Sunday, June 10, 2018

RTI blackmail:PMC staff move to protect selves from habitual RTI activists

Hindustan Times: Puna: Sunday, June 10, 2018.
Officials of the Pune municipal corporation (PMC) have decided to gather names of Right To Information (RTI) activists repeatedly filing applications in various departments with “suspicious intentions”.
Officials, speaking to HT on the condition of anonymity, said they were considering legal action against such applicants if possible. The allegation is there are few applicants who repeatedly file RTIs with an intention to blackmail employees of the PMC.
Junior-level officers from various departments claimed they found many people repeatedly filing RTI applications and that these applications were not in the interest of the society. “Sometimes, the information sought is on a personal level, such as internal transfers, the appointment and recruitment process,” the officials said.
On the other hand, Vijay Kumbhar, a city-based RTI activist, said, “There are possibilities of people misusing the RTI act and blackmailing the parties concerned, but their number is very small.”
According to guidelines under the RTI, officers cannot deny information sought under the act, which is why officials cannot refuse to do away with the information, even after being aware of the applicant’s intention.
They added that such applications increase their workload as a lot of time and effort is spent meeting the requests. Officials said they sometimes even need to assign staff to search for these files and reply to the application in the stipulated time.
Speaking about the issue, Kumbhar said if the administration has found that people were misusing the RTI Act and blackmailing the administration, they should file cases against them.
However, he also pointed out that the administration was responsible for such cases as they were not disclosing information under Section 4 of the RTI Act. “If most of the information was available on the respective websites, the people would not file applications for the same,” Kumbhar said, adding, “PMC officers should publish the information of RTI applications on its website.”