Officers' gang sabotages RTI fight in road grab case

Officers' gang sabotages RTI fight in road grab case

Ernakulam: The fight of a woman to bring out the truth in a road grab case has come to a naught due to the alleged failure on the part of officials in forwarding documents at the information commissioner's office in Thiruvananthapuram.

It is alleged that officials at the information commissioner's office ganged up to thwart an appeal submitted to the state information commissioner against a village officer for not providing details under the Right to Information Act.

Despite the RTI applicant providing all the documents through post, junior officials said that they did not get them in order to sabotage the appeal. Since the commissioner was told that there were no documents, he rejected the appeal denying the applicant justice.

The alleged sabotage took place in a case where a private individual is accused to have encroached upon the Puthanvelikkara Poovanpadam Koottalakadavu road in Ernakulam district.

When an RTI query was filed seeking information on the width of the road that was marked six metres by the panchayat secretary, Puthanvelikkara village officer N M Hussain replied in an unsatisfactory manner that it can be provided only after visiting the site. Neither did the reply have the mandatory information on the appellate authority nor did it inform the applicant that an appeal can be filed within 30 days if the reply is unsatisfactory.

Following this, the RTI applicant, Betty Anto, of Chalakkudy Njarekkadan House, filed an appeal with the information commissioner. On the directives of commissioner Somanathan Pillai's office, the applicant and the village officer appeared for a video conferencing at Thrissur collectorate on October 21. On finding lapses on the part of the village officer, the commissioner rebuked him and asked the applicant to send the documents for further proceedings.

The documents were sent by registered post on October 23. Betty also received the acknowledgement form of receiving the mail from the commissioner's office in Thiruvananthapuram on October 25. However, Betty got an order on October 29 saying that the case has been rejected since the documents did not reach the commissioner.

Going by the acknowledgment form, it was clear that despite receiving the documents, the commissioner was told that they were yet to arrive. This laid to waste the desparate efforts made by Betty, who had been trying for the past two years to get justice in the case.