New Delhi/ Mumbai, January , 2020.
Complying to the recent Supreme Court observations and direction on misuse of Right to Information (RTI) Act by vested interests, the Government of India and States governments now plan to put strict check mechanism on ‘blackmails’ and ‘extortions’ in the name RTI or Whistle blowing.
According to Sources, the Governments have instructed their Legal departments and other concerned agencies to suggest a roadmap to check this growing menace in the country.
In December last Year, a Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant had said that there have been innumerable cases of blackmail and extortion allegedly by certain people posing as RTI activists. While the RTI is one piece of landmark legislation that has effectively brought down corruption across the country, it is also true that some people have been using it for blackmail, the observed.
It was only a few days ago that a person was arrested in Assam following similar allegations. There are several unwritten complaints in police stations and other government agencies. The Hyberabad police recently arrested a man claiming to be chairman of International Human Rights (IHR) organisation, India branch, and 16 of his associates on charge of extortion, cheating and threatening people. Five people, including a member of a human rights commission, a Home Guard and the wife of a police constable, had been arrested by the Mulund police for extorting money from fair price shops and beauty parlours, by posing as members of the IHR.
One of the RTI activists Madan Lal Azad from Delhi-NCR has also recently come under radar and sources said that though there is no formal complaint registered against him in any police station, however his victims such as promoters of Hello Taxis, Bike Boat, and others have informed the enforcement agencies and Information Commissioners about his modus operandi. A retired government servant Azad came into prominence as an activist and whistle blower recently, however, his modus operandi started raising eyebrows about his intension as a social activist.
Azad is not alone. Several people came under radar of enforcement agencies and even penalised. The Chief Justice also remarked that some people were making RTI activism a profession, with Justice Gavai saying there were people in Mumbai who had even printed letterheads mentioning that they were RTI consultants. Everyday news come in from different parts of the country about extortions and blackmails in the name of RTI or Whistle blowing. Very recently two persons- Dinesh Singh and Ramesh Pardeshi- were reportedly arrested for allegedly extorting money from a sculptor in suburban Santacruz by posing as RTI activists.
The Act aims to expose corruption, so much so that the authorities could no longer conceal information on the way decisions were made and taxpayers’ money was spent. A lot of misuse of power and public funds has been exposed and checked, especially in areas like public works, education, flood relief, healthcare, social welfare schemes, public distribution system, municipal works, MP and MLA local area funds, and so on since 2005.
Convicted in the Junior Basic Training (JBT) teachers' recruitment scam, Haryana IAS Sanjeev Kumar had made a plea that he was a whistle blower in the case. He was convicted in 2013.
The Centre has dismissed suspended Haryana Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officer Sanjeev Kumar, who was recently convicted in the Junior Basic Training (JBT) teachers' recruitment scam, from service. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had carried out the probe into the case.
RTI activists said, there is nothing wrong with “blowing the whistle” on someone doing something corrupt or unethical. It is our moral obligation to expose corruption, however, making it a profession for extortion would kill the noble purpose.
Several RTI and social activists have demanded that the government should pay urgent attention on this issue and make some amendments in the existing laws to put a check on unethical practices being adopted by some people in the guise of RTI or Whistle blowing.