Babus can be booked for demanding a bribe from a citizen. But what if they are the ones offering the bribe to an RTI applicant?
The Central Information Commission is grappling with this peculiar situation after an RTI applicant from west Delhi moved the information watchdog complaining that he had been offered a bribe for not filing information requests. And the anti-corruption branch too was refusing to tell him what action had been taken on his complaint against the official.
“The commission finds that, for the first time in the history of Independent India such an incident came to light that a public servant offered a ‘bribe’ to member of the public. This can be a symbol of empowerment of a citizen that became possible because of the RTI Act,” information commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu ruled last week.
“This is surely a significant incident, as it reversed the process of bribing, though morally wrong,” he said, awarding a compensation of Rs 10,000 to Uttam Nagar resident SK Saxena as an interim measure.
In addition, Acharyulu — who also struggled with the case for months — also asked the government official why he shouldn’t be made to pay Rs 25,000 for trying to block an RTI application.
Saxena had complained that an officer at the Najafgarh sub-division office had offered him a Rs 10,000 bribe in January 2014 for not filing information requests on the welcome gates erected in the Palam assembly constituency. He believed the gates were constructed at an inflated cost and did not even conform to the engineer’s designs.
He promptly complained to the anti-corruption branch. When he later filed an RTI to inquire the status of his complaint, the ACB refused to share any information contending it would impede their probe.
The information commissioner has also directed the ACB to report the status of the case, a tentative deadline for completing the probe and the name of officials responsible for the delay.