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news details
Where's ex-ward officer's property statement?
SMC misleads CIC, 2014 floods is again an excuse
4/24/2018 11:09:53 PM
Early Times Report
Srinagar, Apr 24: Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) is yet to make an inquiry report public wherein Commissioner SMC was directed by Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) to hold an inquiry into 'misplacement' of property statement of a ward officer (now retired) which was sought under RTI last year but denied by the PIO.
A letter submitted by the retired ward officer to Chief Accounts Officer says that "floods of 2014 damaged the record" which includes his property statement.
As reported by Early Times, last year in November, the Secretary of SMC, who is also the designated Public Information Officer (PIO) under J&K RTI Act 2009, had told the State Information Commission (SIC) that latest property statement submitted by the ward officer is missing from the records.
The copy of said statement was sought under RTI Act by an information seeker who alleges that the said officer has amassed wealth disproportionate to the known source of his income.
CIC Mr Khurshid Ahmad Ganai had directed the Commissioner SMC to hold an inquiry into this issue, but from last six months the inquiry report has not been made public.
Sources in SMC told Early Times that no inquiry was conducted as Commissioner Riyaz Ahmad Wani was misled by some officers of the corporation and it was mentioned in the report that floods 2014 have damaged the property statement.
Details reveal that a second appeal was filed by one Firdous Ahmad Shah, a resident of Gulberg Colony, Baghat Barzulla, Srinagar before the SIC against Commissioner SMC who is also the First Appellate Authority (FAA) and Secretary SMC who is the designated PIO of SMC on 31.05.2017. Shah alleged in his appeal that in response to his RTI application dated 02.07.2016, PIO SMC vide letter dated 07.01.2017 provided him incomplete information after the stipulated period of 30 days. He alleged that FAA/Commissioner SMC has also failed to respond to his first appeal. The appellant requested the SIC to impose penalty on the PIO and take strong action against the FAA and direct the concerned PIO to provide the information sought by him vide his RTI application.
As per the records enclosed with the second appeal, the appellant vide RTI application dated 02.07.2016 sought information on the following three queries pertaining to the ward officer namely Mohammad Yousuf Wani, of Lal Bazar, Srinagar who was then posted in Ward No.29, Magarmal Bagh, Srinagar: 1. Copy of the matriculation certificate with date of birth entered into the service book of the said ward officer.
2. Place of postings with designations with period of each posting from the date of the first appointment.
3. Latest copy of property statement of the said ward officer submitted before SMC.
The PIO, SMC vide letter dated 17.01.2017 responded to the RTI application. Not satisfied with the reply of the PIO, the appellant filed first appeal before the FAA, that is, Commissioner SMC through speedpost on 01.04.2017. The FAA vide notice/Order dated 29.04.2017 called an explanation from the PIO with directions to provide the relevant information to the applicant within the stipulated time. Thereafter, the appellant approached the SIC with the second appeal.
The case was listed for hearing before the SIC on 17.08.2017. Hilal Ahmad Deewani, Secretary/PIO SMC, Mudasir Hussain Banday, APIO SMC and the appellant Firdous Shah and advocate Sheikh Rizwan, counsel for the appellant attended the hearing. The counsel for the appellant submitted before the Commission that with respect to Point-1 and 2 of the RTI application, the PIO has provided information vide letter dated 17.01.2017 but after the stipulated period of 30 days. He further stated that information with respect to Point-3 of the RTI application, that is, the latest copy of property statement of the ward officer had not been provided to the appellant till date. The PIO SMC submitted during the hearing that pending information i.e., information not provided so far will be provided to the appellant as per records. The hearing in the second appeal was adjourned on 17.07.2017 with the following directions:
"The FAA/PIO SMC is directed to collect the information sought at Point No. 3 of the RTI application from his subordinate/other offices of SMC and provide the same to the appellant before the next date of hearing."
The second appeal came up for hearing again on 12.09.2017. Hilal Ahmad Deewani, Secretary/PIO SMC and appellant Firdous Shah attended the hearing. The appellant stated that he has not received the information despite directions from the SIC. The PIO submitted before the Commission that the information sought by the appellant i.e., latest copy of the property statement of the ward officer is not available with the SMC. The hearing was adjourned with directions to the PIO to submit in writing that the information sought by the appellant is not available in the official records of the SMC within one week from the date of receipt of this order and also the reasons for non-availability of such vital record.
In compliance to the directions of the Commission, the PIO vide letter dated 06.10.2017 has intimated that the property statement of the ward officer is not available with the SMC and for ascertaining the reasons for non-submission of the property statement by the officer, the matter has been brought to the notice of Commissioner, SMC for appropriate orders.
The second appeal finally came up hearing on 13.10.2017. Hilal Ahmad Deewani, Secretary/PIO SMC, Mudasir Hussain Banday, APIO SMC, appellant Firdous Shah and advocate Sheikh Rizwan, counsel for the appellant attended the hearing. The counsel for the appellant submitted that the pending information i.e., copy of the property statement of the ward officer has not been provided to him till date. The PIO submitted that all the available information as sought by the appellant except the property statement has been provided to the appellant. Further, he submitted that the Commissioner SMC vide order dated 11.10.2017 has initiated an inquiry to ascertain the reasons for non-availability of property statement of the ward officer.
The CIC's final order reads: "Most of the information sought by the appellant has been provided by the PIO except the property statement which is reportedly not available in the records. It has been repeatedly held by the higher courts in RTI related cases that the PIO can be expected to provide only that information that is available on record or which can be accessed from other available sources and that the information which is not available or which cannot be accessed, cannot be expected to be created in order to be provided. In this particular case, the property statement which is not available should actually have been available as government instructions on declaration of immoveable assets are clear and enjoin upon all government servants to submit the annual property statements regularly.
"In case of many services like the IAS/IPS etc., the property statements are to be uploaded on websites for public scrutiny and information. The Commissioner, SMC as the Head of the Public Authority (SMC) has done well to order an inquiry into the matter of missing property statement but this should be a time bound inquiry so that the delinquent officers/officials incharge of receiving and maintaining property statements of employees/officials are acted against in terms of disciplinary rules of the SMC.
"The inquiry should not just be an eye wash or just for the sake of inquiry to pretend that action is being taken. Therefore, if the property statement is traced or located, it may be provided to the appellant."
However, despite clear orders from CIC Khurshid Ganai that inquiry should not be a mere eyewash , SMC has infact mislead CIC by supplying a misleading report to SIC. "I am sure CIC has not seen this so-called report," said the aggrieved information seeker Firdous Ahmad.
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