Skip to main content

Govt of India’s abatement clause in Draft RTI rules contradicts 2011 CIC Resolution

By Venkatesh Nayak*
Even though April 5 was a holiday, the Central Government worked over time to clarify the confusion caused by some media reports containing statements of some political leaders, about their views on the Draft Right to Information Rules, 2017.
The Ministry of Personnel put out a ‘factual position’ on the Draft RTI Rules, explaining how much of it is a repeat of the existing RTI Rules notified in 2012 and how some other provisions were only giving effect to parts of the CIC’s Management Regulations that the Delhi High Court struck down in 2010. 
The Hon’ble Cabinet Minister for Information and Broadcasting also clarified that the NDA Government is committed to transparency and accountability in governance and these values are non-negotiable. The clarification from such a senior Minister is very welcome as it sets at rest speculation about the intention behind the Draft Rules, 2017.
However, the Government seems to have ignored an important resolution adopted by the Central Information Commission (CIC) in 2011 about how to deal with situations where RTI users are attacked for seeking information from any public authority under the Central Government. The CIC’s Resolution called for suo motu action towards greater transparency – not abatement of the RTI cases.
CIC’s Resolution of September 2011 on handling pending RTI applications of ‘murdered’ information seekers.
On 13 September, 2011, the CIC adopted a Resolution about the manner of handling pending RTI applications of persons who are assaulted or murdered for seeking information. The text of the Resolution moved by one of the then Information Commissioners- Mr. Shailesh Gandhi, is reproduced below:
“The Central Information Commission expresses regret and takes note of the reported killings of and assault on the RTI users across the country. The Commission underlines the need to take urgent steps by the respective Governments for the safety and protection of the RTI users. The Commission strongly believes that it is the duty and responsibility of the respective Governments to safeguard the life and liberty of the RTI users for which purpose they should invoke the relevant penal provisions for the prevention and detection of such heinous crimes.
2. This Commission, therefore, resolves that if it receives a complaint regarding assault or murder of an information seeker, it will examine the pending RTI applications of the victim and order the concerned Department(s) to publish the requested information suo motu on their website as per the provisions of law.
3. This Commission also resolves that it will take proactive steps in ascertaining the status of investigations/prosecutions of the cases involving information seekers and endeavor to have these processes expedited.”
To the best of my knowledge this Resolution has not been set aside by subsequent members of the CIC.

Comparing the CIC’s Resolution with the abatement clause of the Draft RTI Rules, 2017

Clearly, the CIC’s official policy is to take action, suo motu by examining pending RTI applications, if any case of murder of or attack on any person seeking information from any public authority under its jurisdiction is reported to it. The CIC resolved to direct proactive disclosure of such information in accordance with the provisions of the RTI Act, in all such cases. The Resolution implied that even if the matter had not escalated to the CIC through an appeal, the CIC would nevertheless call for the details of the case and examine it and take remedial action promptly. The CIC had also resolved to follow-up on the criminal cases launched in such matters.
If the Draft RTI Rules in their current form replace the existing RTI Rules, an appeal or complaint would abate (lapse without any action being taken on it) when the CIC comes to know that the appellant/complainant has passed away either due to natural causes or because he or she was murdered.
So the new Rules will nullify the CIC’s policy of dealing with RTI applications of those murdered by vested interests, on a priority basis, in a proactive manner. The CIC will plead that its hands are tied by the new RTI Rules, so it will do nothing about the case of a murdered RTI activist except allow the appeal to abate. This is the import of Draft Rule 12 which seeks to close an appeal on the death of the appellant. The Hon’ble Minister does not seem to have been informed of the CIC’s Resolution of 2011 when he explained to the media that most of the Draft RTI Rules were the same as the RTI Rules notified under the UPA Government in 2012.

Increase in the numbers of RTI activists and information seekers attacked over the years

Indeed, in 2007 when the CIC’s Management Regulations were issued allowing for the abatement of appeals on the death of the appellant, there were only eight reported cases of attacks on RTI activists and information seekers. It seemed like an aberration.
In 2011 when the CIC adopted the Resolution discussed above, the numbers had gone up to 168 – 20 times what it was in 2007. By the time the RTI Rules were drafted discussed and notified in 2012, under the UPA Government, the number of cases had jumped up to 195 – an increase of 14% in less than a year.
This is why RTI activists have strongly opposed every proposal to allow abatement of appeals on the death of the appellant.
The abatement clause will not empower anybody. Instead, it will provide a loophole to vested interests to get pending appeals off the CIC’s table by silencing crusaders against corruption and defenders of social justice and human rights through the device or murder. The twin notorious cases of murder of whistleblowers – the Late Satyendra Dubey and the Late Manjunath were linked to allegations of corruption in public authorities under the Central Government, and not under any State Government. This truth must not be forgotten in a country whose national motto is satyameva jayate (truth alone shall triumph).
Noted political philosopher John Locke explained what should be the end goal of all laws:
“The end of law is not abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all the states of created beings capable of law, where there is no law, there is no freedom.”
If the life and safety of information seekers and RTI activists has to be ensured, two crucial things (amongst others) must be done:
1) Draft RTI Rules relating to withdrawal and abatement of appeals must be junked; and
2) The RTI Rules should empower the CIC to examine all such cases suo motu where information seekers are attacked and to direct the public authorities to disclose all information sought by the sufferers of such attacks, in accordance with the provisions of the RTI Act.

Who all voted in favour of the RTI Bill in 2004- setting the record straight

The Hon’ble Minister for Information and Broadcasting is said to have told the media yesterday that the NDA promised all support to the UPA Government when the RTI Bill was discussed in Parliament. Indeed, there was unanimity on strengthening the RTI Bill when it was debated in the Parliamentary Standing Committee.
However, to set the record straight, the RTI Bill was passed by a voice vote in the Lok Sabha on 11 May, 2005 when the Opposition benches in the House were empty. According to contemporaneous news reports, the Opposition had boycotted both Houses of Parliament throughout May, 2005 due to an inflammatory remark made by a member of the UPA and all subsequent efforts from the Chairs of the respective Houses to bring them back failed. The truth about the past must be understood in factual terms, not through the ideological prism of any colour.

Programme Coordinator, Access to Information Programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative New Delhi

Comments

TRENDING

देशव्यापी ग्रामीण भारत बंध में उतरे मध्य प्रदेश के आदिवासी, किया केंद्र सरकार का विरोध

- हरसिंग जमरे, भिखला सोलंकी, रतन अलावे*  15 और 16 फरवरी को निमाड के बड़वानी, खरगोन और बुरहानपुर में जागृत आदिवासी दलित संगठन के नेतृत्व में आदिवासी महिला-पुरुषों ग्रामीण भारत बंद में रैली एवं विरोध प्रदर्शन किया । प्रधान मंत्री द्वारा 2014 में फसलों की लागत का डेढ़ गुना भाव देने का वादा किया गया था, 2016 में किसानों की आय दुगना करने का वादा किया गया था । आज, फसलों का दाम नहीं बढ़ रहा है, लेकिन खेती में खर्च बढ़ता जा रहा है! खाद, बीज और दवाइयों का दाम, तीन-चार गुना बढ़ चुका है! किसानों को लागत का डेढ़ गुना भाव देने के बजाए, खेती को कंपनियों के हवाले करने के लिए 3 काले कृषि कानून लाए गए । 3 काले कानून वापस लेते समय प्रधान मंत्री ने फिर वादा किया था कि फसलों की लागत का डेढ़ गुना भाव की कानूनी गारंटी के लिए कानून बनाएँगे, लेकिन वो भी झूठ निकला! आज जब देश के किसान दिल्ली में आपको अपना वादा याद दिलाने आए है, तब आप उनका रास्ता रोक रहें है, उनके साथ मारपीट कर उन पर आँसू गैस फेंक रहें हैं, उन पर छर्रों से फायरिंग कर रहें है! देश को खिलाने वाला किसान खुद भूखा रहे, क्या यही विकास है?

Only 15% businesses provide employees real-time sustainability dashboards: Study

Kyndryl in collaboration with Microsoft has released the findings of The Global Sustainability Barometer study. The study, conducted by Ecosystm, finds that while 85% of organizations place a high strategic level of importance on achieving their sustainability goals, only 16% have integrated sustainability into their strategies and data. A Kyndryl note: *** Kyndryl (NYSE: KD), the world’s largest IT infrastructure services provider, in collaboration with Microsoft , today released the findings of The Global Sustainability Barometer study. The study, conducted by Ecosystm , finds that while 85% of organizations place a high strategic level of importance on achieving their sustainability goals, only 16% have integrated sustainability into their strategies and data.

Tamil Nadu brahmins are at cross roads, their future scenario remains uncertain

By NS Venkataraman*  For over 70 years now, brahmin community in Tamil Nadu have been abused, insulted and even physically attacked on some occasions by those who claimed that they were part of the so called dravidian movement. However, brahmin community silently and helplessly ducked under pressure and showed no signs of resistance or fight back.

How the slogan Jai Bhim gained momentum as movement of popularity and revolution

By Dr Kapilendra Das*  India is an incomprehensible plural country loaded with diversities of religions, castes, cultures, languages, dialects, tribes, societies, costumes, etc. The Indians have good manners/etiquette (decent social conduct, gesture, courtesy, politeness) that build healthy relationships and take them ahead to life. In many parts of India, in many situations, and on formal occasions, it is common for people of India to express and exchange respect, greetings, and salutation for which we people usually use words and phrases like- Namaskar, Namaste, Pranam, Ram Ram, Jai Ram ji, Jai Sriram, Good morning, shubha sakal, Radhe Radhe, Jai Bajarangabali, Jai Gopal, Jai Jai, Supravat, Good night, Shuvaratri, Jai Bhole, Salaam walekam, Walekam salaam, Radhaswami, Namo Buddhaya, Jai Bhim, Hello, and so on.

नफरती बातें: मुसलमानों में असुरक्षा का भाव बढ़ रहा है, वे अपने मोहल्लों में सिमट रहे हैं

- राम पुनियानी*  भारत पर पिछले 10 सालों से हिन्दू राष्ट्रवादी भारतीय जनता पार्टी (भाजपा) राज कर रही है. भाजपा आरएसएस परिवार की सदस्य है और आरएसएस का लक्ष्य है हिन्दू राष्ट्र का निर्माण. आरएसएस से जुड़ी सैंकड़ों संस्थाएँ हैं. उसके लाखों, बल्कि शायद, करोड़ों स्वयंसेवक हैं. इसके अलावा कई हजार वरिष्ठ कार्यकर्ता हैं जिन्हें प्रचारक कहा जाता है. भाजपा के सत्ता में आने के बाद से आरएसएस दुगनी गति से हिन्दू राष्ट्र के निर्माण के अपने एजेण्डे को पूरा करने में जुट गया है. यदि भाजपा को चुनावों में लगातार सफलता हासिल हो रही है तो उसका कारण है देश में साम्प्रदायिकता और साम्प्रदायिक मुद्दों का बढ़ता बोलबाला. इनमें से कुछ हैं राम मंदिर, गौमांस और गोवध एवं लव जिहाद. 

Birth of New Communist Party ushers in new epoch in Canada's Left history

By Harsh Thakor  On January 31, 2024, history was made with the formation of the (New) Communist Party of Canada (the (N)CPC), the successful completion of its Founding Congress, and the public release of its Political Program. A most sporadic development in turning course of Communist movement locally, and worldwide. It also pits a challenge to dogmatism or mechanical approach and stagnation. taps the revolutionary creativity of the masses and is major re-orientation towards shaping revolutionary class struggles and  the massline.

Ethiopian ruling classes, political masters in West have their hands soaked in blood

By Harsh Thakor  Over two hundred were killed in recent weeks in Ethiopia’s Oromia and Amhara region. After peace-talks between the Oromo Liberation Army and the Ethiopian government did not materialise tensions are escalating in the Oromia region. Earlier, on November 22, least 25 civilians were massacred in a government aerial drone strike, in Chawaka districts of the Buno Bedelle zone. This incident took place only two days after a fierce battle arose between the OLA and governmental troops in the Sulula Fincha district of the Horro Guduru Wollega zone.

Landslide early warning system: Odisha Govt, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham collaborate

By Divya Saini  In a strategic move to mitigate the impact of landslides during storms, the Odisha government in collaboration with Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham is gearing up to establish a user-friendly Landslide Early Warning System (EWS) in Gajapati district. This initiative aims to provide advanced information, especially regarding landslides caused by disturbances in the natural stability of a slope.

Violent incidents in Haldwani: CPDRS on dubious role of Uttarakhand government

By DN Rath  Center for Democratic Rights and Secularism (CPDRS) unequivocally condemns the dubious role of Uttarakhand Government and its administration in the incidents that happened in Haldwani of Nanital district of the state.

A third view of Islamic paradox: Can Muslim unity defeat Zionist evil regime’s injustice?

By Chandra Vikash*  Could India, as a mirror to the ethno-federal One State solution, play a key role in resolving the Palestinian genocide crisis, that has emerged in the global consciousness as a focal point for injustice of centuries-old settler-colonialism project that continues to spread its hydra-headed tentacles through globalisation of this Old World Order?