Skip to main content

Unconstitutional? Gujarat information commissioner bars 3 from filing RTI pleas

By Pankti Jog* 

In a surprise move, Gujarat’s Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) has superseded the Right to Information (RTI) Act, asking a public authority not to accept any RTI applications from three citizens for five years. CIC, Gujarat, DP Thakar, issued an order at a scheduled hearing regarding complaint filed by Chintanbhai, Bharatiben and Dilhariben, banning them from making RTI applications for seeking information for five years.
Issued on January 5, 2021, the order claims the ban has been imposed because the applicants had repeatedly used RTI to pressurize government officials. The order tells the primary health centre (PHC) public information officer (PIO), Jesar, and the chief district health officer (CDHO) Bhavnagar, (appellate authority) not to accept or entertain any RTI plea or appeal for the three citizens from the date the order was issued for the next five years.
This is the first time in RTI’s history in India when an information commissioner has banned any citizen from seeking information from a public authority. As per the RTI Act, an information commissioner has power to only impose penalty or recommend departmental inquiry against a PIO if PIO fails to furnish information. But there is no provision in the Act which bans a citizen from using RTI to seek information.
The order is unconstitutional, as the RTI Act has been passed by Parliament, and under the law, there is no power with any state or Central information commissioner to prevent any citizens from filing RTI or to ask any public authority not to implement the law. The CIC, Gujarat, has misinterpreted a Delhi High Court order, which he has quoted in order to deny a citizen’s lawful right of seeking information. There is nothing in the High Court order justifying such a move. 
DP Thakar
In the order on Shail Sahni vs Sanjeev Kumar and Ors, dated February 5, 2014, Justice Manmohan merely observed, "This Court is of the view that misuse of the RTI Act has to be appropriately dealt with, otherwise the public would lose faith and confidence in this 'sunshine Act. A beneficent Statute, when made a tool for mischief and abuse must be checked in accordance with law."
The Gujarat CIC’s order will give free hand to deny information to public authorities in the state. The RTI helpline (9924085000), run by the Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP), has been receiving calls over the last few months, wherein citizens have been complaining that they are being threatened by officials of the State Information Commission not to make repeated RTI pleas or appeals, or else they would be banned from using the RTI Act.
The RTI Act has no provisions to prevent citizen from filing RTI or making an appeal with a public authority. As Gujarat CIC’s order is unconstitutional, MAGP has appealed to the Gujarat Information Commission (GIC) to immediately withdraw it. The order reveals incompetence on the part of those handling GIC in interpreting the RTI Act, as also ignorance about the Act. The Gujarat CIC is incompetent in fulfilling the responsibility given by the Act.
Such an approach of GIC will not only mislead public authorities for denying information but will also make RTI ineffective. If a citizen violates a law, the state is competent enough to take action against her or him under appropriate legal provisionis. But the commission cannot prevent implementation of the RTI Act passed by Parliament by merely citing an incident.
Parliament of the country, through the RTI Act, has sought to protect and enhance citizens’ right to seek information and making governance transparent. MAGP expects that GIC would proactively fulfill its responsibility.
---
*Executive secretary, Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel, Gujarat

Comments

TRENDING

Nobel laureates join international figures, seek release of Bhima Koregaon accused activists

Nobel laureates Olga Tokarczuk,  Wole Soyinka Counterview Desk  As many as 57 top international personalities, including Nobel laureates, academics, human rights defenders, lawyers cultural personalities, and members of Parliament of European countries, have urged the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India to ensure immediate release of human rights defenders in India “into safe conditions”.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

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.

Russia, China to call the shots in Middle East, as Muslim nations turn into house of cards

By Haider Abbas* Only a naive would buy that the ‘situation of ceasefire’ between the State of Israel and Hamas would continue, as if the foiled attempt to demolish Al Aqsa this time, is not be repeated, if not in any near future then in sometime to come. Israel already has spurned the ‘ceasefire’ by storming Al Aqsa after the Friday prayers on May 21.

Collapse of healthcare system? Why 90% of Covid patients treated at home survived

By Bobby Ramakant, Sandeep Pandey* Well known Hindustani classical singer Padma Vibhu shan Channulal Mishra, chosen as one of the proposers of Narendra Modi in Lok Sabha elections, lost his wife and elder daughter to Covid in private hospitals in Varanasi. Younger daughter has accused Medwin Hospital of charging Rs 1.5 lakh for treatement of her sister and not being able to explain the cause of death. Pandit Channulal Mishra has asked for a probe into his daughter’s death from the Chief Minister. The family has also asked for the CCTV footage of the ward where deceased daughter was admitted for a week.

Modi-led regime 'contributed' 60% to rise of global poverty, yet Hindutva is intact

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak* In recent years, the Hindutva politics has caused long term damage to India and Indians. The so called 56-inch macho PM, the propaganda master manufactures and survives all political crisis including the current mismanagement of the Coronavirus pandemic in India. In spite of deaths and destitutions, the social, cultural, economic and religious base of Hindutva is intact.

Hunger, lack of food security behind India's 'slip' in UN's sustainable development rank

By Dr Gian Singh*  According to a report released by the United Nations on June 6, 2021, India's ranking of achieving Sustainable Development based on the 17 Social Development Goals (SDGs) set by the 193 countries in the 2003 agenda, which was 115th last year, has slipped to 117th position this year. India ranks not only the lowest among the BRICS countries -- Brazil, the Russian Federation, India, China, and South Africa but also below the four South Asian countries -- Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

Rooted in mistrust? Covid-19’s march into rural India is a very different ball game

By Sudhir Katiyar* As the Covid-19 virus penetrates rural India, the rural communities are responding very differently from their urban counterparts who rushed to the hospitals. The rural communities are avoiding the public health facilities and any mention of the disease. The note argues that this supposedly irrational response is based on a deep-seated mistrust of the state by the rural communities. It can not be resolved with routine Information, Education and Communication (IEC) measures suggested in the Government of India SOP for tackling Covid-19 in rural areas.

Courageous, in-depth attempt to confirm common spiritual values of Christ, Buddha

By RB Sreekumar, IPS*  All religions, both theistic and atheistic designed conceptual and practical architecture, for holistic and comprehensive elevation and enlightenment of humanity. PK Vijayan, in his novel “Nirvana of Jesus Christ” (Notion Press, 2020) through creative imagination portrayed personality evolution of the two progenitors of God-centric and sagaciously logical major religions – Jesus Christ of Christianity and Gautama Buddha of Buddhism.

Why hasn't Govt of India responded to US critique of freedom of religion under Modi?

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ* About two weeks ago, on May 12, 2021, the US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken released in Washington the ‘2020 International Religious Freedom Report.’ This official annual report of the US Government details the status of religious freedom in nearly 200 foreign countries and territories and describes US actions to support religious freedom worldwide. Mandated by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, this report highlights the fact that ‘religious freedom is both a core American value and a universal human right’.