Hope for widow denied dues by govt dept for three decades

After a struggle of more than three decades, a 72-year-old widow can finally get access to information about her husband`s dues with Social Justice Department of Delhi Government where he had worked for nearly 15 years.

Updated: Jul 30, 2010, 16:08 PM IST

New Delhi: After a struggle of more than
three decades, a 72-year-old widow can finally get access to
information about her husband`s dues with Social Justice
Department of Delhi Government where he had worked for nearly
15 years.

Admonishing the department officials for adopting an
"absolutely callous and insensitive attitude" by refusing to
part with the information sought by Draupadi Devi, the Central
Information Commission said government servants should realize
that they would also "retire someday and be treated in the
same manner".

The case relates to late H P Sharma who had worked with
the department during 1961-76 as Case Officer before he quit
and joined a public sector undertaking. Sharma kept writing to
Delhi Government to get his due funds like pension, leave
encashment, gratuity settled but to no avail.

In 1988, when he died leaving behind his widow Draupadi
Devi and four children, the family was still waiting the
clearance of his dues.

After nearly two decades of his death, Draupadi Devi
filed an application under the Right to Information Act
seeking details of his pending dues with the Social Welfare
Department but it refused to part with the information citing
clauses of RTI Act.

"After my father`s death in 1988, there were several
responsibilities on our family which needed priority. And so
we preferred to give attention to those responsibilities. It
was last year that my mother came to know about the RTI Act
and asked me if we can get details about our father`s pending
dues. She then filed an application which was rejected by the
department," Kshem Sharma, her son, said.

The case came before Information Commissioner Shailesh
Gandhi who rapped the Social Welfare Department officials
for adopting an "absolutely callous and insensitive attitude"
towards an old woman who was seeking information about her
husband`s dues.
"Inspite of filing this RTI application no information
was sent within 30 days and after over three months, the PIO
has stated that he will not provide information under Section
8(3) of the RTI Act.

"This provision expands the amount of information that
could be available to the citizens after a 20-year period. The
PIO has used this provision absolutely conversely from what is
stated. This shows the perverse attitude of the PIO in finding
any excuse not do her work," Gandhi lamented.

The Commission said it`s time that government servants
realize that they would also "retire someday and be treated in
the same manner when they are trying to get their dues."

Gandhi awarded compensation of Rs 2,000 to Draupadi Devi
for being "harassed by the department by not providing
information and making her unnecessarily file an appeal before
the Commission".

Gandhi issued a show-cause notice to the department
official Rekha Rani Verma for not supplying information
within the mandated period and directed it to provide all the
information sought by Devi by August 5.

"The Commission is also deeply distressed by the fact
that even when an old lady is seeking information about dues
which may be accruing to her since she says her husband was
working with the department, the PIO has adopted an absolutely
callous and insensitive attitude and misinterpreted the law
completely," he said.

PTI