NEW DELHI: A bid by two villagers to bring about accountability in their local administration through RTI has resulted in their arrest on forgery charges by the Azamgarh police. Their crime? The society formed by them for the purpose is not registered.
And, worse still, a local court refused to grant bail to the two who have been behind bars since their arrest on December 26 last year and who have now moved Allahabad High Court for relief.
According to RTI activist Vimal Kumar, who has approached the National Human Rights Commission on behalf of the arrested duo, the villagers of Dehduar Kathauli decided to keep track of the funds allotted to their 'gram sabha' through the RTI Act and formed a society called Vikas Gram Sabha for the purpose.
They soon filed a plea seeking information from the BDO and district panchayat officer over allocation of funds.
This organised quest for transparency apparently caught the local block level officials by surprise, who quickly had Indrasen Singh and Asudhar Singh arrested on forgery charges. Seeing it as an act of defiance, panchayat officials also lodged a complaint against them, claiming the two were working for an unregistered organisation and ''creating obstacles in the development of the panchayat.''
Predictably, the police promptly obliged by foisting a case under non bailable sections and took their signed statements that the newly-formed society was not yet registered. Using that as an excuse, the police then alleged that Indrasen and Asudhar were running a fake society.
The duo's hopes of getting quick relief were dashed when the local sessions court refused to grant them bail. Despite repeated entreaties by their lawyer that his clients were being framed, the sessions judge turned a deaf ear.
While dismissing the bail plea, the ASJ also termed the alleged crime as a ''serious offence'' and agreed with the police that evidence supported the charge that the duo created ''obstacles in development work.''
The stunned villagers now hope to be set free by the Allahabad High Court where their bail plea is pending, while Kumar has moved the NHRC demanding action against the concerned local officials.