TNEB staff fined for denying information
Julie Mariappan | TNN
Chennai: The State Information Commission (SIC) has imposed a penalty of Rs 25,000 on the public information officer (PIO) of the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) for not supplying information to a petitioner last week. This is the maximum penal amount which can be imposed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
R Natarajan, an RTI activist wanted to know the irregularties involved in billing a private firm located in North Chennai in 2007. However, the petitioner received the copy of the anti-power theft squad report alone, which recommended departmental action against seven officials who had failed to check periodical power consumption patterns of the firm.
Immediately thereafter, the petitioner made another application under RTI to the TNEB seeking information about the billing card. The PIO preferred to state that the billing card was not traceable and there was a chance of missing the card, as the case was 16 years old. The PIO also said that no official was to be blamed and recreating the file did not arise.
Aggrieved by this, Natarajan filed another application, wanting to know if any complaint was registered with the police, as the issue was deemed a criminal offence. When the public authority chose not to reply, the petitioner sought the commission’s help. Despite the latter’s intervention suggesting speedy disposal of the queries raised by the petititioner, the officer refused to give complete information. He also failed to oblige the commission’s directive to appear in person.
In it’s reply to the petitioner, the office of the PIO, TNEB stated that it had no obligation to answer questions as to “when, why and which,” which were not defined as information under RTI Act. During an inquiry by the commission last month, the TNEB’s public authority could not give a convincing reply as to why he absented himself during the previous summons.
Pointing out administrative lapses, the commission directed the TNEB to pay a compensation of Rs 500 to the petitioner for the instransigent non-supply of information. It also directed severe departmental action against the staff for violation of RTI Act, within a month.