The government and judiciary pose a serious threat to the Right to Information (RTI), and if citizens do not step in, it faces the danger of being destroyed, a Central Information Commissioner (CIC)has warned.
The widely prevalent and dangerous trend of resistance to transparency in their functioning by “those in power” will gradually kill the RTI Act, CIC, Shailesh Gandhi (62), said in a rare outburst while talking to Hindustan Times.
Governments across the country, irrespective of which party they belong to, follow a pattern of misgovernance and are opposed to transparency, he said.
“The judiciary has been granting stays on the orders of the information watchdog to provide information under the RTI Act, this will eventually kill it,” Gandhi said.
Government departments were rushing to courts to get stay orders against the decisions of information commissions to provide information to common man.
“Delays in courts in finally deciding such matters will destroy the RTI Act,” he said.
Questioning the Union and state governments commitment to the RTI, Gandhi said there was no transparency in the appointment of information commissioners.
“No norms are being followed, and information commissions have been turned into parking lots for favourites of the government of the day.”
No training was being given to new information commissioners, either at the Centre or in the states, nor was there any concern for resources, he said.
Gandhi, the first RTI activist in the country to be appointed an information commissioner last year, said, “The four year-old law (RTI) to provide information to common man is under threat of being weakened by the government mindset of amending it for its convenience.”
Expressing surprise at the silence of information commissions, Gandhi, a graduate of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay, said :“Tragedy is that the information commissions are silent.”
On courts’ interference in some decisions of the CIC, including the declaration of judges assets, he said :“Common man has already given up hope of getting justice from courts. Now if they continue to deny information by granting stays, I’m sorry but slow poison is being administered to the right to know.”