India’s transparency watchdog the Central Information Commission has decided to take upon itself the task of safeguard interests of the Right To Information (RTI) applicants who face harassment for seeking information.
In 2010, 28 RTI activists were allegedly attacked after filing their applications and this year two activists Manglaram of Rajasthan and Amarnath.
India's transparency watchdog the Central Information Commission has decided to take upon itself the task of safeguard interests of the Right To Information (RTI) applicants who face harassment for seeking information.
In 2010, 28 RTI activists were allegedly attacked after filing their applications and this year two activists Manglaram of Rajasthan and Amarnath Pandey of UP were badly injured in lethal attacks. In the past year RTI activists such Shehla Masood of MP, Amit Jetwa of Gujarat and Satish Shetty of Maharashtra have lost their lives fighting for the transparency cause.
With no government policy on protection of information seekers, the commission at its last meeting decided to initiate some steps in a bid to assure RTI applications not to be deterred by any threats.
Once the complaint receives a complaint of an assault or murder of an RTI applicant, it will first examine the pending RTI applications of the victim and will direct the concerned department to release the information on its website suo-motto.
Information Commission Shailesh Gandhi, who circulated the note on which the commission took the decision, said the move will act as a deterrent to harass RTI activists.
"If the information seeker is attacked all the information will automatically be available in the public domain and the purpose of the attack to prevent information to be made public will be defeated," he said.
The CIC believes that its decision will be emulated by the state information commissioners who will issue prompt orders on releasing the information suo-motto to the government offices when a complaint is received.
"If the state commissions work on similar lines it will give a sense of protection to RTI users," Gandhi said who was an RTI activist in Mumbai before joining the commission three years ago.
The commission has also decided that it will seek information regarding the police investigations into any case of attack on the RTI activist in a bid to put some governmental pressure on the investigating agencies to act. "In most cases the RTI applicants are common people and do not have that sort of influence which the attackers may have," Gandhi said.
The CIC's decision is the first institutional framework to provide protection to RTI applicants. However, its efficacy would be known when the commission receives complaint of harassment or assault.