Business Standard: New Delhi: Wednesday, April 12, 2017.
Condemning the murder of an RTI activist from Pune, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has demanded the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to monitor the ongoing police investigation and also asked the Maharashtra's State Information Commission to disclose all information sought by the RTI activist.
The RTI activist Suhas Haldankar was battered to death with cement blocks allegedly by a group of 11 persons, including a former corporator in the Pimpri-Chinchwad area of Pune on April 2. This was the second instance of murder of an RTI activist in Maharashtra in 2017 and the third under the present State government.
The CHRI welcomed the prompt action of the police in apprehending some of the alleged murderers of Haldankar and demanded that they diligently work to arrest the remaining perpetrators of this crime including conspirators, if any, and gather all evidence necessary to prosecute the accused.
"The NHRC should monitor the police investigation closely to unearth any conspiracies that might have been hatched," said Sanjoy Hazarika, CHRI Director.
The CHRI also asked the Maharashtra State Information Commission to call for all pending RTI applications filed by Haldankar before public authorities in Pimpri Chinchwad and directed them to proactively disclose all information in accordance with the RTI Act and put in the public domain.
Using RTI, Haldankar had exposed several irregularities in the provision of civic amenities by the local municipal corporation. The alleged murder is said to have occurred when both inducements and threats from local politicians failed to curb his activism.
With 16 such incidents reported since 2010 (including the latest case), Maharashtra tops the list of States with the highest number of citizens murdered for using RTI to demand transparency and accountability in governance. A total of 66 RTI activists have been killed nationwide since the Act came into place in 2005.
Thirty-four RTI activists in Maharashtra have fortunately survived physical assaults while at least 38 other incidents of harassment or threats to RTI activists have been reported in the media since October, 2005. On International Human Rights Day last December, CHRI had launched its online Hall of Shame which documents attacks on RTI activists.