the PIO refused to comply. 
 
Then on 22 March 2018, Mr Sonwane filed his second appeal with the SIC. 
 
Information commissioner Mr Singh says, “The SIC, while hearing the case, issued numerous summons dated 18 October 2019, 29 November 2019, 21 September 2020, 2 November 2020, 16 December 2020 and 10 February 2021. However, the PIO failed to attend any proceedings or produce any document in compliance with the summons without providing any justifiable reasons or lawful excuse.” 
 
Mr Singh’s order also observes, “(The) SIC had also directed the commissioner of health services on these dates to ensure the appearance of the PIO but having not ensured the compliance, the commissioner violated the rule 8 (4) of MP RTI Appeal and Fees Rule 2005.’’ 
 
Finally, on 16 December 2020, SIC imposed a penalty of Rs25,000 on Dr Verma and asked the commissioner of health services in MP to recover the penalty amount from the CPIO if he fails to deposit the amount with the SIC within a month. The SIC had again, on consecutive dates, on 7th April, 7th June and 7 August 2021, asked the commissioner to deduct the penalty amount from the salary of the PIO and deposit it with the SIC. The commissioner did not do so.
 
In what can be termed as scathing remarks on the defiant bureaucracy, Mr Singh in his order, stated, “conduct and demeanour of the PIO and the commissioner clearly reflects apathetic disregard of the law passed by the Parliament for creating transparent and accountable governance.”
 
“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 and expression under Article 19(1) of the Constitution of India,” Mr Singh further stated. 
 
Calling for strict action in this appeal, Mr Singh says, “The SIC, as a statutory body established to promote and uphold the letter and spirit of the RTI Act, cannot 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.”
 
Can the SIC actually arrest a PIO for non-compliance? Probably anticipating this question, Mr Singh’s order cites specific rules from the Central RTI Act and Madhya Pradesh’s rules to back his action. They are:  
 
Once the PIO violates Section 7 (1) of RTI Act 2005, by not providing information within 30 days of the RTI application, a penalty of Rs250 per day, not exceeding the maximum penalty of Rs25,000 shall be imposed guilty PIO under Section 20 of the Act. The PIO is expected to deposit the amount with the SIC within one month.
 
As per Rule 8 (6)(3)(i) of MP RTI (Fees & Appeal) Rules, 2005, the PIO has been mandated to deposit the imposed penalty with the SIC within one month of the receipt of penalty order issued by the SIC.
 
As per Rule 8 (6)(iii) of the MP RTI (Fees & Appeal) Rules, if the PIO fails to deposit the imposed penalty amount within the prescribed time limit, SIC shall report to the concerned disciplinary authority to take disciplinary action and ensure recovery of imposed penalty amount against the PIO.
 
Section 19 (8)(a) of RTI Act says the commission has the power required by a public authority to take any such steps as may be necessary to secure compliance with the provisions of this Act. Rule 8 (4) and Section 19 (7) of RTI Act state that the order of the SIC shall be binding on the concerned officer. 
 
State IC Rahul Singh thus issued an arrest warrant under order XVI Rule 16 of Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) and Section 18(3) of RTI Act. He directed the deputy inspector general (DIG) of Indore division to execute the warrant to secure the personal attendance of Dr Vikram Singh before the SIC at 12noon on 5 October 2021 in court room No4. 
 
The warrant reads: “Dr Vikram Singh shall give bail himself in the sum of Rs5,000 to attend before me on 11 October 2021, at 12noon; he may be released.” 
 
Mr Singh has also directed the commissioner of the directorate of health services to ensure recovery of the penalty and initiate disciplinary action against Dr Verma within 15 days of the receipt of SIC order.
 
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.) 
 
Comments
dayaka58
3 weeks ago
I am adding below one more insident of how law of the land is abused.
An open FIR of fraud in Employee Benefits by HR head, CEO & Board of Directors of Union Bank of India, Governing body of IBA in particular and HR head CEO& Board of Directors of Every Public Sector Bank in general and every EX CMD/CEO & ED of every PSB who have availed and availing the benefits of the Fraud.

To,

Every Authority including Judiciary, who has been vested with Power and Bound by Duty to initiate action in Public Interest and Good Governance.

Respected Sir,

Section 17 of the Indian Contract Act and Section 25 of the Indian Penal Code explain as to what is fraud. The definition is explanatory which says that an act amounts to fraud if it is done with the intention to cause dishonest gain or loss to others. 

Based on the above explanation following acts turns out to be fraud by Public Sector Bank Management's in Employee Benefits.

Now in my case of pension calculation on implementing the scheme by Corporation Bank, now Union Bank of India ignored my past service as clerk in the same bank before being selected as PO through BSRB and alloted to same bank and was forced to resign and rejoin as per the prevailing norms then. Strangely Bank did not included my past service in my service record. As per norm every past service any were will be recorded in your service record. By not incorporating my past service in same bank I might have lost many a promotions due to me in the Bank. Which I came to know only when my pension calculation was given to me. Even though I have brought this fact to the bank along with my application for the pension. For terminal benefits all your service at the institution as casual,temporary services also to be taken into consideration as per pension rules. And is denied to me. But ED and CEOs who change the banks on appointment are granted the benfit of past service in other Bank for calculation of pension even though their service in the new bank does not qualify for pension as per pension regulation by a letter in this regard from the institution.

They deny eligible benefit to the employee as per law., But ensure that their ineligible benefit is received by them in violation of law.

However IBA and banks came up with new guidelines effective just after 15 days of my joining after resigning that hence forth those who are alloted to same bank need not resign and join and their past service will be reckoned for terminal benefits. When I came across this amendment I sought a clarification to which bank gave in writing that past service as clerk will be reckoned. When this fact was brought to the notice of the bank,they did not bothered to verify their records and sanction the same. And in every reply they deliberately saw to it that any reference to my past service is avoided. To prove my past service  I wanted them to verify my Bank account opened in my first joining branch, But surprisingly while changing the operating platforms they have not registered the original account opening date as the date of opening, instead effective date of change to the platform as date of opening thereby falsifying their own records for almost all customers. Since I could not locate the letter immediately in my records But by the time I could find the letter and sent to Corporation Bank it got merged with Union Bank and the Bank instead of taking decision at their end referred it to Union Bank. And they strangely interpreted that the reply was based on prevailing rules as on that date and not applicable to my case. When the decision is regarding terminal benefits it should apply to all those who are in service as on that date on principle of equality guaranteed under constitution. But I am denied this benefit.There may be many others in the same bank as well as in many other banks who are denyed this benefit during the intervening period.


Apart from the above matter there are many more matters where they are resorting to such tactics invincibly to deny employee benefits in violation of law of the land and abusing the legal proces. I am enumerating some of them herebelow.

Similarly they are denying appointment and regularisation of temporary sub- staff for decades in violation of labour laws denying them increments, other benefits and promotions based on their active service. As per my information there were around 4000 such temporary sub- staff in ECorporation Bank alone.Imagine their number in all PSBs. 

They are denying  encashment of leave, gratuity,pension and other terminal benefits to CRS employees even though there are various court decisions against this practice. Terminal benefits are actually deferred wages for his active service. They deny even exstaff  benefits regarding interst on deposits and advances to CRS employees even when they are paid pension as per court order. How can you classify a person differently for deferrent benefits. The termination from service by any means is equallent to death sentence to his career. Many a times the decisions  may be biased and victimization and are made scape goats to protect the favored guilty or to eliminate adversaries to their scams and a message to others to refrain from bringing out their irregularities. I am a victim of such decision. By such rules they are repeating the death sentence and publishing it every time to the every employee handling their transaction.

They are denying gratuity to dismissed, many a time it may be victimization to protect themselves or their stooges who are guilty, in violation gratuity law . Even after many orders by Gratuity Authorities and Courts in this regard in favour of the employee.

Even there are apprehensions about system of contribution to Pension Fund and utilization of the same for other purposes than for investment and pension payment. In Banks pension is inlieu of Banks contribution to Provident Fund. Hence Banks should contribute the actual amount as prescribed agreed to pension fund every month for those in service. But they are managing their profit and loss account by writing back provisions excess as per actuarial estimate. Surprisingly when interest rates are coming down they find there is excess provision and are writing back excess provisions. May be a forensic Audit of ccounting and maintaining  pension fund is the need of the hour.

Pension updation as per the original agreements are also being denied. In case of second option for pension, pension benefit is denied from the date of retirements and strangely employees were made to bear the cost of pension in violation of original agreement and Govt notified pension regulation. There are thousands of cases pending in Courts in these matters filed by aggrieved individuals. And favourable decisions for employees are not implemented universally to all the employees similarly placed.Is it not delaying and denying justice, in violation of law of land abusing their position and biased decisions and expecting every one to approach judiciary at huge cost and time during the fag end of once Lifetime. There are many incidents where they are acquitted of the crime alleged for termination of servicr after nearly 25 years in our legal system and still the management has further options to challenge. Further they defend their wrong decisions upto the level of Supreme Court at the cost of public money even in violation of guidelines in this regard by Labour Ministry and Finance Ministry. May be courts have to compensate the victims additionally from such executives and punish them exemplary then only the abuse of legal process at huge cost to public money, as well as wastage of valuable time of Judiciary in these avoidable litigation affecting justice delivery in other more pressing and important judicial matters, by such elements can be stopped. This may even cleanse the Indian Financial Sector infested by such parasites since long and responsible for present crisis in the sector.


Dayananda Kamath K.
bimal.khemani
4 weeks ago
This is not the 1st instance
Warrants were issued by Arunachal Commission also during 2010or so
tksharma59
4 weeks ago
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