Rights panel seeks action against officials for not sharing key information on site

Representational Image. Photo: iStock/ fizkes

Thiruvananthapuram: In a shocking case of administrative apathy, an appeal submitted to the Kerala Chief Minister five years ago to publish matters of public interest related to the Education Department on the official website has gone missing. Taking note of the matter which was revealed in a Right to Information (RTI) query, the State Human Rights Commission has directed action against the officials involved.

The rights panel also observed that the Education Department was reluctant to share important information on its website. The panel said that the Principal Secretary for General Education, the director and the KITE chief executive officer in charge of the website should initiate measures to update the website with latest developments. These officers also have to submit the information sought by Forum for Social Action, an organisation based at Kunissery in Palakkad, within 10 days, said the panel.

The order by State Information Commissioner P R Sreelatha said that the Principal Secretary for General Education has to entrust an additional secretary with the task of identifying the officer from whom the memorandum went missing. The probe should find out whether the memorandum, which was passed on by the Chief Minister to the Education Department, had gone really missing or whether the RTI reply which said that it had disappeared was a ruse to conceal the information sought by the Forum.

The rights panel also wanted a report on the inquiry and the action within two months. The panel issued the order based on an appeal by the Forum against the Principal Secretary for General Education, General Education Director, Under Secretary, junior superintendent and KITE state information officer.

On May 25, 2018, the Forum had submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister which said that the Education Department was neither updating its website nor displaying information on the officers who were supposed to digitally publish matters of public interest. The Chief Minister passed on the appeal to the Education Department. Recently, the Forum moved an RTI query seeking to know the progress on its appeal, to which the Education Department replied that the memorandum itself was missing.

The Forum filed an appeal with the General Education Director and when there was no response, it approached the Human Rights Commission.

Other directives

The rights panel’s order also said that the Principal Secretary for General Education and the Director have to provide training to officers under them on grievance redressal, moving files and handling documents. Another report has to be filed on this matter within two months.

The rights panel also came down heavily on the General Education Director for the shoddy manner in which the appeal filed by the Forum was handled and warned against repeating the action.

The rights panel reminded the officers that the provisions of the RTI Act were backed by the Constitution and other statutes and could not be implemented according to their whims and fancy.

Moreover, the High Court, on November 17, 2022 had ordered the Chief Secretary to implement a circular issued by the General Administrative Department on July 8, 2008 to classify and store government information digitally.

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