Skip to main content

"Elitist" Govt of India draft rules put RTI activists' life, security at risk, termed bureaucratic, citizen-unfriendly

By Our Representative
Is the Government of India, wittingly or unwittingly, trying to jeopardize the life and security of Right to Information (RTI) activists through the new set of Draft Rules, which have been made public for discussion? An analysis by well-known RTI activist Vankatesh Nayak says, this is exactly what would happen, with the draft rules seeking to legally allow withdrawal of RTI appeals.
"If the rules are provided with legal sanctity", contends Nayak, “vested interests will feel emboldened to pressurize RTI users to withdraw their appeals before the Central Information Commission (CIC)”, the RTI watchdog for the Government of India. 
Pointing out that in 2017 alone, there are more than 375 recorded instances of attacks on citizens who sought information to expose corruption and wrongdoing in various public authorities, Nayak says, “Of these, 56 are murders, and at least 157 cases of physical assault and more than 160 cases of harassment and threats some of which have resulted in death by suicide.”
“Uttar Pradesh alone accounts for 6 alleged murders, 10 cases of physical assault and at least 9 cases of harassment since 2005”, says Nayak insists, “Allowing for the withdrawal and abatement of appeals is like a death sentence”, with the draft Rule 12 seeking to “empower the CIC to permit withdrawal of an appeal if an appellant makes a written request.”
“Pending appeals proceedings will come to an end automatically with the death of the appellant”, Nayak says, recalling, “In 2011, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) had proposed a similar provision which civil society vehemently opposed”, and thankfully it had to be dropped “because civil society actors were able to highlight media reports of murderous attacks on RTI users who sought information of public interest.”
Pointing out that while the RTI Act provides for the disclosure of information concerning the life and liberty of a person on an urgent basis, within 48 hours it is “silent on the timelines for disposing appeals and complaints in cases relating to life and liberty”, Nayak says, “This lacuna could have been corrected in he Draft Rules, 2017 but they are silent on this issue.”
Currently, Nayak says, “A citizen is compelled to wait for 45 days for the First Appellate Authority’s (FAA's) order and then endlessly for the CIC's order” even on issues concerning life and liberty.
In fact, Nayak says, “A major problem that almost every RTI user and also studies commissioned by the DoPT and civil society recognise is the long delays in disposal of appeals and complaints filed before the CIC.” Yet, it adds, “the Draft Rules do not prescribe a time limit for the CIC to dispose of such cases.”
Calling the RTI draft rules “bureaucratic” and “citizen-unfriendly”, Nayak gives the example of how it seeks to overlook the NDA's digital revolution by prescribing fees for “providing information in the form of 'diskettes and floppies', the two outdates electronic storage methods. 
Also characterizing the draft rules “elitist”, Nayak says, “The DoPT's notification (in English) states that comments may be offered on the Draft RTI Rules, 2017 only via email by 15th April, 2017”, adding, “With barely 25% citizens having access to the Internet, let alone email and most of them not conversant in English, this consultation exercise does not seem to adhere to the principle- 'sab ka saath'…”

Comments

TRENDING

Young environmentalist's arrest 'sinister', even parents not told of her whereabouts

By Our Representative  The Coalition for Environmental Justice in India (CEJI), a civil society network, has said that it is “highly disturbing” that Disha Ravi, a young woman climate activist from Bengaluru was “picked up” in what is referred to as a “closely guarded operation” of the Delhi police. Disha, 21, has been remanded to police custody for five days after she was taken from Bengaluru to Delhi.

Mukesh Ambani's earnings during Covid 'can lift' 40% informal workers out of poverty

By Dr Gian Singh*  The Inequality Virus Report released by Oxfam, a non-profit organization, on January 25, 2021 on the growing inequalities in different parts of the world, sheds light on the growing economic, educational, healthcare and gender inequalities in India. The report has revealed that the wealth of billionaires has increased by 35 per cent during the lockdown period in the country.

US forensic revelation enough evidence to release Sudha Bharadwaj, others: Civicus

Counterview Desk  Civicus, a Johannesburg-based global alliance of civil society organisations and activists claiming to have presence in 175 countries with 9,000 members and working for strengthening citizen action, has sought immediate release of Sudha Bharadwaj, arrested in 2018 under the anti-terror Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and accused of having links with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Golwalkar's views on tricolour, martyrs, minorities, caste as per RSS archives

By Shamsul Islam*  First time in the history of independent India, the in-charge minister of the Cultural Ministry in the current Modi government, Prahlad Singh Patel, has glorified MS Golwalkar, second supremo of the RSS and the most prominent ideologue of the RSS till date, on his birth anniversary, February 19. In a tweet he wrote : “Remembering a great thinker, scholar, and remarkable leader #MSGolwalkar on his birth anniversary. His thoughts will remain a source of inspiration & continue to guide generations.”

Evolution of Sardar Patel's understanding of those 'involved' in Gandhi's assassination

By Shamsul Islam*  As the world mourns the 73rd anniversary of MK Gandhi's assassination by Hindutva terrorists on January 30, 1948, RSS, the most prominent flag-bearer of Hindutva politics, whose cadres rule India today, is found reacting angrily to the reality – that the criminals who assassinated Gandhiji were not only part of the ideological world-view of Hindu Mahasabha (led by VD Savarkar) and RSS brand of Hindu nationalism but were also connected with these. 

No Election Commission safeguard against electromagnetic hacking of EVM: Study

Counterview Desk  Releasing a new study simultaneously in Chennai and Kolkata in view of the forthcoming elections in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, the Citizens’ Commission on Elections (CCE) – a civil society initiative – has regretted “lack of integrity of EVM voting”, pointing out, the Election Commission of India (ECI) does not appear to safeguard against the possibilities of ‘side-channel attacks’, i.e, hacking electronic devices through electromagnetic and other methods.

20% of FIRs against journalists in 2020 alone, targeted attacks in 2021 'too many to count'

Counterview Desk  Condemning what it calls “alarming rise in state repression and clampdown on news outlets and journalists” that “expose” the anti-people nature of the establishment, India's top civil society network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has demanded “immediate release of arrested journalists, withdrawal of arbitrary charges and protection of media persons facing threats.”

Top academic claims he warned farmer leaders of Hindutva plot on Jan 26 morning

By Shamsul Islam* The photographs here show a Hindutva protagonist, Deep Sidhu, with his real masters. He is said to be the culprit who tried to derail the historic farmers' struggle by putting up a religious flag at Red Fort on January 26, with no Delhi police which works under the Indian home minister Amit Shah, a senior RSS cadre who is often described 'Iron Man' by Hindutva camp-followers. 

'Viability' of agricultural cooperatives vs govt proposed pro-corporate economic model

Dr Gian Singh* The farmer struggle started from Punjab against the promulgation of three agricultural ordinances by the Union government in June 2020 and the enactment of three bills by Parliament in September 2020 to replace these ordinances is unique in many respects. There is no other example of such a peaceful and democratic farmer struggle.