The Uttar Pradesh government recently penalised a village development officer named Chandrika Prasad for failing to reply to an RTI query on time. As a form of 'symbolic punishment', she is asked to serve mid-day meals to 250 students in a village in the state's Ghazipur district.
The Right To Information (RTI) Act has mandated every Public Information Officer (PIO) stationed in villages around the country to reply to the query within the stipulated 30 days. Failure in doing so will result in the concerned officer getting penalised. The Information Commissioner has the right to recommend disciplinary under the act. Usually, the penalty consists of paying a hefty fine. However, Prasad's case was unique, which warranted a 'symbolic' punishment.
'Out Of The Box' Penalty
As reported by The Print, an RTI query was filed by a man named Bhupendra Kumar Pandey seeking information about development work in Noonra village in 2016. Prasad, the village development officer, failed to reply to it in a timely fashion. According to the RTI Act, the response should be filed within the stipulated period of 30 days.
In light of this, Pandey applied to her, asking the authorities to take necessary actions. The Information Commissioner, Ajay Kumar Uprety, told the news publication, "Generally, we impose a cash penalty of ₹25000 on PIOs who cause a delay in providing information under the RTI act."
However, Prasad's case was different. Uprety further informs that her predecessor, Gopal Singh, was asked to pay the necessary fine. Therefore, she did not deliberately cause the delay, as a result of this unique punishment.
The decision was made recently as Uprety heard the application and directed Prasad to do the needful. She will serve mid-day meals to around 250 students in the village's primary school. Not only that, she has been asked to record herself in action and share the video with the commission as proof. Also, the food expenditure should not exceed ₹25000 at any cost.