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Withdraw FIR against J&K RTI Foundation leader: India's ex-information chiefs demand

By Our Representative

Prominent Right to Information (RTI) activists, including two former chief information commissioners Wajahat Habibulla and Shailesh Gandhi, and Magsaysay awardee and author Aruna Roy, even as seeking “immediate revocation” of an FIR filed against Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) RTI activist Sajad Hussain Mir, have regretted that the harassment has taken place at a time when the year-old Union territory is directly under the control of the Government of India.
In a letter to the J&K lieutenant governor and the chief secretary, they said, Mir, who hails from Doyan Chadoora village of District Budgam and is a founder-trustee of J&K RTI Foundation, has been voluntarily devoting his time to promote use of the RTI law to bring transparency and accountability in the system since more than a decade. For last two years he has been running RTI Clinic at Chadoora where he helps people in filing RTI applications.
Yet, the letter regretted, a police complaint was registered against him under U/S 353 of Indian Penal Code in Police Station Chadoora. “We wonder if this can happen to Sajad, how safe would be an ordinary RTI activist. We have never seen any RTI activist who wants the government officials not to work. Unfortunately, the executive officer (PIO) who slapped false complaint against Sajad belongs to government itself i.e. Municipal Committee, Chadoora”, it complained.
Calling it a clear case of a government official refusing to provide information suo motu, the letter said, “There has been a perception that RTI no more exists in J&K after abrogation of Article 370.” This is because, earlier, “the state information commission, set under J&K RTI Act 2009, was working in close proximity with RTI activists. But now when the Central RTI law is in place, it has become difficult for RTI activists to get their cases heard at the Central information Commission.”
Asking for the introduction of the whistle blowers Protection law so “to ensure safety of RTI activists”, the letter pleaded to issue “strong directions” to the administration to stop harassing RTI activists, insisting, strict action must be taken against the executive officer, Municipal Committee, Chadoora, who “has not provided information to the applicant, and instead of that he lodged a false FIR.”

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