Monday, September 26, 2011

RTI misuse makes I-T dept, CBI see red

Investigating and law enforcement agencies are concerned over the growing number of attempts to misuse Right to Information (RTI) to settle personal scores and animosities, and make personal gains.

A senior official from one of the investigating agencies told

Business Standard that serious concerns were raised in several meetings convened by the government with the Income Tax Department, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and others in the recent past. “It has been pointed out that steps are needed to balance the RTI provisions, privacy concerns and protection of individuals and institutions from misuse of any information acquired through RTI,” the official said. He added, the discussion on the proposed Right to Privacy Bill had been broadened to cover this aspect.

“It has also been felt that the RTI Act should have provisions so that frivolous complaints and RTI applications are dealt with a firm hand,” he said. The issue was also part of the meeting of the officials from these agencies and also from the concerned ministries, including the ministry of home affairs, called by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) this week.

CBI, the Enforcement Directorate (ED), the investigation wing of the Income Tax department, the Narcotics Control Bureau, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) and Delhi Police are all concerned. “It has been seen that the RTI Act is often misused for settling personal scores and grudges,” the official said.

The applications aimed at misusing RTI have emerged as a major problem in the dowry and income tax related cases. Outlining the problem, a senior Income Tax official said: “Earlier people would send complaint against an individual first and then file RTI to get the details about tax payments and income. The situation has changed.

The complaint and the RTI are coming together and they demand information within a month.” The investigating agencies have stressed that the endeavour to derail critical investigations by seeking information through RTI is emerging as a big issue, the official said. “If the official handling the RTI application is amenable to manipulation, the results could be dangerous,” he added.
Explaining the extent of the problem, he said in one of the RTI applications it had been demanded that information should be provided on the postings of a particular army official in different armed forces bases.

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