Karnataka Governor fined for evading RTI on travel expenses
- TN Murthy had filed an RTI seeking the air travel expenses of the Governor
- The Karnataka Governor's office used evasive tactics to avoid an RTI
- The SIC fined the office ₹5000 for refusing to provide information
RTI Activist T Narasimha Murthy had filed an application seeking the details of Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Rudabhai Vala's air travel expenses under section 19(1) of the RTI ACT 2005. And as per the provisions, a reply should be given within 30 days. However, he was denied the information.
"Instead of furnishing details, the Governor's office said that the Governor's office did not come under RTI Act's purview. The public information officer informed me that a case with regard to Governors under the RTI was pending with the Supreme Court. (Specially Petition Civil number: 33124/ 2011) and so they cannot give any details," Murthy said.
Confused by the reply, Murthy checked for the background of the case by using the Specially Petition Civil number and discovered that the case that the Governor's office mentioned was that of the Goa Governor's office and had no correlation with an RTI filed in Karnataka.
To be more precise in his approach, "I filed an RTI application on July 20, 2016 to get information from the office of the Tamil Nadu Governor and asked for the date when K Rosaiah took charge as Governor of Tamil Nadu. I got a reply within eight days. This led to the suspicion that our Governor had something to hide,” Murthy said.
Murthy who was keen on knowing the air travel expenses of the Governor also filed an application before the President of India’s office with all documents. In reply, the President’s office marked a copy to the Chief Secretary of Karnataka and directed authorities to comply with the rules.
Later, the Chief Secretary directed the Department of Personnel Administration and Reforms (DPAR) to provide the information with the monthly travel expenses of Vajubhai Vala on special flights.
"According to the information provided by the DPAR, in less than two years, the Governor has used public money worth ₹2.89 crores on air travel that includes both official and personal work. The previous Governor HR Bhardwaj, who completed five years in office, spent ₹67 lakhs on air travel. This information was not provided by the Governor's office and hence the State Information Commissioner imposed a penalty of ₹5,000. This is a lesson to offices which do not respect the rules," said Murthy.