Observing that information under Right to Information Act (RTI) cannot be denied to a citizen, the Bombay High Court has directed Deputy Secretary of Urban Development Department in Maharashtra to register an FIR against officers responsible for a ‘missing’ file.
A division bench of the HC further directed that after filing the FIR, the investigation must be completed within six months and it should be headed by an officer not below the rank of Deputy Commissioner of Police.
Justices Abhay Oka and A S Gadkari imposed costs of Rs. 15,000 on the State Government for the lapse on part of officers which led to a UDD file going ‘missing’ as a result information under RTI Act couldn’t be provided to an advocate.
“The case in hand is a classic example as to how the Government officers protecting their fellow officers tend to frustrate the basic intention of the legislature behind the enactment of the Right to Information Act, 2005,” said the Judges in their order on Friday.
The HC was hearing a petition filed by Sangli-based advocate Vivek Vishnupant Kulkarni, who is also an office- bearer of Swatantraya Veer Savarkar Pratishthan, a voluntary group which runs two schools having 1,600 students on rolls.
The 58-year-old petitioner filed an application on September 5, 2008, with the Section and Information Officer of UDD seeking information under RTI in respect of a Government Resolution (GR) dated August 21, 1996.
The resolution pertained to release of various lands in and around Sangli city in western Maharashtra which were acquired by the Government under the Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act, 1976.
He sought information about the Government notings and other documents on the basis of which the GR was issued.
By a communication dated September 22, 2008, the UDD Information Officer told Kulkarni the required information sought by him regarding file ULC/1089/2123//ULC-2 is not available on the Department’s record and therefore, the said details cannot be furnished.
In the same letter, the petitioner was also informed that some details sought by him is connected with the office of Deputy Collector and his application to that extent had been transferred to the said authority for further action.
Being aggrieved by inaction of the Information Officer, the petitioner filed an appeal on November 27, 2008, before the Deputy Secretary of UDD. The Deputy Secretary asked the Information Officer to search the missing file and give the details sought by Kulkarni immediately.