Three men claiming to be RTI activists were arrested for allegedly extorting a builder at Dombivli in Thane district of Maharashtra, police said on Friday.
Two of the arrested accused are brothers, police said adding that they had asked the victim to either pay Rs 30 lakh to them or allot three flats in his housing project.
The Anti Extortion Cell (AEC) of the crime branch of Thane police made the arrest on Thursday morning.
According to police, with their arrest, the total number of self-proclaimed RTI activists held for allegedly extorting builders has gone up to eight within a month.
The trio was identified as Vasant Joshi (46), Vinod Gangaram Joshi (35) and Kalpesh Gangaram Joshi (29), they said.
As per the complaint lodged by the builder, the trio had been harassing him since 2017. They filed an RTI query with the Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC) about one his housing projects in Dombivli.
"They demanded Rs 30 lakh from him in lieu of withdrawing the RTI application filed in the KDMC. They told him that if he failed to pay the money, he should hand over one flat each to them in his housing project," inspector Rajkumar Kothmire said quoting the complaint.
The builder also said in his complaint that they abused, thrashed and also tarnished his image by sitting on a dharna agitation against him outside the KDMC headquarters, approaching the media and putting up banners against him.
"The trio earlier collected a sum of Rs 4.70 lakh from the victim. They threatened him that they would kill him if he failed to pay the money. Finally, the builder approached the police. As part the police operation, the builder called the trio to collect Rs 8 lakh cash on Thursday morning, when they were caught," Kothmire said.
Vishnu Nagar police station in Dombivli registered a case and they were booked under IPC sections 384 (extortion), 385 (putting person in fear of injury in order to commit extortion), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 506 (criminal intimidation) and others.
According to police, one of the accused, Vasant Joshi, is a history sheeter with seven criminal cases, including murder, registered against him since 1991. He was also externed in 1998.
Before the arrest of the trio, the AEC had arrested five persons, claiming to be RTI activists, for extorting builders in separate cases in Thane city. Two of them are former corporators of Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC).