As reported by Karthika Gopalakrishnan in on 03 Sep 2011:

Man taken to court for seeking info under RTI

CHENNAI: An RTI activist who sought details of a building encroaching on a public road in Madipakkam has been slapped with a lawsuit.

A petition filed by S Balaji, on behalf of those occupying the apartment complex on 12th Street in Karthikeyapuram, impleaded RTI activist G Balaji of PACE Trust as a respondent. The matter is being taken up by the Additional District Munsif court at Alandur.

"The petition should have included the CMDA as a respondent, not a member of the public who sought information about the matter under the RTI Act. I cannot understand how the judge could allow a petition like this," G Balaji said.

PACE Trust became involved in the matter after M Mahendran, a resident of the area, complained that the new three-storied complex was encroaching on 10 feet of public road.

"But there was no response from authorities. After we sent several RTI applications, the State Information Commission directed the CM's cell to furnish replies to our queries. While the eventual reply ran into 105 pages, we found it only contained copies of our letters which were forwarded to different departments," G Balaji said.

Subsequently, the Commissioner of the St Thomas Mount panchayat union sent an official to measure the area and found the building was, indeed, an encroachment. A notice was sent on July 18, 2011 to 11 persons who owned flats in the complex, directing them to demolish the structure within a week.

"But officials did not conduct any follow-up after that. Instead, the delay has enabled occupants of the building to approach the court in the meantime," G Balaji said.

However, according to his advocate Manikandan Vathan Chettiar, the move to slap a lawsuit against Balaji was a bullying tactic. "The idea behind impleading him in the case is to stop him from pursuing the matter. There is a Madras high court judgement which says matters like building demolition should not be taken up by a civil court but by the high court. We will file a contempt application against the judge at Alandur," he said.