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Haryana fire officer under fire for delay in providing RTI information

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The Haryana State Information Commission has decided to strike down Haryana Fire Service officials for ‘failing to discharge their duties diligently’ in providing information under the RTI law and “are liable to prosecution”.

State Information Commissioner Arun Sangwan on June 30 led an action against Deputy Director (Technical) of Haryana Fire Services Gulshan Kalra who is also responsible for Deputy Director (Technical), fire station, sector 29, Gurgaon.

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The commission passed the order while hearing an appeal by Wing Commander (Retired) Jagjit Singh, who wanted information on the actual land situation in an apartment complex built by a well-known commercial real estate developer in Gurgaon. Jagjit Singh alleged that officials failed to provide the required information despite his three-year efforts. “There are several towers in this housing corporation and each tower has 17 to 21 floors. The company has more than 1,600 apartments. I have entries that the fire standards were not checked properly before giving a NoC to the developer. In the event of a fire, people normally do not use elevators and prefer the stairs. There should be two types of stairs — the main stairway and the fire escape — in these apartment buildings. Fire escapes are normally used in an emergency. According to Haryana Building Code, 2017, there should be a specific minimum distance between normal stairs and emergency stairs, so that people can leave the building safely. This large distance is useful in providing safe passage for people in the event of a fire in a particular part or corner of the building. I have information that the developer did not maintain as much distance between the two stairs,” the claimant said. However, on his part, the officials of the Gurgaon fire station had informed the management that during an inspection the fire system of the building was found to be perfect and in working order.

According to Jagjit Singh, he filed his first RTI request in August 2019, followed by a second request in December 2021. Singh said that when he failed to obtain the required information, despite two RTIs and after approaching the first appeal authority, he approached the Information Commission in March of this year. Subsequently, the commission sent opinions to the officials concerned.

Singh told the commission that officials had not provided him with the required information till date. The commission, in turn, observed that the state fire service directorate transferred RTI’s request to Gulshan Kalra, the state public information officer, on January 10 this year. Management also forwarded the Grievor’s first call to Kalra on February 24, asking him to provide the information.

Noting that the information was not provided to the appellant, Information Commissioner Arun Sangwan observed: “On the face of it, the respondents have failed to carry out their duties diligently and are liable to prosecution under the provisions of the RTI Law of 2005.

The commission also ordered: “A Notice of Demonstration shall be sent to Gulshan Kalra… requesting him to substantiate a fine at the rate of Rs 250 (per day), subject to a maximum of Rs 25,000 for causing undue delay in that case. not be imposed on them.

The commission also requested the officer to be personally present at the commission secretariat in Chandigarh for the next hearing of the case on August 16, in addition to providing the information to the petitioner within two weeks of receiving this order.