12 RTI activists killed since 2010:
ACHR demands amendment of the Act to protect the activists
New Delhi: Asian Centre for Human Rights in its report, “RTI activists: sitting ducks of India” (http://www.achrweb.org/ihrrq/issue3-4/India-Sitting-Ducks-2011.pdf) released today stated that from January 2010 to August 2011, at least 12 RTI activists including Shehla Masood of Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh have been murdered for seeking information to “promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority” of India.
“Even policeman seeking information could not escape death for seeking information under the Right to Information Act, 2005. On 25 July 2010, Uttar Pradesh Police Home Guard, Mr Babbu Singh was killed allegedly for seeking information about government funds and work done by his village Pradhan(Head) at Katghar village in Bahraich district of Uttar Pradesh. Many face serious physical assaults on regular basis. Those who seek information from their village panchayat and other local administration also face social ostracisation. A large number of threats and attacks on the RTI activists do not make news.” – stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights.
“RTI activists are the most vulnerable human rights defenders (HRDs) of India. Unlike other HRDs, a large majority of the RTI activists are not necessarily part of any organisation or group. They often act alone, moved by outrage against corruption and other illegal activities. RTI activists are extremely vulnerable as they live in the same areas as the corrupt public authorities, political leaders and mafia who do not want information about their illegal activities to be disclosed”. – further stated Mr Chakma.
When complaints are made by RTI activists, the law enforcement personnel, who are usually hand in glove with those threatening the RTI activists, do not take necessary action. The Right to Information Act, 2005 provides no protection. The Central Information Commission and the State Information Commissions are not mandated either to deal with such threats or attacks or to provide protection when needed.
Asian Centre for Human Rights recommended to the Government of India that the RTI Act be amended and a separate chapter, “Protection of those seeking information under the (RTI) Act”, be inserted into the Act. Protection measures should include (i) mandatory and immediate registration of complaint of threats, use of force or attacks against RTI activist as First Information Report and placing such FIR before the concerned magistrate/judge of the area within 24 hours for issuance of necessary directions for physical protection of those under threats or their family members, and review such protection measures from time to time; (ii) conducting inquiry into the threats and attacks by a Police Officer not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police/Assistant Commissioner of Police and conclusion of such investigation within 90 days; and (iii) trial of the accused, if offences made out after investigation, within six months. Further, concerned Public Information Officers, First Appellate Authorities and those directly related with the information sought under the RTI Act should be presumed to have abetted the offences against the RTI activists unless proven contrary. [Ends]