Aruna Roy, one of the prime movers of the Right to Information (RTI) Act in India, made a direct link between the threat to the Act and those that citizens have received for exercising free expression across social media.
Stating that both derive their right from Article 19 of the Constitution, Roy stated that citizens had to fight if the RTI Act was to live. "Democracy survives on dissent, disagreement and difference. You cannot prevent these. There are laws in place like defamation and others if someone misuses expression, but the Right to Expression cannot be curtailed. These days, young children are scared to voice their views on social networking sites because they feel they will be threatened or have stones thrown at them. We have to fight if the Act is to survive," said the social engineer, who was in city on Saturday.
Roy was the keynote speaker at the 'Western India RTI Convention 2014' – a two day convention in the city. Calling RTI "the biggest democratic unit," Roy said that it was now used by 80 lakh people in the country. "It is a transformatory law that is now increasingly clubbed with other Acts for transparency. The fight of RTI is now for accountability," said Roy.
She added that people would have to fight repeatedly, when the issue of its dilution comes up. State chief information commissioner, Ratnkar Gaikwad, who also spoke at the event, pitched for the amendment in the Act for better implementation. "There are times when first appellate authorities do not listen to orders or senior officers prohibit public information officers from giving information," said Gaikwad.