Remove regressive provisions from proposed RTI rules

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Pune – RTI activists are not pleased with proposed amendments to the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 issued by the Department of Personnel and Training of the Government of India. The draft rules propose to empower the Central Information Commission (CIC) to permit withdrawal of an appeal if an appellant makes a written request and also says that pending appeals proceedings will come to an end automatically with the death of the appellant. RTI activists have expressed concern that this may expose applicants to greater threats in the future.

Anjali Bhardwaj, Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Amrita Johri have launched a petition on website demanding removal of the proposed changes. The petition has already got about 35,000 supporters.

The activists have pointed out how Pune-based RTI activist Suhas Haldankar was murdered for exposing flaws in work of local corporators.

Haldankar was on his way back home when he was beaten to death by 11 people in Pimpri on April 2. Suhas’s head was smashed with concrete blocks and he collapsed in a pool of blood. Suhas was using the RTI Act to expose civic lapses and raise his voice against the inefficiency of local corporators in Kharalwadi area of Pimpri.

The petition states, “And if the government has its way, we may see many more information seekers meeting Suhas’s fate. The government is trying to weaken the RTI Act by proposing amendments to the rules which will put RTI users’ lives in danger. The proposed rules allow for withdrawal of appeals based on a written communication by the appellant and closure of proceedings upon death of the appellant. Given the Indian reality where RTI applicants are often attacked and even killed for seeking information, the proposed rules will make it easier for people with vested interests to pressurise RTI users and threaten them to withdraw their appeals. In just the last few years more than 57 people have been killed for using the RTI Act to seek information. Having a rule like ‘closing the proceedings upon death of the appellant’ puts the lives of lakhs of people using RTI in danger. The government should be protecting people who seek truth, demand accountability and expose corruption. Instead of implementing the Whistle Blowers Protection Act which was passed by Parliament more than 3 years ago, the government is making information seekers more vulnerable through the proposed RTI rules”.