In a move that can set a precedent for similar cases, State Information Commissioner (SIC) of Pune Ravindra Jadhav has decided to dismiss over 100 Right to Information (RTI) appeals filed by an applicant after the latter allegedly falsely claimed that he was in the Below Poverty Line (BPL) category.
The applicant, Dilip Mane, is a resident of Sangli and has filed several RTI applications earlier on various issues.
Mane had filed second appeals before the SIC after the public information officer (PIO) and the appellate authority (AA) failed to reply in time. In the last few years, the Pune bench has recorded 104 such appeals by Mane. However, he had claimed exemption from paying the mandatory Rs 20 RTI fees on the ground that he was in the BPL category. As per RTI norms, those living under the poverty line are exempted from paying the RTI fees. Such applicants are, however, required to attach their BPL certificate with their applications.
According to officials of the Information Commissionerate, Mane’s applications had an extract from the Maharashtra government’s district-wise Socio-Economic Survey, but didn’t have his BPL certificate. Despite repeated reminders to Mane to submit his BPL certificate, he allegedly kept on re-submitting the extract from the Socio-Economic Survey.
Following Mane’s failure to submit his BPL certificate, the SIC had written to the block development officer of Walva, in Sangli, to confirm Mane’s claim.
After a thorough investigation, the block development officer told the SIC that Mane didn’t fall in the BPL category. Based on this report, the SIC decided to dismiss all of Mane’s 104 pending appeals, as he had failed to deposit the requisite fees.
City-based RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar said that in a case like this, when an applicant fraudulently claims to be in the BPL category, the SIC should order that a case of impersonation be registered against him/her. “There should be guidelines on how to deal with such cases,” he said.