– Pradip Pradhan*
If you seek information on liquor trade, you may be thrashed by excise officials and smashed by Information Commissions. See an instance.
On 21.10.08, Mr. Himanshu Tripathy, a journalist based at Bhawanipatna in Kalahandi district had applied to the PIO, Office of Superintendent of Excise, Bhawanipatna for information on liquor shops as well as production and consumption etc. of liquor, in Junagarh area of Kalahandi district. Getting no information, Mr. Tripathy filed a complaint petition before Orissa Information Commission on 1 February 2009. It took around nine months to be heard!
On 20 October 2009, the case was heard by Mr. D. N. Padhi, State Chief Information Commissioner (SCIC).
During the hearing, the PIO submitted that he had supplied the information in two installments on 19 and 25 November 2008 consecutively.
The complainant alleged that the PIO had given a wrong statement inasmuch as he had not supplied the information as requisitioned in his application, and the so-called information provided to him were false and fabricated. After hearing the case, the Commission directed the PIO to allow the complainant to verify and inspect the documents and records available in his office and provide him the requisite information by 15 November 2009 free of cost.
As per the direction of the Commission, the complainant visited the office of Superintendent of Excise, Bhawanipatna on 27 October 2009. He was shown some files which were not at all relevant. As he objected, the PIO and his staff hurled obnoxious language and manhandled him. They also threatened him with more brute action if he does not desist from insisting upon the information. After he returned empty handed, the PIO sent a constable to his residence in the night around 11 PM obviously to intimidate him.
In the second hearing held on 14 December 2009, the complainant explained in detail the humiliating incident that took place in the office of the Superintendent of Excise on 27 October 2009.
Mr. D.N. Padhi , SCIC hearing the case ordered the PIO to provide the information on the spot.
The PIO agreed to give him information after the hearing is over. The SCIC decided to close the case. But the complainant made a request to the Commission not to close the case as the PIO used repeatedly to serve false and misleading information. The complainant also demanded penalty against the PIO under Section 20 of the Act as he had made a long delay in providing the information over and above the acts of intimidation he has committed. The Commission fixed 2nd March 2010 as the next and final hearing of the case.
But, the complainant was smashed by the Commission as he was served with an order telling him of the disposal of the case on 14 December 2009. Neither the Complainant, Mr. Tripathy got the information applied for nor was the PIO penalized for his defiance of RTI Act and use of muscles and other means of intimidation against the RTI applicant.
This is how Orissa’s Chief Information Commissioner, who is paid approximately a sum of 1, 30,000 INR per month is delivering justice in RTI-Cases.
* Sri Pradhan is a prominent RTI Activist of Orissa.