Lokayukta receives complaints about blackmail by applicant
The Right to Information Act 2005 is a tool that empowers the citizens to seek information from any government agency. It has greatly helped bring in transparency and accountability in the delivery of services by government agencies.
However, in the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), the RTI has apparently become a tool for some to blackmail and threaten officials.
The Lokayukta's office on Tuesday wrote to the BBMP seeking information about the RTI applications filed by Venkatesh Bhovi from J.P. Nagar. According to the letter, a copy of which is with The Hindu, the Lokayukta has received complaints that Mr. Bhovi was using information to blackmail officials.
Ashok V., Additional Commissioner (Administration and Welfare), told The Hindu several RTI applicants resorted to “blackmail” of BBMP officials. “I can safely say that around 50 per cent of the applicants use the responses to blackmail officials and demand money from them. Though several officials have orally complained about this, none have given it in writing,” he said.
‘They pay up'
Another senior official claimed that activists approach them and threaten to publish reports against them in the newspapers. “Usually, these activists have some influence in small, regional newspapers. Many officials succumb to blackmail and harassment and pay up,” he said.
Officials, on condition of anonymity, told The Hindu that on an average, each zone received a minimum of 500 RTI applications.
Most of the applicants sought information about tenders, plans of commercial buildings, officials' service records and their assets and liabilities.
“These applicants use the information received then to harass the officials,” they said.
J.D.S. Pani, an RTI activist, said that the misuse of RTI Act has given rise to another corruption scenario.
“However, the question that should be asked is what do these BBMP officials have to hide? They are no angels either. They are being blackmailed because they have something to hide.”
However, he said if the Lokayukta's letter to the BBMP was to be true and if the charges were proved, people would not respect RTI activists.
“If this continues, I will definitely be ashamed to call myself one.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Bhovi was not available for comment.