Former Central Information Commissioner (CIC) Shailesh Gandhi has blasted BMC Commissioner Ajoy Mehta over the latter directing action against “professional complainants” filing RTI queries in bulk for information about building plans post the Kamala Mills inferno that killed 14 diners last December.
In a letter addressed to Mehta recently, Gandhi sought the civic chief’s apology for “insulting citizens using their fundamental Right to Information guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (a) of the constitution”.
In a statement issued on Thursday, Mehta said the BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) had initiated an inquiry to “unravel and break the nexus between professional complainants with vested interests”.
In his strongly-worded letter to Mehta, Gandhi wrote: “It is with great distress that I am sending this note to you, since BMC appears to be behaving in a totally illegal fashion, and it appears you are personally responsible for insulting citizens who are using their fundamental Right to Information guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the constitution.”
“You have also indicated that your main problem is the constitution and citizens using their fundamental right, not the corrupt decadent organisation headed by you. You are under the misconception that citizens are spoiling the image of the BMC. Wake up and ask Mumbaikars. If you listen, they will tell you that a very significant number of officials take bribes for legal and illegal actions”.
He further wrote that “blaming” citizens and RTI users by Mehta after the Kamala Mills fire tragedy was a “shameless act”.
“After the Kamala Mills fire you and your officers are blaming citizens and RTI users! This is a shameless act, and rubs salt into the burns. I am using strong words, but when a public servant defies the constitution and disparages citizens’ fundamental rights it calls for a strict reprimand. You and BMC are consistently insulting citizens and trying to besmirch a right which exposes BMC and its misdeeds,” Gandhi said.
“Let me reiterate at the cost of repetition that we have started an inquiry to unravel and break the nexus between professional complainants with vested interest, and a very small percentage of employees who connive with them. I have emphasised to the officers and the system that this should be conducted in a fair and transparent manner in keeping the principles of probity,” the civic chief said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Mumbai Congress unit president Sanjay Nirupam, who had demanded suspension of Mehta in the wake of the fire tragedy, said the commissioner’s remarks about RTI activists was an “insult” to them.