COUNTERVIEW: Ahmedabad: Saturday, February 25, 2017.
When a law maker become law breaker, democracy is in danger. But when a law maker instructs offices to break a law, the situation becomes even more dangerous. On February 3, 2017, BJP MP from Navsari (Gujarat) CR Patil, wrote a letter to the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) virtually instructing it not give information to citizens under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.
The letter alleges that “not only SMC but most of the public authorities are receiving applications under RTI Act by frivolous applicants, blackmailers and money extorters.” However, the letter does not give any data, reason or justification that may form the base of the allegation.
Patil further says that in the case of SMC most of the applications are related to “Illegal constructions”, and after receiving information, citizens blackmail the “illegal construction owners”, adding, they even give threats for demolition. Again, he does not give the list of owners of illegal constructions who are being threatened.
Patil recommends that SMC should prepare a list of such users and should blacklist them, and should instruct all offices not to give any information under the RTI Act, 2005. He adds, his recommendation should be taken up at the coordination committee or Sankalan Samiti meeting of SMC.
The letter, written by Patil on February 2, was received by SMC in February 3, and was marked to all head offices of SMC on the same day. It was also marked to the Sankalan Samiti, which probably was on February 4, 2017, as per the noting on the letter.
Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP), an organization of concerned citizen working to spread RTI at the grassroots level, has strongly opposed the letter, as also the culture/mindset of secrecy of the MP, and has made written representation to the Lok Sabha speaker.
The representation states that an MP takes oath to honour the constitution and laws of the state and cannot outrightly instruct or recommend for violation of any law passed by Parliament. It appeals to the Lok Sabha speaker to seek explanation from CR Patil for the basis of such “unconstitutional” act by him.
MAGP founder Harinesh Pandya says that Patil has “written his letter on his letter head and he alleges that RTI users are frivolous, and clearly recommends blacklisting and not providing any information under RTI.”
“Has he submitted any data to the Lok Sabha and taken permission for writing such recommendatory letter? The MP is officially admitting that he is dishonouring a law passed by Parliament. He is accountable towards people, also towards the Lok Sabha. He should be asked explain with data the rationale, reason and justification for his unconstitutional act”, Pandya insists.
“Elected representatives may give instructions to statutory bodies or bureaucracy on people’s issues, but not for violating any law. If such cases repeat, it will result into lawlessness. We have started a mass letter writing campaign condemning this act to send a strong message that our elected representatives cannot misuse the power given to them by people and go unchallenged. Our campaign will continue till Patil withdraws his recommendation”, Pandya warns.