Save the essence of RTI Act

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The Right to Information Act, 2005 gives power to the citizens of India, to seek information from all government bodies and organizations substantially financed by the government including NGOs, aided schools and colleges, and question them. RTIs have brought significant changes from exposing multi-crore scams to getting access to better education facilities in villages. (Read the success stories on RTI at https://www.ipsofactoindia.org/rti-cell)

Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution guarantees the fundamental right to free speech and expression. The enforcement of this right requires availability of bona-fide knowledge and information. Therefore, the right to question, receive and collect information is recognized as a facet of the right to free speech and expression by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in catena of judgments.

The Right To Information Act is a codification of this important right of ours, the citizens. The proposition of enacting the politically driven RTI Rules, 2017, by suppressing RTI Rules, 2012 by the Government, puts this power that we hold, in jeopardy.

The Draconian Rule:

Rule 12 of the Draft RTI Rules, 2017 states as follows:

12. Withdrawal/Abatement of Appeal :-

1.The Commission may in its discretion allow a prayer for withdrawal of an appeal if such a prayer is made by the appellant on an application made in writing duly signed or during hearing. However, no such prayer may be entertained by the Commission after the matter has been finally heard or a decision. or order has been pronounced by the Commission.
2.The proceedings pending before the Commission shall abate on the death of the appellant.

Allowing the withdrawal of appeal and abatement of pending proceedings on death of the appellant is a dangerous proposition given that in 2017 alone, there have been more than 375 recorded instances of attacks on RTI activists who sought information that could potentially expose corruption and wrongdoings by the public authorities. Out of these, more than 50 are instances of death by physical assaults or otherwise. Hence, the said rule will undoubtedly jeopardize the life and liberty of RTI users as the death of the appellant (RTI user) would result into death of the appeal as well. This also implies that the friends/family of the deceased appellant cannot pursue and pressurize the said appeal on his/her behalf, to bring justice to his death.

Furthermore, introduction of such a rule would eclipse the very essence of the RTI act since the persons having vested interest in the information sought, could coerce and  pressurize the applicant to withdraw the appeal and put such corruption or wrongdoing to cold storage.

Even though RTI awareness is not as rapid as it is expected to be, as compared to past years, there has been a growing awareness of RTIs and increased number of civil society participation. But, as a matter of fact, there is still some reluctance/stigma attached among common men to the usage of RTI and its benefits at ground level. RTI Awareness campaigns in collaboration with other NGOs will bring about radical changes in functional transparency and increase the scope of participatory governance. Consequently, schemes and policies benefiting the society will follow.

Sign our petition and join hands with us to conserve our right to get informed.



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