Attacks on Right To Information (RTI) activists continue unabated, but State Chief Information Commissioner Vilas Patil washed his hands of the matter saying there was no way to punish guilty officials.
The attacks have taken place despite an order issued by the Home Department and a circular by the police commissioner’s office, asking officials to take immediate action on activists’ complaints.
Activists believe that the root cause of the attacks is public information officers (PIOs) leaking out sensitive information that activists ask for to those directly affected by it entering the public domain.
Patil told Hindustan Times that he saw no solution to the problem. “I accept that information is being leaked out by PIOs or other officials. But there is no mechanism to check this,” he said.
Patil said even police involvement wouldn’t help. “Even if I ask the police to investigate a leak, where would we begin? How do we ascertain who the culprit is?” he said.
In January 2010, then police commissioner D Sivanandhan had issued a circular to all police stations, instructing them to take immediate cognisance of threats against activists.
While slamming the state for not following its own directives, activists criticised Patil’s comments too. “The root cause of the problem is government inaction. Patil is the chief protector of the RTI and its implementation. He cannot wash its hands of it simply by admitting that PIOs are the problem”, said activist Santosh Shukla.
Pune activist Vihar Durve held Patil responsible for the attacks. “Generally, information commissioners are callous in dealing with our appeals. It is due to their delay in dismissing our appeals that culprits get the time to plan such attacks. By sitting on our appeals, information commissioners like Patil are also responsible for the attacks.”