The State Information Commissioner Pratima K. Vernekar has passed an order on 11/08/2020 directing the Director of Panchayat to conduct an inquiry about a missing file of construction license No.4/2000-2001 issued by the Village Panchayat of Merces to Ramkrishna Raikar in Survey No. 16/3 of Murda Village. The information was sought under the Right to Information Act, 2005 by Adolf Carvalho of Panaji and the Secretary of Village Panchayat of Merces had failed to provide the information.
Vide his application dated 10/01/2020 Shri Carvalho had sought certain information pertaining to construction license No.4/2000-2001 issued to Ramkrishna Raikar in terms of resolution No.4(1) dated 01/04/2000 alongwith approved construction plan and copy of construction license.
The Panchayat Secretary/PIO vide his reply dated 06/02/2020 informed Shri Carvalho that the information sought by him pertains to the year 1994-2001 and the said records has been searched by him and could not be traced. He also informed Carvalho to come and inspect the Panchayat records if he desires.
Not being satisfied by the reply, Shri Carvalho filed an appeal before the Block Development Officer (BDO) Panaji on 12/02/2020 being the First Appellate Authority. On hearing both the parties, the BDO disposed off the appeal on 16/03/2020 and directed the V.P. Secretary to once again go through the records of his office and provide the information within 15 days and if he is not able to trace, then he shall initiate necessary action as per the law.
As nothing was heard from the PIO, Shri Carvalho filled second appeal on 03/07/2020 as the information was still not furnished and seeking direction from the State Information Commission to furnish the information immediately.
While passing the judgment the SIC took cognizance of the judgment of Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in Writ Petition (C) 36609/12 and CM 7664/2012 (stay) in the case of Union of India v/s Vishwas Bhamburkar wherein it is held that “It is not uncommon in Govt. Departments to evade the disclosure of the information taking the standard plea that the information is not not available. Ordinarily, the information which at some point of time was available should continue to be available unless it is destroyed in accordance with the rules framed by the Department for destruction of old records. Even in the case where it is found that the desired information though available at one point of time is now not traceable despite the best of efforts, the Department must fix responsibility for the loss of records and take action against the Officers responsible for the loss of records. Unless such course of action is adopted, it would not be possible for any Department to deny the information which otherwise is not exempted from disclosure”.
The SIC also took cognizance of another judgment of Hon’ble High Court of Bombay in W.P. No.6961 of 2012; Vivek Kulkarni v/s State of Maharashtra in which it is observed that “the fact that the said public records is not traceable was serious. It amounts to deny information to the citizen in respect of the important decision of the State and in such situations, it was mandatory for public authority to set criminal law in motion as the documents could not be traced within stipulated time.
The SIC thus directed the Director of Panchayat to conduct an Inquiry regarding the said missing file of construction license issued to Ramkrishna Raikar in terms of resolution No.4(1) dated 01/04/2000 and missing file pertaining to construction license No.12/1994 dated 31/07/1994 in survey No. 16/3 of Murda Village and complete the inquiry within 6 months. Directions are also given to furnish the copy of Inquiry report to the applicant Shri Adolf Carvalho.