mid-day editorial: Don't let extortionists ruin the power of RTI

Published: 24 January, 2018 06:08 IST | mid-day correspondent | Mumbai

The Right To Information (RTI) Act is a powerful tool for the common man, and it has helped to expose all kinds of fraud

The Right To Information (RTI) Act is a powerful tool for the common man, and it has helped to expose all kinds of fraud. But it can also prove to be a dangerous tool in the hands of the wrong person, as was recently demonstrated by three crooks who posed as RTI activists and tried to extort the owner of a building.

A report in this paper stated that the trio was exerting pressure on a builder and trying to extort Rs 1 lakh from him, claiming they had information that two banquet halls in the building were illegal. They were brazen enough to enter the building and demand money. They were arrested, however, as people realised that they were frauds.

Yet, this incident indicates a larger problem, which is the misuse of a useful and empowering tool like the RTI Act by extortionists. If you are threatened by a so-called RTI activist, you need to approach the police. A real activist will not demand money from you in exchange for hushing up a wrongdoing. An activist will not threaten the person; these are the actions of an extortionist, not an activist. Unfortunately, because of the actions of a few, this line has become blurred.

Do not give in to such fraud, report it to the police and see that action is taken. An RTI activist uses information to see that justice is done. He cannot, and should not, threaten people. You need to see through the con and report it to the police if your encounter with any activist smacks of threats, provocation and a straightforward demand for money.

The police need to come down hard on these criminals who tar the reputation of genuine activists and make people look at them with a jaundiced eye. Cleanse the system of these hoodlums with the strictest punishment, and let the RTI have teeth and sheen.

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