RTI MISUSE: Info panel officials in a bind as applicants ‘get personal’

Officials report a sharp hike in the number of queries with a personal agenda.

Written by Parthasarathi Biswas | Pune | Published: May 6, 2015 1:02 am
rti, right to information, pune right to information, pune rti misuse, rti misuse, solapur rti misuse, rti news, pune news, india news, indian express Applicants are now targeting licensing bodies like municipal corporations, the foodgrain distribution offices (FDO)s, pollution control boards, etc, for such work.

When the Pune bench of State Information Commissioner (SIC) received multiple second appeals from a resident of Solapur regarding the failure of the municipal corporation to provide him with inspection reports of some buildings, it was hardly surprised. Such appeals clogging up the disposal system are now common in SIC benches. In due course of time, the SIC held hearings and imposed a fine on the officer for not providing information on time.

However, the case took a strange turn when the officer approached the SIC bench and claimed that the applicant had contacted him and said he could get the fine annulled if the officer declared the buildings in question as unsafe.

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Further investigations revealed that the buildings were owned by the applicant himself, but were occupied by tenants. The applicant wanted to evict the tenants and redevelop the land. So, he took the RTI route to pressure civic officials into declaring the buildings as unsafe. As per rules, if a building is declared unsafe, its tenants would have to be evicted.

This is just one of many such cases haunting the various SIC benches. Officials say that over the past few months, there has been at least a 25% rise in number of cases where people use RTI to coerce government officials for personal work.

Applicants are now targeting licensing bodies like municipal corporations, the foodgrain distribution offices (FDO)s, pollution control boards, etc, for such work. SIC officials say the standard modus operandi involves asking for information regarding various issues.

“A close scrutiny of the applications show a remarkable knowledge about the legal framework. Often, due to the complexities of the legal process and the archaic laws, the licensing authorities fail to reply in time or collect information. This gets them before the SICs and when the hearing is announced, the applicants try to strike a deal with the authorities,” said a senior officer of the SIC bench in Pune.

In another case, a few MPCB officers came to the SIC bench in Nashik to complain about how an applicant was trying to coerce them into certifying a small flour mill as environmentally hazardous. Doing so would have led to the mill’s closure, which the applicant wanted as the unit was on his land.

“Often, due to administrative workload, officials of local bodies fail to adhere to certain norms and the applicants try to catch them on it. This is a disturbing trend,” said another official with the SIC.

Interestingly, RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar says a majority of the applicants are either former bureaucrats or people being used as front offices by them.

“The real RTI users would not know the intricacies of the administration to get into such work. In order to safeguard against such forces, public authorities should be more proactive in their disclosures,” he says.

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  1. P
    May 6, 2015 at 12:34 pm
    1) FDI was 10 times more during UPA then current Year.. When in 2008 UPA bought FDI in defence, Modi tweeted that UPA is selling the security of this country and BJP Opposed the FDI bill in Parliment, and now it is a BIG U turn, so why did he dela the FDI since 2008 when it was for benefit of the country 2) Jan Dhan Yojna..It is extension of the UPA policy of Direct Benefit Transfer under which 25 crore bank accounts were opened, it is just renaming of the same scheme 3) Proposed Bullet Train Project was ped under UPA in 2010, The study report was completed in 2013, go to wikipedia and see the history of bullet train 4) Ganga Clean Project - Again a UPA intiative, but UPA failed to clean Ganga and as per Supreme Court, NDA will take 300 years to clean the Ganga...it is just a political farce created by BJP 5) GDP Increase, who told you that GDP has increased, it is again balatant lies 6) Petrol prices are gone down...Yes they are..but what has modi/bjp to do with it...Petrol prices are govern by oil companies in India, nothing to do with GOI, In may Crude Oil prices were 120$ and today they are 67$, but still oil companies reduced very little amt...it should be more...Secondly, GOI increased taxes making Oil companies raising their product price 7) Swach Bharat Yojna....It is extension of UPA's NIrmal Bharat Programme, under which 15Lakh Tiolets were built in rural area..again renaming of the programme. Now I will say what they did wrong: 1) They rasied the prices of live saving Drugs 2) Where is the black money promised in 100 days..and where is my 15-20 lakh as per his promise each family will get 3) why U-Turn on FDI 4) U turn on MSP for Farmer Product, he promised 50%, but only 4% increased 5) What happned to Article 377, still nothing has been done 6) They promised Slab Tax to be raised to 5 Lakhs, but in the Budget they made only 2.5 Lakh, similar to UPA, so what new they have done.. 7) Jaitley says a minor incident of Rape in case of Nirbhaya, but when in Opposition, they said it is national disaster... 8) They were not ready to disclose names of Black Money Account Holder .Supreme Court forced them to do so.. 9) They told that no a single army men will be touched, tiill date 120 army men are killed and many civilians killed... 10) They told no farmer will commit sucide, till date 1500 farmers killed themselves... 11) Cost Increase for UREA, Cut in MNREGA, Cut in Anganwadi forcing the poor farmers to kill themselves. 12) Land Acquisition Bill: He wants to Make Farmers Bonded Labours in the factories of the corporates... I hope I have clear many of your doubts of this feku govt...people does right when they call this man..a FEKU MAN...open your eyes and see the reality..Apart from roaming around countries, he has done nothing...q223