THE Madhya Pradesh State Information Commission [MP SIC] on March 25 issued an arrest warrant against Surbhi Dubey, who is a Block Panchayat Officer at Rewa Janpad Panchayat and a designated Public Information Officer [PIO], for skipping as many as 38 summonses issued by the Commission over the past four months for continuous non-compliance of the orders of the Commission. Information Commissioner Rahul Singh has directed the Deputy Inspector of Police, Rewa Division, to execute the arrest warrant.
This is the second time Singh has issued an arrest warrant against the PIO. Last year in September, he had issued an arrest warrant against a District Chief Medical and Health Officer after he had shown disregard for the orders of the Commission for over two years.
The Commission was considering six appeals arising out of six applications under the Right to Information [RTI] Act, 2005 applications filed at Janpad Panchayat, Rewa and Janpad Panchayat, Raipur Karculiyan of Rewa. In both, the Janpad Panchayats, Dubey is the designated PIO. She apparently refused to provide the information sought within the 30 days as mandated under Section 7(1) of the RTI Act. She was served with show-cause notices by the Commission but she remained “defiant” and refused to provide the information asked for.
Section 18(2) of the RTI Act confers powers of a civil court upon the Information Commission. It, among others, includes the power to issue summons and enforce the attendance of persons, compel them to give oral or written evidence on oath, and to produce the documents or things.
Singh, in his order, said that due to the defiant approach of Dubey, the entire mechanism of the RTI Act has been badly affected in both the Janpad Panchayats where she is serving as PIO. Earlier, he had asked the Commissioner, Department of Panchayat and Rural development, to replace Dubey from the post of PIO and appoint someone else under Section 19(8) of the RTI Act. The Commissioner, in turn, had written to the Chief Executive Officer of Rewa District Panchayat, Swapnil G. Wankhede, to do the needful.
The Commissioner, however, noted that even this order failed to move the Panchayat Department to take any action. He has now sent a show-cause notice to Wankhede and summoned him for a personal appearance.
The Commission had also directed the General Administration Department to initiate disciplinary action against the PIO Dubey. The department transferred the order for disciplinary action to the Panchayat Raj Directorate, which is the cadre controlling department of Dubey. However, the department is yet to initiate action against Dubey. Dubey, while showing disregard to MP SIC, had left a message reading, “I am not responsible for information, Don’t bother me with hearing notices.” Dubey didn’t stop at this; she called up the Personal Assistant of the SIC and passed snide remarks against the SIC. The Commission considered her action to be misconduct.
“Conduct and demeanor of the PIO and the Chief Executive Officer of Rewa District clearly reflects a pathetic disregard of the law passed by the Parliament for creating transparent and accountable governance,” Singh said in his order.
Click here to view the MP SIC’s order, and click here to view the arrest warrant issued by it against Surabhi Dubey.