New Delhi: Taking cognisance of reports on destruction of files by officials, CIC on Friday issued summons to Delhi Chief Secretary to present their inquiry report into the alleged incident before it and barred destruction of any record held by any GNCT department till further orders.
Information Commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu also directed the Chief Secretary DM Spolia to initiate criminal action against officials, who were found to be involved in the destructions of records which is a "serious crime" under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code.
Next hearing has been slated by CIC on January 15, 2014.
In an out of turn hearing of the complaint filed by activists Maja Daruwala and Venkatesh Nayak, the transparency panel issued a stern warning to Chief Secretary to alert vigilance and other officers to take all preventive steps to protect the records from destruction.
"If respondent public authority comes to notice of any such destruction as apprehended, he may initiate necessary criminal action against concerned person as destruction of records might amount to serious crime by itself under Indian Penal Code or any other law," Acharyulu directed the Chief Secretary.
He said the complaint discloses reasonable apprehension of commission of cognisable offence which if not prevented, would cause serious consequence to administration of criminal justice and affecting the rule of law.
Underlining that it could not wait for giving chance to the Chief Secretary to explain his position because of urgency of the issue, he said it is "proper and necessary" to issue "ad interim direction" to take steps to prevent destruction and secure public records.
Acharyulu said it is the duty of the Chief Secretary to protect public records which are important "state property" and which could be the evidence of corruption or innocence of public servants.
In his order Acharyulu directed the Chief Secretary to submit before it a list of public records, papers and documents in custody of the Government of national capital territory, which have been destroyed "either legitimately or otherwise" along with justification of legitimate destruction.
"The Commission directs the respondents to issue necessary directions to `record officers` designated under Public Records Act, 1993 and `Public Information Officers` designated under RTI Act, 2005 to secure, keep safe and undertake not to destroy, displace or in any other way tamper with or dislocate or dislodge or disturb any official document in the custody of various departments of GNCTD," he said.
In his complaint to the CIC, Nayak said if the apprehension of destruction of records becomes true it would cause irreparable loss because the evidence or corruption or innocence would be destroyed forever.
Nayak argued that it may block many future RTI responses by public authorities because of absence of record due to destruction and it might even lead to a situation where criminal justice cannot be administered by proper investigation and prosecution of offenders.
He stressed that he was neither relying on rumours nor raising hue and cry on suspicions but interested in securing public records which might become clinching evidences of offences and finally result in effective implementation of rule of law.
Admitting the complaint, newly appointed Information Commissioner said it discloses reasonable apprehension of commission of cognisable offence which if not prevented, would cause serious consequences to administration of criminal justice and affecting the rule of law.