By Vishank Singh:
‘Free information among the citizens’ is the base on which democracy stands. Complying with this thought, a weapon was provided to the citizen in the form of RTI. It was enshrined in this act that free information is the right of every citizen of the country. But the price which they have to pay for that was not clearly stated!
In the recent past, we have witnessed many cases where RTI activists were attacked by the people who had objection to the disclosure of some information in the public periphery. Anoop of Gautam Buddh Nagar (U.P.), an RTI activist, was assaulted mercilessly by the goons with hot rods. He is known to be a whistleblower in his town and was in conflict since a few months with a contractor whose dishonest work in the Sikka town was under investigation after he filed an RTI in that context. This was the price he paid for living with his right.
He is not the only example, as we have seen many more in the past. In 2010, there was a case in which an RTI activist Satish Shetty was murdered. He too paid the price for acting as a whistle-blower. It is an astonishing fact that during the last 6 years, around 150 RTI activists have become victims of those who were endangered from the disclosed information which they initiated. In these 6 years, around 24 RTI activists were killed, 52 got assaulted and 74 were harassed. And when we talk about the administration, we actually mean a poor system which is entangled around the powerful. This system is not capable of providing security to the whistle-blowers who are an eminent part of the society and are vulnerable. This can be viewed with another perspective, which shows us that many a times it is the attempt of the administration itself to curb the RTI activists so that their corrupt deeds are not disclosed in public. This is how the law protector and law makers play with the law itself in order to cheat the common man.
In context of the security of RTI activists, a division bench of the Calcutta High court had recently ruled that an RTI application could be filed just by stating the post box number and there is no need to disclose the name and address of a person. This order in itself is a step towards providing security to RTI activists, though it would be followed only in West Bengal and Andaman & Nicobar Island. In 2010, the Bombay High court in the very same context ruled that any RTI activist could seek police protection if they feel threatened after filing of an RTI application. These efforts which were the result of judicial activism are actually in vain unless the administration is strict and honest about its duties.
RTI activists are the valuable resources for Indian society. We need the gap between government and the people to be filled in which they play a major role by keeping a watch on the administrative activities through the tool of RTI. Security of these activists is very necessary in order to build and sustain public confidence over ‘democracy and free information’. We don’t want a society where people stop asking questions from the authority for fear of their lives. The security of these activists is a must and should be the priority of the government, only then can we experience real democracy and a true free world where information is not hindered by those who have power and force.