RTI: SIC Imposes Penalty on Registrar SST for Withholding Information
n a significant development, Mr. Waqas Abid Baloch, Registrar of the Sindh Service Tribunal (SST), has been penalized with a 10% deduction from his basic pay for failing to provide requested information to a citizen, Mr. Faheem Ali. The decision came after a prolonged legal battle between Mr. Ali and the SST, which raised questions about transparency and the right to information.
The saga began on September 1, 2022, when Mr. Faheem Ali filed an information request under the Sindh Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2016. His request sought details about the appointment, promotion, and transfers of SST employees, particularly focusing on the promotion of Mr. Waqas Baloch, who was a private secretary, to the post of Registrar.
Mr. Ali also inquired about the rules or policies allowing a private secretary to retain an official vehicle of 1300 cc. Additionally, he requested records of POL claims (bills and receipts) related to the fuel consumption of vehicle numbers GSD-960 and GSC-660 during the financial years 2019-2020 and 2020-21, along with log-books and acknowledgment receipts.
Upon silence from SST to the information request, Mr. Ali approached Sindh Information Commission and filed a complaint against the department.
In response to notice issued by the Sindh Information Commission, the Registrar of SST submit response and claimed that Mr. Ali was a former employee of SST who had been dismissed from service on charges of corruption and embezzlement.
The Registrar expressed concerns that the requested documents could be misused by Mr. Ali, potentially affecting the smooth functioning of SST. Therefore, the Registrar cited Section 10(1)(g) of the Sindh Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2016, which allows for exceptions in cases like this.
On June 20, 2023, the SIC decided in favor of Mr. Ali, ordering the Registrar to provide the requested information within 10 days of the receipt of the order. Despite this directive, the Registrar failed to comply with the SIC’s order.
In response to the Registrar’s non-compliance, the SIC issued show-cause notices for August 15 and September 4, directing the Registrar, Mr. Waqas Abid Baloch, to appear in person before the Commission. Regrettably, no representative from the SST appeared on both occasions.
Consequently, on September 07, 2023, the Sindh Information Commission, through an eight-page verdict signed by Dr. Jawaid Ali, Chief Information Commissioner, Shahid Abbas Jatoi, and Saima Agha, Information Commissioners, imposed a penalty equal to 10% of Mr. Waqas Abid Baloch’s basic pay, in accordance with Section 15 of the Sindh Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2016.
A copy of the order has been sent to the Secretary of the Finance Department, Government of Sindh, and the Accountant General of Sindh for compliance. The deducted amount from Mr. Baloch’s salary will be deposited into the exchequer of the Government of Sindh.