No one can claim VIP not covered under RTI: HP SIC

Shimla: Making strong observations, the Himachal Pradesh State Information Commission has said details about the land purchased by Priyanka Vadra here can be made public by authorities, noting that no one can claim that a VIP is “not covered” under the RTI act.

The SIC said this in a detailed order made available today on its direction to authorities here to provide information on the land purchase sought by an RTI activist after he was denied this. It made the observations on the order passed by First Appellate Authority (Deputy Commissioner) withholding information about the land purchased by Priyanki at Chharabra, 13 km from here, relying solely on the opinion of Special Protection Group (SPG) which had strongly objected to the disclosure of the information to the RTI activist Dev Ashish Bhattacharya.

The division bench of the commission comprising chairman Bhim Sen and member Kali Das Batish in its detailed order passed on June 29 said, “Under the Election Law also, all candidates, including the SPG protectees are required to declare their movable and immovable assets alongwith details of the property and no SPG protectee, including the Prime minister, has ever taken this plea before the Election Commission that his life would be endangered by disclosure of details of his immovable property.”

“The FAA has given undue weightage to an unverified letter allegedly written by the SPG director and the logic advanced by FAA is totally irrational,” the order said. It further said, “It is important to note that SPG provides protection to the person and not his properties and the said letter written by SPG director to Priyanka Vadra is unauthorised and irrelevant, even if it is true, as he has no authority to issue such letter to private persons.”

The Commission said that in the present case, the PIO and the FAA acted in a manner that no notice was served to Priyanka within five days of receipt of the application and efforts were made to contact her through the SPA (Special Power of Attorney).

Even though the applicant made no reference to the SPA, still notice was issued to Kehar Singh Khachi, who in his letter specially mentioned that he was no longer the Attorney of Priyanka but still his objections were wrongly entertained.

Emphasising that divulging the information was in the larger public interest, the Commission said, “It is clear that agricultural land is permitted to be purchased by a non-agriculturist for a specific purpose, and a citizen has the right to know  about the terms and conditions of permission and its compliance/non-compliance by the purchaser and action taken by the public authority.”

The commission allowed the appeal of the applicant and directed the PIO to provide the information within 10 days and also issued show cause notice to FAA and PIO-cum-ADM and PIO -cum-Tehsildar as to why penalty should not be imposed on them for causing delay in providing the information.

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