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Unexpected? Western regional meet objects to Gujarat order 'blacklisting' RTI applicants

Aruna Roy, Shailesh Gandhi
By Our Representative
Speaking at the western region consultation on the Right to Information (RTI) Act, whose two-day virtual session began on Thursday, Aruna Roy, formerly a member of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi-sponsored national advisory panel, has said that governments should recognise RTI has emerged as common citizens’ right to seek answers from authorities instead of seeing RTI pleas with suspicion.
A pioneer of the RTI movement in India, Roy objecting to recent orders of the Gujarat Information Commission (GIC) which prohibited citizens from filing applications under the provisions of the RTI Act under the pretext that the applicants had repeatedly used RTI to pressurize government officials, insisting, the RTI Act “cannot be used as a tool for taking revenge”. She added, governments should actually encourage citizens to file RTI pleas.
Others taking part in the discussion also took exception to the GIC order to blacklist citizens, calling it “unexpected and shocking”, pointing out, a commission is expected to strengthen record keeping, digitalization and disclosures so that more and more information is put in the public domain.
Organised by the National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI), in which RTI users and activists from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat participated, Shailesh Gandhi, speaking at the session, former Central Information Commissioner, criticised a Supreme Court order on Section 8 of the RTI Act (disallowing all government information to be released for public), which he said is “not only harmfully impact the spirit of the law, but also are widely misused by public authorities across the country.”
Among those present at the consultation included Madhya Pradesh information commissioner Rahul Singh, who has been praised for taking up every appeals filed by women applicants on a priority basis, Rajasthan information commissioner Narayan Bareth. Singh underlined the need for a helpline where common citizens could approach for guidance on RTI. Bareth added, information commissions should not forget that citizens have a lot of hope on the commissions to protect and enhance transparency.
Vivek Velankar, an RTI activist from Maharashtra, said his RTI plea before banks to find out defaulters above Rs 100 crore revealed that many of them were defaulters in not one but several banks, and that the amount ran in “thousands of crores.”
Vineet, an RTI activist from Rajasthan, informed the meet that the Rajasthan Suchna portal carries information on 68 departments and over 130 schemes, including on MGNREGA, PDS, mining, pension, compensation, Covid-19 relief measures etc., and all information is provided in “real time.”
Santoshsinh Rathod, RTI activist from Ahmedabad, said, his fight for two years for disclosure of local area development funds by corporators finally ended fruitfully. It has resulted in Ahmedabad and Surat Municipal Corporations disclosing details on how much have corporators spent and where on the respective websites of the local bodies.

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