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RTI information sought by whistle-blowers, since killed, to be made public

People participate in a candlelight vigil as a tribute to murdered RTI activist Amit Jethwa in Ahmedabad. Jethwa, who had exposed illegal mining in Gir forest area, was shot dead by two unidentified assailants in front of the Gujarat High Court. File photo

People participate in a candlelight vigil as a tribute to murdered RTI activist Amit Jethwa in Ahmedabad. Jethwa, who had exposed illegal mining in Gir forest area, was shot dead by two unidentified assailants in front of the Gujarat High Court. File photo   | Photo Credit: Ajit Solanki

All pending information sought by a Right to Information (RTI) activist, who has subsequently been murdered, will henceforth be placed in the public domain. This decision was taken by the Central Information Commission (CIC), which has been under pressure to do its bit to stem the mounting casualties of >RTI activists and applicants. The nature of information sought, the CIC believes, will reveal the motive for the murder.

In a resolution passed recently, the CIC said if it received “a complaint regarding the assault [on] or murder of an information seeker, it will examine the pending RTI applications of the victim and order the concerned department(s) to publish the requested information suo motu on their website as per the provisions of law.”

Surge in killings

The CIC noted the surge in the assaults on and killings of >RTI users. “The Commission strongly believes that it is the duty and responsibility of the respective governments to safeguard the life and liberty of RTI users for which purpose they should invoke the relevant penal provisions for the prevention and detection of such heinous crimes.”

Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, who moved the resolution, told The Hindu that complaints could be filed before the CIC at the Centre and in the State Information Commissions. “The families would be aware of the >RTI applications filed by the victims, and once they complain to us with the details, we will track the applications and ensure that the information sought by the victims is made public.”

Mr. Gandhi said the information would give clues to the identities of the assailants which, in turn, would act a deterrent against attacks. “In my opinion the fear of exposure would work to stop the attacks and murders.”

In the past two years, as many as 13 RTI activists have been murdered and countless more attacked for seeking to expose corruption. The last murder in the series was of Shehla Masood, who had filed RTI applications on a range of subjects from political corruption to illegal mining and destruction of forests.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 10:14:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/RTI-information-sought-by-whistle-blowers-since-killed-to-be-made-public/article13530733.ece

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