The Karnataka Lokayukta is “discreetly monitoring” RTI activists who, they believe, are indulging in extortion and blackmail using RTI provisions, and then approaching the anti-corruption body with complaints that turn out to be frivolous. This move, however, has left some RTI activists fuming.
Lokayukta P. Vishwanatha Shetty, who confirmed to The Hindu that the agency was “keeping a watch”, said the move has come in the light of a section of the public and RTI activists complaining that the tool to bring in transparency is being misused by some. “We will keep a watch on those who approach us with complaints claiming to be RTI activists. The institution is only concerned with those who repeatedly file complaints, with the sole intention of harassing officials and not to take the complaint forward,” he said, adding that “honest persons need not fear any monitoring”.
“We will henceforth see the motives of those who come as RTI activists and find out if the complainant has a genuine ground. Such applications will be scrutinised,” said Mr. Shetty, clarifying that they are not compiling a database of RTI activists in the State. In Udupi, he said, a case had come to his notice when people and officials complained to him about it.
On a query on whether When his response was sought on whether, underthe legal provisions, the Lokayukta institution can act against such persons directly, if they were found to be indulging in extortion or blackmail, Mr. Shetty said: “We cannot act against them directly, but we will speak to the police. Before such a move, we have to be fully satisfied about the case.” However, RTI activists like Wg.Cdr. G.B. Athri (retd) have said that any such action is “illegal, unconstitutional and constitutes as abuse and misuse of power”. In a letter to the Lokayukta, he has said that the move also violates the provisions of the RTI Act, besides being “draconian”, and it should be desisted. He said the RTI Act does not place a limit on the number of applications that a person can lodge. “If there are bad elements misusing RTI Act, there are other legal measures to deal with them separately,” he added.