Haryana fire officer under fire for delay in providing RTI information

The Haryana State Information Commission has decided to slap a showcause on officials of Haryana fire services for having “failed to perform their duties diligently” in providing information under RTI Act and “are liable for action”.

State Information Commissioner, Arun Sangwan, on June 30 directed action against Haryana fire services deputy director (technical) Gulshan Kalra, who is also holding charge of deputy director (technical), fire station, Sector-29, Gurgaon.

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The commission passed the order while hearing an appeal filed by Wing Commander (retired) Jagjit Singh, who wanted information related to the actual ground situation at an apartment complex built by a well-known commercial real estate developer in Gurgaon. Jagjit Singh alleged the officials did not provide the requisite information despite his three-year long efforts. “There are several towers in this housing society and every tower has 17 to 21 storeys. The society has over 1,600 flats. I have inputs that fire norms were not checked properly before giving an NoC to the developer. In case of fire, people normally don’t use lifts and they prefer stairs. There should be a provision of two types of stairs — main stairs and that for fire escape — in such housing buildings. Fire escape stairs are normally used in case of an emergency. As per the Haryana Building Code, 2017, there should be a specific minimum distance between the normal stairs and fire escape stairs, so that people can leave the building safely. This much distance is helpful in providing safe passage to the people in case of a fire in any particular portion or corner of the building. I have inputs that the developer did not maintain this much distance between both stairs,” the applicant said. However, on its part, the officials of Gurgaon’s fire station had informed the directorate that during an inspection the fire system of the building was found perfect and in working condition.

According to Jagjit Singh, he filed his first RTI application in August 2019, following it up with a second application in December 2021. Singh said when he did not get the required information, despite two RTIs and having approached the first appellate authority, he approached the information commission in March this year. Subsequently, the commission issued notices to the officials concerned.

Singh told the commission that officials had not furnished requisite information to him till date. The commission, in turn, observed that the directorate of state fire services had transferred the RTI application to Gulshan Kalra, the State Public Information Officer, on January 10 this year. The directorate also forwarded the first appeal of the applicant to Kalra on February 24 asking him to furnish the information.

Noting that the information has not been provided to the appellant, information commissioner Arun Sangwan observed, “Prima-facie, the respondents have failed to perform their duties diligently and are liable for action under the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005.”

The commission also ordered: “A showcause notice be issued to Gulshan Kalra…asking him to show cause as to why a penalty at the rate of Rs 250 (per day), subject to maximum of Rs 25,000 for causing an inordinate delay in this case be not imposed upon them.”

The commission also asked the officer to personally be present at the commission’s secretariat in Chandigarh during the next hearing of the matter on August 16, apart from providing the information to the applicant within two weeks of receipt of this order.

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