Delhi-based Right to Information (RTI) activist RK Jain, who succumbed to COVID-19 on the 16th November, is going to be sorely missed by the entire RTI and legal fraternity, for he was an institution in himself. A die-hard RTI user, who filed RTI applications as well as first and second appeals with such unfailing regularity that he was a daily visitor to the central information commission (CIC) office, practically every single day for the past so many years. At any given time, he had his second appeal hearing with some central information officer or the other. Sometimes, with more than one CIC, on a single day.
Former CIC, Prof Shridhar Acharyulu, says that advocate Jain created 'information jurisprudence’ that no one could surpass. “He was my personal friend, a wonderful human being and eminent in the subject of law and the RTI Act” says Prof Acharyulu. “He delved into every minute detail of the subject (for which he had requested information) which reflected in his arguments and petitions. He generated solid points for grounds of appeal and his summary of arguments was always strong. I would say he was the only person in India who had complete knowledge of RTI.”
Not many are aware that the advocate Jain was techno-savvy too. He developed his own software to organise his RTI data. For, he used to file so many RTI applications on varied subjects that he needed technology to track them. Says Prof Acharyulu, “After I retired as CIC, he invited me to his house. The software he developed and used was fascinating. If you fed information of what you would like to request under RTI, it would generate RTI questions. The software would also automatically alert him of the date when it was time for his first or second appeal, after he had filed his RTI application and waited for the 30 days.’’
Advocate Jain painted the town red, meaning got wide media coverage during 2017-2018 when filed innumerable RTI applications to the offices of various political parties, after the CIC and subsequently the Supreme Court put all political parties under the ambit of the RTI Act.
Former CIC an RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi says, “Mr Jain was one of the most prominent RTI users and activists. He understood the law very well and pursued matters up to the Supreme Court. His demise is a big loss to the RTI movement.’’
Commodore Lokesh Batra (retd), another noted RTI activist from Delhi, who is at present in the US, messaged, “We arrived here in the US only on Sunday - early this morning this shocked me as we together had filed cases for appointments of Commissioners and worked together for a long time. Adv Jain had fought many battles in high courts, the Supreme Court and CIC - in his efforts to strengthen the transparency law.”
Prominent RTI activist Subhashchandra Agrawal, in his email to his friends says, “In the death of leading RTI activist Advocate RK Jain on 16th November, due to corona and other ailments, the country has lost an RTI pillar, who was widely known across the RTI community including staff and commissioners, working as well as retired ones at the CIC, officers of public-authorities and RTI activists. He was always helpful in assisting other activists in handling RTI matters and even arguing before the CIC. He devoted appreciable time to RTI activism even at the cost of his publishing-business.”
“He argued CIC-matters at the Delhi High Court utilising his legal skill to ensure the matters in favour of transparency reaching to a logical conclusion. His office was a welcome-home for all coming there for assistance in RTI matters, getting delicious food in addition to useful advice. He never compromised on his ideology,” Mr Agrawal says.
Advocate Jain was expert in tax matters, especially in the central and excise taxes. He was founder of Centax Publications Pvt Ltd and also Editor of Excise Law Times (ELT).
He had also filed a number of RTI applications related to the excise and customs departments and contested these cases in the CIC.
Pune based RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar remembers Jain as someone who used RTI to find out if the public authorities were following the Section 4 suo motu disclosures.
Advocate RK Jain was known as a very helpful person who assisted others in their RTI applications and addressed any issues that they faced.
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)