Allegation of extortion against RTI applicant by panchayati raj officer
A panchayati raj officer of Rampur has complained to the Uttar Pradesh (UP) State Information Commission (SIC) that a price was demanded for closure of a complaint filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. A lawyer had filed an application under the RTI Act seeking information regarding gram panchayat Meerapur Meerganj in district Rampur in November 2009 from the gram panchayat adhikari. The case went to the district panchayat officer, Rampur and the applicant also wrote to the district magistrate in 2013 but no information was received. He complained to the UP SIC in October 2013 which directed to furnish the information in December 2014. The applicant claimed that incomplete information was provided but in February 14, 2015, he withdrew his complaint and informed the SIC that he was satisfied with the information provided to him.
After the query was withdrawn, the panchayati raj officer filed a complaint with the SIC alleging extortion by the RTI applicant. In the complaint, the officer has alleged that the applicant asked him and his brother to pay Rs 15,000 to withdraw the RTI application and out of fear, his brother gave Rs 13,500 to the applicant in cash while the remaining amount was deposited in his bank account. A Bank account receipt submitted along with the complaint shows that money was transferred to his account two days later on February 16. Hearing the complaint, the state information commissioner Hafiz Usman said “May be the officer wanted proof against the applicant. Inquiry into the matter will bring out the truth.” He has directed the district magistrate Rampur to investigate the matter and submit report before the next hearing which has been scheduled for May 20. The enquiry would show whether the allegations made are true and is it a case of misuse of the RTI Act for extortion.