Himachal High Court doubles penalty for RTI delay

RTI LogoShimla: Enhancing the penalty imposed for a 14 day delay in supplying information under RTI Act, the Himachal Pradesh High Court more than doubled the fine levied after holding that the state information commission (SIC) did not have any power to impose penalty other than that prescribed under the Right to Information Act, 2005.

Allowing the petition of Sanjay Hindwan, a resident of Solan who pleaded his case in person, the division bench of Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjay Karol observed, “once the (state information) commission comes to the conclusion that penalty has to be imposed than the same must be at the rate Rs 250/- per day and not at any other rate at the whims and fancy of the commission.”

“We find no provision in the Act which empowers the commission to either reduce or enhance the penalty,” the judges noted.

The petitioner had challenged an State Information Commission order dated October 29, 2011, which after holding Public Information Officer (PIO)-cum-Executive Officer, Municipal Council, Solan, liable for a 14 day delay in disposing of an RTI application, had been imposed a penalty of Rs 1500/- to be deposited in the state treasury.

Finding itself in agreement with petitioner Sanjay Hindwan, the bench concurred, “the penalty has to be imposed at the rate fixed or not penalty has to be imposed. To this extend the petitioner is absolutely right”

The short question involved in this petition is whether the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be, has any power to impose penalty other than that prescribed in Section 20 of the Right to Information Act, 2005, the judges recorded.

For each day of delay in making available information sought under RTI, the central or state information commission under the Act is empowered to impose a fixed penalty of Rs 250- per day, with a caveat that the total amount of penalty should not exceed Rs 25000/-.

Increasing the penalty imposed on the erring PIO of Solan municipality from Rs 1500/- to Rs 3500/-, the court decreed that the balance Rs 2000/- amount be deposited in the government treasury within two weeks.

As Editor, Ravinder Makhaik leads a team of media professionals at Hill Post. Spanning a career of over two decades in mass communication, as a Documentary Filmmaker, TV journalist, Print Media journalist and with Online & Social Media, he brings with him a vast experience. He lives in Shimla.

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