The Tamil Nadu Information Commission (TNIC) has directed the Vellore Corporation to pay a sum of Rs 10,000 as compensation to a septuagenarian for providing wrong information, which she sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
State Information Commissioner Christopher Nelson pulled up the Corporation for making the elderly woman run from pillar to post for the past three years by providing wrong information. The Commission also demanded an explanation from the Corporation Commissioner, P Janaki Raveendran, who is also the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the civic body, for violating the RTI Act and not appearing before the Commission for a hearing on the case on May 20 this year.
Nelson, in an official communication, had asked the PIO to appear before the Commission on June 21 to explain the delay in responding to the complaint and giving wrong information on earlier occasions, in order to avoid action against her under Section 20 (1) and 20 (2) RTI Act.
Venkatesan, a resident of DBG Complex of Arni Road in Vellore, had challenged the Vellore civic body’s (then a Municipality) decision to double the Property Tax of his resident-cum-business complex from Rs 2,311 to Rs 4,622. On hearing the case, the District Munsif Court had passed a permanent injunction on June 30 1999, against the revised Property Tax.
Based on the direction, Venkatesan’s wife Chandra paid the tax. However, the local body had failed to issue the receipt for the tax she had paid till date. “We had been sending demand draft towards property tax to the Municipality, which was later upgraded as Corporation, since 2000. But it failed to issue receipt till date,” said Chandra’s son Suresh.
Chandra had filed petitions under the RTI Act on October 21, 2010, and November 8, 2011, seeking information from the Corporation to find out the reasons for not following the court’s order and not issuing receipts for 13 years
. Responding to the applications, the Corporation officials said that the local body had not received the court order and asked the appellant to submit a copy of the court order regarding the Property Tax fixed for their building.
“I was taken to the Corporation office nine times. My son took me in a wheel chair to submit the court direction copy regarding the tax issue. But the officials failed to look into my plight and take appropriate action.
Though I have been paying the tax regularly, no receipt had been issued to me to me till date. The lethargic attitude of the officials is humiliating,” 72-year-old Chandra said.
Frustrated over the callous attitude of officials, Chandra filed an application before the State Information Commission On August 29, 2012. In spite of the State body having directed the Corporation to reply to Chandra’s petition within 15 days, the PIO had failed to act.
The State Information Commission, in turn, registered a case against Vellore Corporation. On hearing the case on May 20 this year, Nelson found that the Vellore Corporation officials had not only misguided the elderly woman and her son but also the Information Commission.
“While going through the files submitted by the Corporation officials, the Commissioner found a copy of the court direction in the file submitted before it,” Suresh, who appeared on behalf of his mother, said.
The Commissioner also demanded an explanation for the PIO’s non-appearance during the hearing and sending her subordinates in the rank of Deputy Commissioner for the hearing, without any official document to represent her and violating the RTI Act. He also indicated that if the PIO failed to give a valid explanation, she would attract a penalty of `25,000. He directed the PIO to appear before the Commission on Monday and provide an explanation.