Tuesday, June 26, 2018

CIC to hear RTI activists’ complaints even after their death

Times of India: Pune: Tuesday, June 26, 2018.
The Central Information Commission (CIC) has decided to hear and pronounce judgments on appeals or complaints lodged by RTI activists even after their death.
The CIC’s decision assumes significance as many Right to Information (RTI) activists have been killed across the country while seeing seeking information related to some potential scams or irregularities in various government departments.
RTI activists in the state had earlier opposed provisions of the 2017 rules, including the one that allows no action on appeals in case of the death of the appellant. They stressed the rules were aimed at diluting the statute and welcomed the current directive.
Former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said a decision to hear the appeals of complainants even after their death was taken in the past but not implemented. “The new move will expedite the RTI applications pending following the death of the complainants,” he said.
The RTI Act allows information seekers to approach the CIC to lodge a second appeal and complaint in case they are aggrieved with government departments over disposal of their application filed under the law. As per the rules finalized in 2017, the proceedings pending before the CIC shall abate on the death of the appellant or complainant.
Activist Vihar Durve said, “The department of personal training (DoPT) had earlier proposed that it would not decide on the applications even as there is a second applicant. I had requested the CIC to take the issue up in Parliament. In the order, the CIC had then said they could not compile the information.
Since 2014, he added, the DoPT has stopped collecting information about slain RTI activists even as each state has records that revealed that Maharashtra and Goa have the maximum instances of activists being killed.
DoPT officials stated that there had been instances of an appellant or a complainant dying before the commission considered the case. The CIC has now decided that in case of the death of an appellant or complainant, the case will be heard as usual as the second appeal or complaint and the decision will be put on the commission’s website.
Sandip Shetty, the brother of slain RTI activist Satish Shetty, said, “The order may send a message across that eliminating a person may not help people involved in corruption to stall the process of information gathering.”
Sandip has been pursuing Satish’s case with the commission for the past eight years.