Activists have slammed two proposals on the Right To Information (RTI) Act in the BMC which they claim are aimed at making the complainants vulnerable by exposing their identity and setting several conditions on them, thereby diluting the power of the Act.
The first proposal pertains to seeking details of complainants. An advertisement by the corporation states that complaints in ward offices "should be accepted along with the proof of education, occupation, identity and residence of complainant" and requires the "name of complainant and information sought by him/her to be displayed on the notice board."
The other proposal pertains to several expectations from the complainant. In its January 30 edition, dna had reported the notice of motion moved by BJP corporator Manisha Chaudhury. In her motion, she had said that RTI applicants should submit a "letter of guarantee" regarding constructive work related to the information they sought.
The proposal suggested that the RTI applicant must submit a letter of guarantee regarding constructive work for which information is sought along with application and submitting proper reason in writing in case he or she is withdrawing the application.
"What they have suggested is ridiculous and has been done to only make the position of the complainant vulnerable. We will be soon approaching the municipal commissioner. It is due to the RTI that complaints are coming out. It is exposing irregularities that are committed hand-in-glove with officials and the so called elected representatives. These proposals are making citizens vulnerable to illegal elements," said Bhaskar Prabhu, an activist.
Activist have already written a letter to the BJP city president complaining about the issue. "What she (Chaudhary) has stated is against our fundamental rights through which we can seek information. Constructive work may not be constructive for someone if the information is exposing him. This Act is passed by Parliament and amendments can be done only by it," said Anand Castelino, another activist.
The proposals, in fact go against the rules of the RTI Act itself. Section 6 (1) of the RTI Act clearly states that the purpose of the application cannot be sought from the applicant. According to the section: An applicant making a request for information shall not be required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him.
Manisha Chaudhury was not available for comment. Talking earlier to dna on the same issue, she had said, "There are some people who are misusing the Act. Hence I have put this up."
BMC commissioner Sitaram Kunte said that he would have to look at the advertisement and then comment. On the issue of rules for RTI, he told dna, "Notice of motion by itself comes in a form as a suggestion. It is put in house and comes for remark to the commissioner. We will apprise them (corporators) of the legal position when it comes up."
Earlier moves by authorities on the RTI Act that were opposed by citizens:
Preparing lists of regular complainants as those to be blacklisted (by the BMC)
Limiting the word count of RTI applications to 350 words (by the state government)
Limiting the subject of an RTI application to only one subject (by the state government)