Thursday, October 21, 2010

Delhi HC: NGO fined for offensive RTI queries to MCD

NGO fined for offensive RTI queries to MCD

Abhinav Garg, TNN, Oct 21, 2010, 12.07 am IST

NEW DELHI: In a rare instance of courts penalizing for RTI misuse, the Delhi high court on Wednesday dismissed a PIL filed by an NGO on Commonwealth Games corruption, after it realized the NGO had kept the MCD terrified by asking offending questions on sexual health and parentage of some of its officials. 

Slamming the NGO `Pardarshita Public Welfare Foundation' for resorting to "unwarranted and uncalled for'' RTI queries, a bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Manmohan asked it to cough up Rs 75,000 as costs payable to Blind Relief Association. 

The NGO, through its general secretary, had demanded from the MCD information under RTI Act if some of its officials in south zone area suffered from sexually-transmitted diseases, if any had a surrogate or stepmother and their details and asked for a DNA report of an engineer in MCD to ascertain his parentage. 

A shocked bench blasted the NGO for asking "information that is in the realm of vengeance'' after it was informed by MCD counsel that Harkishan Das Nirjhawan had tried to bully the civic agency employees by filing such offending RTIs. In his defence Nirjhawan, who is the general secretary of the NGO, alleged he was accused of blackmail by a senior MCD official and decided to retaliate. 

"RTI is a great act, it is people like you who give it a bad name,'' the bench quipped, surprised to see how an NGO purportedly dedicated to "eliminating corruption'' could adopt such low tactics for a private agenda. 

"Seeking information about the parentage of a person and his medical history is unwarranted and uncalled for. Certain information is bound to create a storm in anybody's mind,'' the bench said. 

"It is a gross misuse of the transparency law. Tomorrow, you might ask whether he is a legitimate child or not,'' the court said adding "it is in extremely bad taste.'' 

The NGO had filed a PIL seeking an inquiry against certain MCD engineers who were involved in the Commonwealth Games construction work. It alleged corruption by the engineering department of MCD in connection with several projects of the Games, saying the engineers siphoned off public funds and indulged in corruption. 

Even as the bench was poised to hear the allegations levelled by the PIL, it was aghast to discover that Nirjhawan had indulged earlier in filing such RTIs. Additional solicitor general Parag Tripathi, appearing on behalf of MCD, placed before the court the RTI applications filed by Nirjhawan a few days back and alleged this had caused widespread unrest in the civic agency. 

The bench then refused to go into the merits of the allegations and dismissed the PIL outright, repulsed by the manner in which the RTI Act had been used as a tool for intimidation. 

"It's abuse of provisions under the RTI Act. We cannot give any type of clean chit to the MCD engineers but the information which has been asked by the petitioner exposes a vindictive attitude,'' it noted. 

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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