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Tahasildar Haveli digs out RTI Act being misused, CIC directs probe-

One person files 73 applications in different names **Pune, April 07:* If the Right to Information (RTI) Act empowered citizens by providing a weapon to keep a check on the administration and bring in transparency in Government functioning, the flip side is the misuse of the Act. An individual has been identified seeking information under the RTI for commercial use and Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) has asked for a report in the 73 cases filed by him on behalf of different applicants. "The possible misuse of the RTI Act came to light on a report submitted by tehslidar of Haveli taluka and Appeal Authority for Haveli taluka. It was revealed that 73 applicants with different names had filed appeal with the commission and handwriting in the applications also matched," ChiefInformation Commissioner (Pune division) Vijay Kuvalekar said.Doubts emerged after the Appeal Authority for Haveli taluka submitted during a hearing that an application has been filed with the common address not by the applicant, but a person, M N Patil, on behalf of the applicant, Kuvalekar said.The CIC directed the tehsildar Sanjeev Deshmukh to send notices to all the 73 applicants on the given address while requesting them to appear in person for the hearing and submit a detailed report.Deshmukh said he was receiving a lot of RTI appeals from the same address — in the name of various applicants, and that none of them appeared for the hearings.As per CIC's directions, Deshmukh said he served notice on the applicants on the common address.Only two of the 73 applicants replied. It was revealed that Patil offered services like providing documents related to 7-by-12 extract to the applicant for cash and took signatures of clients on blank paper.The signed papers have been converted into RTI applications by Patil without the knowledge of his clients. Deshmukh said the documents, information sought through RTI Act is given to the client and if they are incomplete, then an appeal is filed.The inquiry further revealed that Patil was involved in a similar activity in Mulshi taluka. The appeal authority and tehsildar of Mulshi Avinash Shinde said, "We were fed up with the number of applications coming in from a common address seeking various information." Suspecting foul play, Shinde asked the police to investigate the cases by verifying the identity of the applicants on the given address. The police have submitted a report that none of the applicants reside in the given address and a person named, M N Patil, is using the property. He has admitted to filing the RTI applications on behalf of various persons, he said.The CIC has expressed concern over the entire matter. "The commission is taking a serious note of it as the matter was serious and objectionable since it would encourage misuse of RTI Act," Kuvalekar said.

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