Most people in power and powerful institutions dislike Right to Information (RTI) Act since it exposes corruption and arbitrariness. Consequently, a strong lie and myth has been created of calling RTI users and activists’ as misusers, extortionists and blackmailers. Almost everyone who uses RTI regularly and challenges illegalities or mistakes is deprecated in this manner.
Many Information Commissions are gleefully quoting and repeating this anti-democratic statement: "The Act should not be allowed to be misused or abused, to become a tool to obstruct the national development and integration, or to destroy the peace, tranquillity and harmony among its citizens. Nor should it be converted into a tool of oppression or intimidation of honest officials striving to do their duty."
This statement may be justified if it was used for terrorists.
A former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has said there should be a limit to RTI, but levelling such a charge at citizens using their fundamental right is unacceptable. It shows a poor understanding of democracy.
The RTI is a fundamental right as part of the freedom of expression guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (a), and yet Information Commissions and government officials use such deprecatory words for the use of a fundamental right. If this trend continues even our freedom of speech and of the media will be questioned. This big lie is being propagated very actively and even builders and corrupt officers find this a useful stick to demean citizens using their fundamental right to information.
Now one citizen Pankaj Vijay Pandey has taken courage to challenge this Gobbelsian falsehood. Feeling suffocated by many RTI applications and complaints by citizens drawing attention to illegal constructions and buildings, Devendra Jain, an Assistant Commissioner at Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) or BrihanMumbai Municipal Corp (BMC) - sent a complaint about 77 such persons to the police!
He claimed they were 'professional complainants' blackmailing poor officers and owners of illegal buildings! There was evidently a cozy relationship, which was being disturbed.
Mr Pandey has now filed a defamation suit against Mr Jain. The Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate has recorded that a prima facie case has been made out and has directed issue of process under section 500 of Indian Penal Code (IPC). This should act as a warning to many people in power who demean RTI users. Hopefully, more RTI users will follow Pankaj Pandey's example.
The Section 500 of IPC says, "Whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both."
Here is the order issued by the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate...