Information Commissions have not imposed penalties in 95 per cent of cases where they could have on erring government officials under the Right to Information Act during last year, an analysis by an advocacy group on the working of transparency panels claimed on Monday.
The report was made public on the eve of the 16th anniversary of the RTI Act after a study of 20 Information Commissions including the Central Information Commission which have put out data on the cases disposed of and penalties levied by them, a statement from the Satark Nagrik Sangathan said.
The group used a previous statistical analysis, where it had claimed that 59 per cent orders recorded one or more violations listed in Section 20 of the RTI Act, to come to the conclusion that Commissions did not impose penalty in 95 per cent of cases disposed of by them during the period, it said.
'If this estimate of 59 per cent is used, the penalty would be potentially imposable in 40,860 cases out of the 69,254 cases disposed of by the 20 ICs. Penalties were imposed only in 4.9 per cent of the cases where penalties were potentially imposable!
'The ICs therefore did not impose penalties in more than 95 per cent of the cases where penalties were imposable,' the group said in a statement.
The RTI Act allows an Information Commission to levy a penalty of Rs 250 per day, up to a maximum of Rs 25,000, on a public information officer for delay in providing the information which has to be mandatorily furnished within 30 days.
The penalty is calculated from the day the information becomes due to the day when it is provided.
The penalty is recovered from the PIO from its salary, according to the Act.
Non imposition of penalties in deserving cases by commissions sends a signal to public authorities that violating the law will not invite any serious consequences, the advocacy group said.
'In terms of the quantum of penalty imposed, Haryana was the leader (Rs. 95.86 lakh), followed by Madhya Pradesh (Rs. 57.16 lakh), and Odisha (Rs. 25.98 lakh),' it said.
In another finding, the group assessed the time taken by an appeal or complaint for hearing before the Commission.
The Odisha Information Commission would take over six years before an appeal or complaint comes submitted before it comes for hearing, the group said.
'The assessment shows that Odisha SIC would take six years and eight months to dispose a matter. A matter filed on July 1, 2021 would be disposed of in the year 2028 at the current monthly rate of disposal! In Goa SIC, it would take five years and 11 months, in Kerala four years and 10 months and in West Bengal four years and 7 months,' the group said.