Friday, August 3, 2007

First ever penalty under section 20 of RTI Act in West Bengal

After more than 2 years of implementation of the Act, the West Bengal State Information Commission imposed its’ first ever penalty amounting to Rs. 15, 500.00 on the SPIO & the Chief Executive Officer of Health Department, Hooghly under Section 20(1) of the RTI Act 2005. The penalty was imposed for an inordinate delay of 62 days made after the stipulated time frame in furnishing the information sought by a Local Club/Organiser of Jangipara, Hooghly. We have the entire story from Amitdyuti Kumar of APDR:

The organisers of Thunder Club, a very well known Social organisation of Jangipara are not associated with any politcal party. The organisation also organises two/three voluntary blood donation camps every year. The usual place of such camps was the local Primary Health Center outdoor. Last year (2006), the Block Medical Officer and the Chief Medical Officer of Health of the District did not even reply to their requests made on 17 April and again on 5 May. However kowledgable Health Center employees told that the club will not be allowed to run its camp
atthe instruction of 'higher-ups'. Raghunath Chakrabarty, an organiser of the club submitted an application undert he Right to Information Act 2005 to know why their letters were not replied to and what is the cause of denying permission to hold the camp. The SPIO (and the Chief Medical Officer of Health of the District) again preferred to ignore the RTI application. A persistent Mr. Chakrabarty appealed to the State Chief Information Commissioner. On being notified by the SCIC, the CMOH gave some wrong informaton, which were proved to be lies by papers submitted by Mr Chakrabarty. The SPIO-cum-CMOH was first show caused and as he again tried to evade was called for a hearing on 17 July 2007.
On 27 July 2007 the Commission passed an order on Appeal/Complaint No.977(3)-WBIC/RTI/91/07 imposing a penalty of Rs 15500/- on the CMOH,
Hooghly which "shall have to be deposited within 15 days from the date of receipt of this order" and report compliance to the Commission. "If he fails to do that, the Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Health & Family Welfare was directed to initiate departmental action against
him and recover the said amount from the salary of Dr. Mandal in five
equal monthly instalment and remit the same.

The full text of the order is given below :

Bhabani Bhaban (2nd Floor), Alipore
Kolkata--700 027
Telefax (013) 2479-1966
Appeal/complaint No. 977(3)-WBIC/RTI/91/07
Right to Information Act, 2005
Date of hearing on 17.07.2007.
Raghunath Chakraborty
C.M.O.H., Chinsurah, Hooghly & State Assistant Public Information

Present: l. Shri Raghunath Chakraborty ........ Complainant.
2.Dr. Akhil Kumar Mandal ......... Respondent, Chief Medical
of Health Hooghly.
3 .Shri Arun Kumar Koley Block Medical Officer of
Jangipara Rural Hospital, Jangipara
...... Respondent.
Facts on record:
1. Shri Raghunath Chakraborty of Jangipara, Hooghly requested for some
information under RTI Act from the Chief Medical Officer of Health,
Hooghly on 09.02.2007 regarding grant of permission to hold a Voluntary
Blood Donation Camp at Jangipara Rural Health Centre.
2. Without getting any reply from the Chief Medical Officer of Health
Shri Chakraborty preferred a complaint under section 18(1) of the RTI
Act to the Commission on 03.04.2007, the Commission issued a show cause
notice vide No. 483(2)-WBIC/RTI/91/07 dated 04.04.2007. In reply the
Chief Medical Officer of Health, vide No. HC/2024 dated 12.04.2007 stated
that the camp was not allowed from the point of security of the O.P.D.
space. He later vide No. HC/2338 dated 02.05.2007 revised the reply and
stated that the Blood Donation Camp was not allowed at Jangipara Rural
Hospital since for the last
three years. There was no proper store facilities, especially due to
storage of materials supplied by SHSDP-II Project of World Bank.
Meanwhile, the Commission was not satisfied with the first reply and issued a
second show cause notice vide No. 564-WBIC/RTI/91/07 dated 20.04.2007.
3. The Deputy Director of Health Services and State Public Information
Officer also directed the Chief Medical Officer of Health to comply
with the direction of the Commission. Shri Raghunath Chakraborty vide his
application dated 29.05.2007 challenged the statement of Chief Medical
Officer of Health and produced documentary evidence showing that the
Blood Donation Camp was actually held in 2004 and 2005. The Commission
vide its No. 800-WBIC/RTI/91/07 dated 31.05.2007 forwarded those
documents too to the Chief Medical Officer of Health and sought for his
clarifications. The Chief Medical Officer of Health vide No. HC/3008 dated
08.06.2007 categorically stated that no organization was allowed to
perform the Blood Donation Camp at Jangipara Rural Hospital.
4. The Commission issued notice for -hearing to both the parties to
appear on 17.07.2007 before the Commission.
5. Shri Raghunath Chakraborty produced evidence showing that the Blood
Donation Camp did take place in the year 2004 and 2005. The Chief
Medical Officer of Health could not deny this fact. When asked why had he
written that no Blood Donation Camp was allowed during the last three
years preceding 2006 and also why had he categorically reiterated that no
Blood Donation Camp was allowed, the Chief Medical Officer of Health,
submitted that he was so briefed by the office. But he could not produce
any documentary evidence about such briefing.
6. It is further noted by the Commission that the Chief Medical Officer
of Health did furnish information, incorrect though, to the
Commission, but he did not care to furnish any information to the applicant.
Ultimately, Block Medical Officer of Health vide Memo No. 183/JRH dated
11.05.2007 informed the applicant that the Block Health & Family Welfare
Samity in its meeting dated 10.05.2007 decided that no organization
would be provided space inside the hospital premises for conducting the
Blood Donation Camp. It is interesting to note that this decision has been
taken one year after the application seeking permission for Blood
Donation Camp was made and also after the show cause notice was served to
the S.P.I.O.
7. It is therefore, amply clear that incorrect and misleading
information was furnished to the Commission and no information was furnished
to the applicant till 11.05.2007. The Chief Medical Officer of Health
was duly asked to show cause to prove that he acted reasonably and
diligently and also reasonable opportunity of being heard was given to him.
The Chief Medical Officer of Health failed in every respect to prove
that his action in not providing information to the applicant and
misleading the Commission by providing incorrect information was bonafide in
nature. In fact he had nothing to say for the incorrect information
furnished by him to the Commission.
8. The action or inaction of the S.P.I.O. attracts the penal provision
of Section 20(1) for imposing penalty @ Rs. 250/- per day. Section
20(1) states that where the Central Information Commission or the State
Information, as the case may be, at the time of deciding any complaint or
appeal is of the opinion that the Central Public Information Officer
or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, has,
without any reasonable cause, refused to receive an application for
information or has not furnished information within the time specified under
sub-section (1) of section 7 or malafidely denied the request for
information or knowingly given incorrect,
incomplete or misleading information or destroyed information which was
the subject of the request or obstructed in any manner in furnishing
the information, it shall impose a penalty of two hundred and fifty
rupees each day .till application is received or information is furnished,
so however, the total amount of such penalty shall not exceed
twenty-five thousand rupees:
9. The Commission therefore is left with no option but to impose
penalty on the Chief Medical Officer of Health and State Assistant Public
Information Officer Dr. Akhil Kumar Mandal. The initial application by
Shri Raghunath Chakraborty was submitted to him on 09.02.2007 and the
decision of the Block Health & Family Welfare Samity was furnished to him
on 11,05.2007.
Therefore, there is a delay of 62 days after the statutory period of 30
days from the date of receipt of the application was over.
10. It is therefore ordered that penalty of rupees 15,500/- is imposed
on Dr. Akhil Kumar Mandal, Chief Medical Officer of Health & State
Assistant Public Information Officer, Hooghly. He shall, within 15 days
from the date of receipt of this order, deposit this amount to head of
account "0070 - Other Administrative Services - 60 - Other Services - 800
- Other Receipts - 021 - Collection of Fees from Information Seeker for
the purpose of servicing Information - 27 - Other Receipts" and report
compliance to the Commission. If he fails to do that, the Additional
Chief Secretary, Department of Health & Family Welfare is directed to
initiate departmental action against him and recover the said amount from
the salary of Dr. Mandal in five equal monthly instalment and remit
the same to the head of account
as mentioned.
Date:27.07.2007 Sd/-
Arun Kumar Bhattacharya
State Chief Information Commissioner
Authenticated true copy forwarded to:
l.Shri Raghunath Chakraborty, Vill. + P.O. Jangipara, Hooghly,
2.Dr. Akhil Kumar Mandal, Chief Medical Officer of Health & State
Public Information Officer, Chinsurah, Hooghly.
3.Shri Arun Kumar Koley, Block Medical Officer of Health, Jangipara
Hospital, Jangipara, Hooghly.
4.The Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Health & Family Welfare
Swasthya Bhavan, GN-29, Sector-V, Salt Lake City, Kolkata-700 091.
5. The Deputy Director of Health Services (Admn) & State Public
Officer, Directorate of Health Services, Swasthya Bhavan, GN-29,
Salt Lake, Kolkata-700 09.
Date: 30.07.2007 Sd/-
Secretary & Acting Registrar
West Bengal Information Commission

Saturday, April 28, 2007

First fine in West Bengal RTI

First fine in RTI


The state information commission awarded the first ‘penalty’, under the Right to Information Act, 2005, to the cooperation department for failing to gather a piece of information for a petitioner, within the stipulated time.

Chief information commissioner Arun Bhattacharya asked the cooperation department to pay a token amount as compensation for harassing the petitioner.

“We have instructed the cooperation department to pay Rs 1,000 as compensation for harassing Saroj Khettry, the petitioner, as the department could not provide him with the information in the stipulated time,” stated Arun Bhattacharya, chief information commissioner of the state.

Khettry, 74, had sought a copy of the legal opinion that the department of co-operation had taken concerning the allotment of his flat on Jhowtala Road.

His quest dates back to the late 1970s, when he decided to leave his flat by resigning from the cooperative society, near Purna cinema in Bhowanipore.

He had paid Rs 4.47 lakh for the 850-sq-ft flat. Khettry vacated the flat as he was told that the booking amount would be returned.

“The promoter and the society did not return the money and even handed over the flat to someone else. Since then, I have been trying in vain to know the name of the owner of the flat,” said Khettry.

After running from pillar to post for years, Khettry’s plea was first heard in October last year, when he was assured that the owner’s name would be revealed to him.

“Initially, the principal information officer told me in a letter that his department has the legal document. But later, his department officials said the document had gone missing,” said Khettry.

On April 3, Khettry’s appeal was heard by the commission, where the chief information commissioner ruled out that “misplacing the document cannot be an excuse for not furnishing a piece of information”.

The commissioner ruled that “the penalty was for the entire department, including principal information officer H.P. Roy”.

He added that only the principal information officer should not be blamed for the matter as the entire department had ignored Khettry’s plea and harassed him.

Published in The Telegraph, 28 April 2007

First penalty for RTI Act violation

CIC slaps fine on Cooperative dept SPIO for failing to furnish information

Subhendu Ray
Kolkata, April 27: The Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) has penalised the State Public Information Officer (SPIO) of the Cooperative department for allegedly violating the Right to Information (RTI) Act. This is the first case in West Bengal wherein such an action has been taken under the RTI Act. According to the order issued by the CIC, the SPIO has to submit within 30 days a fine of Rs 1,000 before the one-man commission.

Acting on a complaint filed by one Saroj Kumar Khetri that he was not provided with the piece of information he had sought eight months ago, CIC Arun Kumar Bhattacharya penalised the department under Section 20 of the RTI Act 2005.

The complainant said he had purchased a flat at Jhowtala Road in 1973 but the same was later issued to someone else. “My membership in the society was not disclosed in the society audit. I appealed to our cooperative society’s registrar to take action against the board members of the society, but he did not pay any heed,” Khetri said.

He filed a writ petition in the High Court, which ordered the authorities to dispose of his representation in accordance with law.

The secretary of the Cooperative department had sought legal advice from the department’s legal adviser in connection with the writ petition filed by Khetri.

“On June 16 last year, I sent an application to the department requesting for a copy of the legal advice. During the hearing before the Information Commission, the SPIO, HP Roy, had promised to give me the copy within 10 days,” Khetri said.

He was, however, given a copy of the legal opinion in a separate case instead.

“I then moved the Information Commission to get the response of the SPIO,” Khetri said. The commission then seized the file, examined it and penalised the department.

Roy, the SPIO who is also the joint secretary of the department, admitted that it was a gross mistake on their part. “A wrong legal advice document was given to him (Khetri) by mistake. The actual document was not in the file,” he said.

Sabir Ahmed, programme coordinator of The Calcutta Samaritans, a city-based NGO that has been working towards proper implementation of the RTI Act in the state, said applicants in West Bengal hardly ever got a response from the agencies concerned.

“By imposing a penalty this time, the commission has set an example and we appreciate this gesture,” said Ahmed.

Published in Kolkata Newsline, Indian Express, 28 April 2007

Friday, April 20, 2007

Finally, the RTI cell begins to function in KMC

Debarati Chakraborty

Kolkata, April 19: FINALLY the Right to Information (RTI) cell in the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) started to function as the cash collection centre came into existence. Because of its absence previously, the cell was completely inactive and had only been able to forward 18 replies out of 92 applications received.

An officer of the cell said, “The cash collection centre has finally developed. From now onwards, the treasury department will handle the monetary aspect of the RTI cell.”

Although the RTI cell in KMC was inaugurated with great fanfare in January this year, the cash collection centre came into being some five days ago. “The applicants have to pay a certain amount to the KMC in order to procure information through the RTI cell. But unfortunately, there was no such mechanism here. This was stopping us from replying to about 90 applications received so far,” said Pashupati Barik, the State Public Information Officer of the KMC’s RTI cell and the Deputy Municipal Commissioner Personnel.

Sources within the RTI cell said, “Applicants will have to deposit money in the miscellaneous counter of the Treasury Department. The Act states that Rs 2 has to be taken from the applicant for each page of information provided or the actual cost price of the sample. After the applicant deposits this amount, we will provide him with the necessary information.”

Fees structure
* Rs 2 for each page (in A-4 or A-3 size paper) created or copied
* Actual charge or cost price for a copy in large size of paper
* Actual cost price for sample or model
*n Rs 5 for each 15 minutes or fraction thereof for inspection of records
* Rs 15 per diskette or floppy
* Actual charge for publication or Rs 2 per page of photocopy for extracts for information provided

Published in Kolkata Newsline, Indian Express, April 20 2007

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Calcutta University Chancellor Mr. Gopal Krishna Gandhi, takes up students’ cause on implementing the Right to Information Act

Even as state universities sat on the decision on implementing the
Right to Information Act the chancellor, Mr Gopalkrishna Gandhi, has
taken upon himself to see that the universities reach a decision
about showing answer papers to students under the Act. Under his
instruction the vice-chancellors and information officers of all
state universities will meet tomorrow for a round table conference to
decide whether universities will show evaluated papers to examinees
under RTI.

The first case under RTI occurred in a state university when Calcutta
University had to show answer papers to a B Com student after a
directive from the state information commissioner. Although the
universities have been sufficiently alarmed by the incident, there
have been no further progress on the issue.

However, during a recent discussion held by the chancellor with vice-
chancellors of state universities the issue cropped us once again.
The chancellor then asked the universities to take a uniform decision
on whether to show answer papers if any student took recourse to RTI
Act. "The chancellor told us to convene a round table about the
implications of the RTI Act after vice-chancellors told them about
the impending problem. Accordingly, we will try to reach a unanimous
decision in this regard. The meeting will be attended by information
officers of the universities as well as the respective vice-
chancellors, " said pro-vice chancellor (academic) of CU, Prof.
Suranjan Das. The meeting will be held at Netaji Subhas Open
University tomorrow.

The universities, however, have been differing over whether to show
the evaluated papers to students. While Calcutta University is
unwilling to show answer papers to students, some of the universities
say they are ready to implement RTI in this regard. The state
universities were confronted with their first RTI case when a B.Com
Part II examinee of CU, Utsav Dutta approached Calcutta High Court
last year as he lacked the requisite marks for reviewing his papers
under university regulations. The court had directed the petitioner
to approach the university under RTI Act. However, the university had
not responded to his appeal within 30 days, thereby rejecting his
appeal. Following a directive from state information commissioner, CU
had to finally give way.

Published in The Statesman, April 10 2007

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Two weeks, 35 questions at KMC’s RTI cell
Express News Service

Kolkata, March 12: TWO Weeks after the first Right To Information (RTI) cell was set up in the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) premises, the State Public Information Officer (SPIO) of KMC claims that the response of the people has been phenomenal.

“We have received 35 applications till date, of which, 15 are queries regarding buildings and constructions. The number of questions on assessment and licence are eight and four respectively,” said Pashupati Barik, the SPIO of KMC and the Deputy Municipal Commissioner (personnel).

According to Barik, those who wish to make use of their RTI, need to do so through written applications.

“A Rs 10 court fee stamp must be attached to the application. The application can be written on a white sheet of paper and then addressed to the SPIO of KMC along with the name, address and contact number of the sender. All the 35 applications received so far are still being processed,” he added.

“The RTI act states that response to an application should be made within a month’s time and we are trying to do exactly that. Ideally, we should transfer applications to the respective departments within five days of receiving them. These departments in turn need to prepare a response within 10 days. We are still trying to quicken the the process,” said Barik.

The RTI cell will not only help the common man get the right information but will also make the KMC’s dealings more transparent.

“Transparency and impartiality is what we are aiming for through the RTI cell,” said Barik.

But although officers at the RTI cell of KMC want to provide people with information, they also feel there should be a limit to it.

“We cannot provide private information. For example, if a person wants to know whether his neighbour has a trade licence, because according to him the trade is illegal, we can provide the information. But we cannot disclose what trade the man is involved in,” added Barik.

Published in Kolkata Newsline, Indian Express, March 13 2006

Friday, March 9, 2007

Please join the RTI workshop organised by West Bengal RTI Manch

"As citizens of this democracy, you are the rulers and the ruled, the lawgivers and the law-abiding, the beginning and the end." Adlai Stevenson (1956)

As a Volunteer I pledge that
“ I will never pay any bribe. I will rather use RTI.”

People have to pay bribes in their daily interaction with Government Departments – be it getting a passport or a ration card or a license or an income tax refund etc. Everyone has to either pay a bribe or face harassment. Sometimes, even if a bribe is not directly asked, still your work is not done because of laziness or simple bureaucratic delay. What does one do in such a situation? So far people were helpless. They could only curse the system and do nothing. Each one of us when faced in a similar situation wondered whether there would ever be a time when our country would get rid of this curse of bribery. Maybe that time has come. Now we need not pay a bribe in such a situation. We have “Right to Information Act” now, which gets the work done. We, from the West Bengal RTI Manch sincerely request you all to be a part of this campaign, which is about helping people in getting their work done without facing bribery or harassment using this revolutionary tool, i.e. the “Right to Information Act 2005”. In congruent to this, we are organizing a RTI Work Shop/ Interactive Session to be held on SATURDAY, 10TH of MARCH 2007 at 16:00hrs. over the premises of the Advanced Center for the study of Philanthropy and Development Affairs, Azad Palace, 1st. Floor, 81C, Narkeldanga Main (New C.I.T.) Road, Kolkata - 700054. This building is located diagonally opposite to Swabhumi (The Heritage Park), just behind Subhas Sarobar.

TIME: 16:00 HRS

* 2 (two) episodes of “Ab to hum janenge” by CHRI (20mins. Approx.)
* Individual interaction with the participants, sharing experiences, RTI success stories in West Bengal & outside.
* Filing of RTI Applications,
* Distributing Court Fee Stamps of Rs.10/- to the participants against a payment of Rs.10/- only. [Subject to availability.]


MALAY BHATTACHARYYA at 9231413834 or ASHISH BISWAS at 24278451

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Citizens to access reserved info, courtesy RTI at KMC
Mohammed Safi Shamsi

Kolkata, February 23: A week after the appointment of the information officer in compliance with the RTI Act, queries and applications are pouring in at the Kolkata Municipal Corporation’s newly-formed RTI cell.

The civic body has already received 16 applications from citizens seeking information on various civic issues. Most of these applications are concerned with assessment and the buildings departments.

Pashupati Barik, deputy municipal commissioner (personnel), now the state public information officer, KMC, told Newsline that a civic RTI cell is already in place. “As of now there are five officials to coordinate the process of receiving applications and disseminating information to the applicant,” Barik told Newsline.

While the KMC is ready to oblige the applicant, as per the instructions of the information act, the bureaucracy is still undecided on the information that is to be guarded as ‘secret’. “The issues that cannot be made public will be discussed shortly,” Barik said.

Citizens interested in obtaining information on civic issues can now apply to the information officer: “The queries can be written on plain paper with a Rs 10 court stamp pasted on the application,” said a civic official. Officials said that attempts will be made to ensure that the applicants receive the information within 30 days from the date of filing the query. The implementation of RTI at KMC is expected to help more citizens gain access to information which had been reserved till date.

Published in Kolkata Newsline, Indian Express, 24th February 2007