File photo. The Arunachal Pradesh state information commission issued an arrest warrant to an official for failing to furnish information within it stipulated time.

NEW DELHI: In an unusual move to ensure compliance by a public official under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Arunachal Pradesh state information commission issued an arrest warrant. Needless to say not only was the public information officer present at the next date of hearing but also gave the requisite information after some delay.

Applicant Tago Pai Camdir had asked for information regarding details of appointments in the state art and culture department in June 2009. With no compliance by the department, the information commission asked the department’s deputy director J Siram to furnish the information within three days and also explain why the Civil Procedure Code should not be invoked against him for causing “unreasonable delay”.

Despite the July 13 order, the applicant did not get the requisite information and at the next hearing on July 31, the PIO, J Siram, was absent. Irked by the non-compliance, information commissioner Toko Anil issued an arrest warrant for Siram under CPC order XVI, rule 10(3) that allows for a warrant to be issued to summon a person to ensure his or her presence in court.

In his order, Anil said that “….it appears that the PIO/APIO has given less importance to interim order passed by this commission…which tantamounts to non-compliance of the order.”

Not only was Siram forced to execute the bail bond but had to give a written explanation on the delay where he blamed non-cooperation by department officials. Ruling that the explanations given by Siram and his colleagues were not satisfactory, the commissioner issued a showcause notice on why a penalty of Rs 250 per day for 30 days not be slapped on the PIO.

While the fine was finally waived off, the department seems to have learned a hard lesson and has promised to set up an RTI cell and ensure compliance under section 4 of the RTI Act that mandates proactive disclosure by all public institutions. — TOI