LAHORE: In the first punishment under the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013, the provincial Information Commission on Friday ordered deduction of two-month salary of an executive district officer (EDO), ordering the Schools Education Department to initiate disciplinary action against him.

The punishment to the Vehari EDO (education) was handed down by Information Commissioner Mukhtar Ahmad Ali on a petition filed by Vehari Government Islamia High School teacher Arif Noor. The teacher had claimed he had applied for the copy of an inquiry against him and seniority lists of teachers under the law but the EDO did not respond.

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The application was submitted in July and the commission twice wrote to the EDO to explain why he was not providing the information to the applicant, but he did not respond. The officer was summoned for hearing but he did not appear.

When the commission served him a notice through the district coordination officer, the EDO sent his district education officer on Oct 13, who submitted the information, but the commission declared it too late.

In the meantime, the teacher reported that the EDO had initiated an inquiry against him, and he was being pressurised to withdraw his petition from the commission.

When inquired by the commission, the EDO could not explain his position and submitted that the inquiry had been initiated against the teacher under directions from the service tribunal. The relevant order of the tribunal was sought but could not be furnished.

The EDO was summoned for hearing on Thursday but he did not appear again. Upon this, the commission asked the district accounts office to deduct the EDO’s two-month salary as a punishment for delaying the required information. It also ordered the education department to initiate disciplinary action against the EDO for obstructing information sought and intimidating the applicant.

A similar commission is functioning in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but it has not yet punished anyone for obstructing information sought by a citizen.

Published in Dawn, October 25th, 2014