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Nine blacklisted for 'harassing' officials through RTI queries in Gujarat; NGO says 'lifetime ban' illegal

Photo: rti.gov.in

Photo: rti.gov.in

In an unprecedented move, the Gujarat Information Commission has blacklisted nine persons for “harassing” officials by filing repeated RTI (Right to Information) queries and ordered their applications should not be responded to henceforth.

An NGO which analysed the orders of Information Commissioners over the last two years claimed this is the first occasion in Gujarat wherein people are “banned for a lifetime from seeking information”.

The Commission stated that these nine persons were “repeatedly using the RTI Act”, “harassing officials by filing RTI applications”, filing queries with “malafide intentions” and it also found an applicant “cantankerous”.

These orders about blacklisted persons were analysed and compiled by Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel.

Apart from these nine individuals, the GIC has also barred one Hitesh Patel of Petlad town in the Anand district from filing RTI applications for five years and imposed a ₹5,000 penalty on him for “misusing the RTI Act”.

“This is for the first time in Gujarat that people are banned for a lifetime from seeking information, despite the fact that there is no provision of blacklisting applicants under the RTI Act. Even the Central Information Commission, while responding to an RTI query, has said that no such provision exists,” claimed Pankti Jog of the NGO.

Ms. Jog said that all these 10 individuals — the nine who are blacklisted and Patel — can move the Gujarat High Court to challenge the GIC’s order.

In all these cases, the Information Commissioners, in their orders, have asked officials concerned not to give any information to these individuals if they file an RTI application henceforth.

While hearing an RTI query filed by Gandhinagar-based school teacher Amita Mishra about her service book and salary details, information commissioner K.M. Adhvaryu said she was “cantankerous” and “harassed an institution in which she was working”.

The Public Information Officer, in his submission, also alleged that Mr. Mishra was seeking the same information repeatedly and she is in the habit of putting false allegations.

Mr. Mishra has been barred from seeking information from the Kadi Sarva Vidyalay and the Gandhinagar district education officer.

According to the NGO, one Arjunsinh Solanki of Surat was barred from seeking information from Dakshin Gujarat Vij Company Limited (DGVCL) because he was “asking for information which does not have anything to do with the public interest and it is the misuse of the RTI Act”.

While observing that Mr. Solanki was already facing several cases of electricity theft and had filed many RTIs between 2011 and 2021, the GIC noted that he was doing it to “harass officials”, and it directed the DGVCL not to entertain any of his RTI queries.

The GIC also accused one Sattar Khalifa, a school employee from Modasa town in the Arvalli district, of “misconduct and misbehaviour in front of the commission during a virtual hearing”.

The Commission withdrew Mr. Khalifa’s right to seek any information from education authorities of the district, as he was “found to be cantankerous and is continuously harassing officials as well as the commission. His repeated queries are like a mockery of the RTI Act,” Mr. Adhvaryu stated in his order.

Suspended bus conductor Manoj Sarapadadiya has been barred from seeking information from all the offices in Gujarat, as he was found to be “cantankerous” by Information Commissioner Ramesh Karia.

The GIC noted that Sarapadadiya had filed nearly 150 RTI applications and appeals and he had sought information related to “all officers and of all types” through his queries.

It also claimed that “information sought by him is not at par with the objective of the RTI Act and information was sought to bring pressure on the public authority”.

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Printable version | Aug 9, 2022 4:55:04 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/nine-blacklisted-for-harassing-officials-through-rti-queries-in-gujarat-ngo-says-lifetime-ban-illegal/article65749754.ece