The Chhattisgarh State Information Commission has ordered an inquiry into complaints of misuse of the Right to Information (RTI) Act by an applicant.
The applicant, who is a member of a Janpad Panchayat, allegedly blackmailed officials of village panchayats into purchasing insurance policies after seeking information about them through RTI applications.
Chief Information Commissioner A K Vijayvargiya directed the Chief Executive Officer of Kanker district panchayat to conduct an inquiry against the applicant and to take appropriate action under the Panchayat Act.
The matter came up before the CIC when Sriniwas, a Janpad Panchayat member, filed second appeals with the SIC, pointing out that gram panchayat secretaries, who are also designated as public information officers of 36 panchayats under Koilibeda development block, have failed to provide information sought under the RTI Act within the stipulated timeframe.
All the 36 appeals, filed by the same person, were clubbed together and taken up for hearing. In their replies, gram panchayat secretaries concerned informed the commission that the applicant was asked to pay the fees prescribed for supplying copies of the documents. They alleged that the applicant in turn forced panchayat officials and even elected sarpanchs to pay up and to purchase insurance policies.
In their replies, panchayat officials also alleged that the applicant had threatened action against them if they failed to accept his demands. In some cases, they pointed out, the applicant had later submitted letters stating that the information sought earlier were no more required.
The CIC in his order stated: "It appears that these second appeals were filed to mount pressure on gram panchayat secretaries. It seems to be an effort to fulfil vested interest in the guise of public interest".
"It is unfortunate that RTI is being misused in such a manner and the image of panchayat bodies is being tarnished," Vijayvargiya said in his order which dismissed all the 36 second appeals filed by the appellant.
However, the commission directed the appellant that he could go through the relevant records, as per the rules, of the gram panchayats concerned.