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Activist seeks info from CBI, gets threats instead

Jul 18, 2010 09:57 AM IST India India
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New Delhi: Just a day after a Right to Information (RTI) activist in Mumbai was beaten up for filing a case against Pubic Works Department officials, another activist alleges harassment, this time by the Central Bureau of Investigation, India's premier investigation agency.

Manish Bhatnagar, an RTI activist, had sought information on the expenses incurred on CBI Director Ashwini Kumar by the government. However, what he allegedly got were threats and intimidations.

Bhatnagar's RTI application seeks details on benefits like car and travel allowance, HRA and Medical benefits besides water and electricity, which is provided to the CBI director. It asks CBI furhish all the records and file noting related to the appointment of Ashmini Kumar to the post of the Director, and a certified copy of each and every page of the service book of Kumar.

He claims that the CBI's chief public information officer, refused to divulge these details saying that the information sought was highly personal in nature.

"Somebody from CBI office visited my Kalkaji home, which I had used in the RTI appeal, and asked me why I had filed the RTI application. However, they didn't stop at that. They approached the landlord of my Kalkaji home, and inquired about my whereabouts from the colony.

Fed up, Manish approached the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) on March 31 and filed a complaint against the CBI saying that his life and liberty were under threat. The CIC was quick to take note of the matter and asked the CBI to submit a report within 15 days.

"Since the charge is against the CBI, he has given a telephone number and alleges that he received threatening calls. I have asked the CBI to look into it as it concerns them," says Wajahat Habibullah, CIC.

The CBI has now decided to look into the matter.

The Central Information Commission has made it clear that frivolous RTI applications will be dealt with seriously. However, at the same time, is is also trying to send a signal that it would not tolerate any attempt to quell the spirit of RTI.