Saturday, February 20, 2010

Info panel orders probe into threat to RTI applicant

Info panel orders probe into threat to RTI applicant

Jeeva, TNN, Feb 20, 2010, 04.51am IST

CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu State Information Commission has directed the Vellore collector to inquire into the complaint of a right to information activist that he was threatened by unidentified persons and asked to withdraw his application seeking information on old-age pension.

V Gopalakrishnan of KK Nagar had sent his RTI application to the public information officer (PIO) of the Vellore district collectorate in February last year, seeking copies of certain records pertaining to old-age pension, widow pension and pension for physically handicapped from October 2008 to January 2009.

In March 2009, Gopalakrishnan received a reply from the collectorate, asking him to pay Rs 21,600 as photocopy charges since the copies of the records he had asked for ran into 10,800 pages. The reply was not given by a PIO designated under the RTI Act, but by an another official in the collectorate. According to Gopalakrishnan, on March 12, two unidentified persons came to his residence, claiming that they were sent by a senior woman official of the collectorate. The duo then asked Gopalakrishnan to withdraw his RTI application or face dire consequences.

"I wanted the copies of the records since I suspected certain irregularities. But I never expected that I would face this sort of threat. I can identify the culprits if I see them again," Gopalakrishnan said in his complaint to the state information commission.

The commission summoned the tahsildar concerned and also the PIO, conducted a hearing on October 22, 2009 and passed its order on February 15, 2010.

During the inquiry, the tashildar told the commission that the PIO was busy with other works and hence another official had sent the reply to the RTI applicant. He claimed that they had furnished about 650 pages of records free of cost since the information was not given within 30 days of the receipt of the application as stipulated by the RTI Act. The remaining copies would be provided soon, the official said.

The commission, in its order, directed the Vellore district collector to personally inquire into the complaint, or authorise a senior officer for the purpose and file a detailed report within six weeks.

Courtesy_

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The RTI Act was passed by the Lok Sabha (Lower House) on 11 May 2005, by the Raj Sabha (Upper House) on 12 May 2005 and received Presidential assent on 15 June 2005. Parts of the Act came into force upon Presidential assent, but the Act came fully into force on 12 October 2005, 120 days after Presidential assent.

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