M Tariq Khan
Lucknow, January 30, 2009
Criminals in Uttar Pradesh have discovered a unique weapon for taking on the cop – the Right To Information (RTI) Act. They are not only using the Act to know the status of the cases against themselves, but also to cause embarrassment by seeking information on the facilities available in jails or some such uncomfortable matters.
Take the case of Kushahar Saurabh, Superintendent of Police, Rural Area, in Moradabad. He has been slapped a Rs 25,000 fine for not responding to Salim Baig – accused in a cow slaughter case – seeking information on the progress made in the police recruitment scam case.
Obviously, the cops allowed the matter to linger. Baig complained and the Public Information Officer (PIO), monitoring RTI applications, imposed the fine. Although Saurabh later managed to obtain a stay in the case, Baig made his point.
Senior police officials admitted that the trend was gaining ground. “We have received five applications in January alone,” said a senior administrator at the Lucknow jail requesting anonymity.
In Agra and adjoining districts the trend, according to Senior Superintendent of Police Prem Prakash, picked up in 2008. However, police officers attributed it to the campaigns by the human rights groups.
Agreed state chief information commissioner Gyanendra Sharma. He felt that those conversant with the RTI would continue to outsmart the ignorant as it is very easy to agree than to deny information under the Act.
He said, “The PIOs, the police and some government departments also are not well versed in the methods of handling such applications. Though there are certain grounds (see box) on which the information can be denied, it cannot be invoked indiscriminately.”
But advocate Ajay Singh pointed out, “You cannot deny information to a person simply because he has a shady track record. Any citizen can seek information under the Act irrespective of whether it concerns him/her or not.”
(With inputs from Bhavna Wal (Agra) B.K. Singh (Allahabad) and Rohit K. Singh (Lucknow)
Information that can be denied
Which may endanger national security.
Which may endanger the life of a person.
Which may affect investigation, arrest or prosecution