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Info panel slaps fine on two tahsildars (Click here)

Acting on an RTI petition seeking to expose the forgery of revenue records by a person who had encroached upon a lake at Pallavaram, thestate information commission has imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 each on two ex-tahsildars of Tambaram who not only failed to remove the encroachment but also provided false information to the petitioner.The issue dates back to 2006 when RTI activist T Retna Pandian brought to the notice of the Kancheepuram district collector that a new encroachment had come up on the Ramasamy lake near Pallavaram railway station. He pointed out that A Jameela, who had earlier constructed a shop on the lake land and been evicted by the revenue officials once, had returned to the same spot and put up another construction and also applied for a power connection from the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board using a forged NOC from the village administrative officer. The forgery came to light when revenue officials, responding to a query from Pandian, dismissed the NOC. Pandian also found that the seal on the document produced by Jameela did not match the official seal of the VAO. Also, the fake NOC was signed in green ink; VAOs are not authorized to use green ink since they are non-gazetted officials.Pandian, in his complaint, said he was forced to approach the collector because the jurisdictional tahsildar had excused himself from removing the encroachment saying he was busy with the assembly elections.Independent of Pandian's petition, another activist, K R Ramasamy (Traffic Ramasamy), also sent a fax to the collector informing him about the encroachment.With the petition evoking little response, Pandian filed an RTI application to the collector seeking details of the action taken against the encroacher. The issue was referred to the Tambaram tahsildar for inquiry as well as for replying to Pandian. But neither the tahsildar nor the appellate authority, PA (general) to the collector, gave replies to his queries. Pandian then moved the information commission on appeal. The commission ordered tahsildar to provide replies to the queries immediately.As the reply skirted the main issue of removal of the encroachment, Pandian once again approached the information commission. Passing orders on his petition, on August 6, 2007, the commission asked the collector to carry out a "special investigation by a senior officer and keep a personal watch on the investigation to check what went wrong." The Collector was asked to also probe how false information that Ramasamy's fax had not reached the collectorate could be provided to the commission by the PIO.As the commission's order made little impact on the officials, Pandian moved the information commission once again pointing out the laxity of revenue officials. The petitioner pointed out that Jameela had put up a pucca structure and obtained power connection too as no official had taken pains to evict her. The commission, which passed orders recently, imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 each on the two tahsildars who had been in that post at Tambaram during the course of the case for disobeying its directive.