Right to Information
Why all politicians are trying to muzzle the RTI Act
RTI is exposing their arrogance and hence they try to discredit the Act by often talking about its misuse. If RTI Act is muzzled, soon we may have to provide reasons even for speaking. We must defend our democracy
 
There is a very disturbing news reports about the entire political spectrum agreeing that Right to Information (RTI) Act is misused and some constrictions should be developed to muzzle it. This is indeed a sad state of affairs. Samajwadi Party’s member of Parliament (MP) Naresh Agarwal has levelled a charge that the Indian Parliament passed the RTI Act under US pressure! I would have imagined that other MPs would have raised a breach of privilege motion against him. Unfortunately, such a derogatory remark about Indian Parliament did not result in any protests by other MPs. Praful Patel of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) made a remark, which was still worse. He had objections to the poor- paanwaala and chaiwaala- seeking information under RTI. He then genuflected before the most famous chaiwaala of India Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and said the PM is an exception. His implication was that if you are a chaiwaala who is not the PM, how dare you a low down person seek information from the government? The government appears to have been willing to go along that path. Rajiv Shukla of the Congress party also went along with this, almost repudiating his own party’s biggest achievement. I remember former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s poem (slightly modified by me): 
 
कौरव कौन, कौन पांडव, टेढ़ा सवाल है;
दोनो ओर, शकुनी का फैला कूटज़ाल है,
धर्मराज ने छोडी नही, जुए की लत है,
हर पंचायत मे, पांचाली अपमानित है, 
बिना कृष्णा के आज महाभारत होना है,
कोई राजा बने,  रंक को तो रोना है.
अब उठ और अपने   RTI   की रक्षा कर,
वरना तेरी लोकशाही निवस्त्रा हो जाएगी,
गांडीव  उठा अगर भारतकी रक्षा करनी है.
 
Citizens must get together and give an effective message that they will not tolerate a retrograde attack on their fundamental Right to Information. If they shackle RTI by labelling some applications as ‘misuse’ they will refuse most information which reveals corruption and arbitrariness. As an Information Commissioner who dealt with over 20,000 cases, I had the opportunity of interacting with a large number of RTI users and Public Information Officers (PIOs).
 
Generally, PIOs would refer to most applicants who filed RTI applications regularly as blackmailers, harassers and those who were misusing the Act. I would broadly divide those who filed a large number of RTI applications in the following categories:
  1. Those who filed RTI applications with the hope of exposing corruption or arbitrariness and hoped to improve and correct governance.
  2. Those who filed RTI applications repetitively to correct a wrong, which they perceived had been done to them.   
  3. Those who used RTI to blackmail people. This category largely targets illegal buildings, mining or some other activities, which runs foul of the law. 
All these categories together comprised around 10% of the total appeals and complaints. This represent persistent users of RTI and those who are generally knowledgeable about appeals and procedures. Nobody will deny that the first category deserves to be encouraged and is growing steadily.  In the second category, there are some who have been able to get corrective action and some whose grievance may defy resolution. Generally, most of us have a strong aversion for the third category who are making it a money-earning racket. This category certainly does not exceed 5% of the total.
 
I would argue that in the implementation of most laws some people would misuse its provisions. The police often misuse their powers to subvert the law, and so criminals too misuse our judicial system to prolong trials. The misuse of laws is largely dependent on the kind of people in a society and whether the justice system has the capability of punishing wrongdoers.  There are people who go to places of worship with the sole objective of committing theft or other crimes. But society does not define these as their main characteristic.  Is it reasonable to expect that only angels will use RTI?
 
I would submit that the powerful finds RTI upsetting their arrogance and hence try to discredit the Act by often talking about its misuse. I have often questioned government officers how the blackmailers operate.  They state that the RTI blackmailer threatens an illegal action with exposure and thereby extorts money. I wonder why society has such touching empathy for the victims who have committed illegal acts.  If RTI is muzzled by asking people to define why they want information, soon we will have to provide reasons for speaking. We must defend our democracy.
 
(Shailesh Gandhi served as Central Information Commissioner under the RTI Act, 2005, during 18 September 2008 to 6 July 2012. He is a graduate in Civil Engineering from IIT-Bombay. Before becoming a full time RTI activist in 2003, he sold his packaging business. In 2008, he was conferred the Nani Palkhivala Memorial Award for civil liberties.)

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COMMENTS

Mathew Thomas

7 months ago

There is no question of RTI being misused. Blackmail is a crime and if attempted or done the "law should take its course" as the politicos are fond of saying when caught up in their vices. The transgression of any law may be used for blackmail. The solution is not to dilute the law. In RTI the solution lies in suo motu disclosure and honesty in government procedures. Politicians must remember that they are representatties who have come through a not foolproof selection process. They are not rulers.

S.S.A.Zaidi

7 months ago

Very well written and articulated article. Hamaam mein sab nangey hain. there is a food for thought--Are we electing right people

Mahesh Khanna

7 months ago

I fully agree with Shaileshji, no one can blackmail an honest person with clean hands. Why are the MP' crying for those who have unclean hands are being blackmailed.

b. bharathi

7 months ago

The statement is 100% true. We support it. Corrupt politicians, IAS, IPS and civil service officers are against it.

B. BHARATHI

7 months ago

The statement is 100% true. It is a fundamental right of a citizen to get information from the public authorities. It exposes corruption. So, corrupt politicians, IAS, IPS, civil service officers and police officers are against RTI applicants. They are ready to murder rti applicants.

Peruvemba Subramanian Ramachandran

7 months ago

Please take this up as PIL and we are all solidly behind him.

D S Ranga Rao

7 months ago

In the hindsight, we, the people of India, have to feel sorry in electing such law-breakers or those who have little respect for the rule of law as our law-makers. Drunk with power and steeped in arrogance, they think that their perks and privileges last forever and they are immortal. Oh, God, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.

Ashok Sharma

7 months ago

कौरव कौन, कौन पांडव, टेढ़ा सवाल है;
दोनो ओर, शकुनी का फैला कूटज़ाल है,
धर्मराज ने छोडी नही, जुए की लत है,
हर पंचायत मे, पांचाली अपमानित है,
बिना कृष्णा के आज महाभारत होना है,
कोई राजा बने, रंक को तो रोना है.
अब उठ और अपने RTI की रक्षा कर,
वरना तेरी लोकशाही निवस्त्रा हो जाएगी,
गांडीव उठा अगर भारतकी रक्षा करनी है.

Not all loan defaulters are thieves: Gadkari
New Delhi : As Indian agencies step up efforts to bring industrialist Vijay Mallya back to the country and recover much of the Rs.9,000 crore his companies allegedly owe banks, a key member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi cabinet cautions that every defaulter mustn't be labelled a defaulter.
 
"Judicial proceedings are going on about the default of Vijaya Mallaya. Steps will be taken on whatever will be right," said Road Transport, Highway and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari in an interview to ETV News Network, the transcript of which was provided by the channel.
 
"Earlier, his companies were giving interest to banks regularly. At that time, people were rating him good. Consultants were considered good, their managers were considered good. When one company faced difficulty, then all are termed as thief," he said.
 
"Government is taking action as per law."
 
Giving a macro picture, Gadkari said, when there was an overall global slowdown, especially in the Chinese economy, a host of industries have not been performing well in India. But the government's intervensions have helped areas such as infrastructure, steel and cement industries. 
 
"We are also accepting that everything is not in good position. But we are trying to improve the situation. Banks' positions are also not in good terms. But we cannot term every defaulter as thief. We have to see if default is bonafide mistake or malafide mistake," he said.
 
"Overall, we have to take a positive, development-oriented approach. We should help the bonafide defaulters. Actions should be taken against malafide defaulters."
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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Gupta's Liberty House to bid for Tata Steel UK on Tuesday
London : Metals major Liberty House, founded by India-born industrialist Sanjiv Kumar Gupta, confirmed on Monday that it will formally bid for the UK assets of Tata Steel, which are on the block after Tatas suffered nearly $3 billion in losses thus far.
 
“We can confirm that Liberty will submit a letter of intent to Tata Steel on Tuesday and has put in place a strong internal transaction team and panel of leading external advisers to take the bid forward,” a Liberty House spokesman was quoted as saying in the Financial Times.
 
Liberty Group has revenues approaching $5 billion, covering steel, raw materials and non-ferrous metals, while employing more than 2,000 people globally. It also produces about five million tonnes per annum of steel and steel products.
 
In March, Tata Steel UK announced an accord to sell its Clydebridge and Dalzell steel units in Scotland. The deal involved the sale of the two plants to the government of Scotland, which was to, in turn, sell them to Liberty House.
 
Earlier last month when British Business Secretary Sajid Javid flew down to Mumbai to meet with Tata Steel brass, Gupta was among the key people whom he met here to hold consultations on the future of the group's steel business in the UK, notably to prevent thousands of job losses.
 
The European arm of Tata Steel said in mid-April that it was in talks with as many as 190 suitors for its UK units and that KPMG would be its principal advisor in this regard, with Standard Chartered Bank as an additional one.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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