NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday questioned if RTI activism has become a full-time profession and even pointed out that the transparency law has also become a tool of blackmail. The SC noted said that guidelines need to be placed to stop this malpractice.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India S A Bobde observed that there are various instances where the Right To Information (RTI) law has been used to intimidate people.
“There have been innumerable cases of blackmail in the garb of RTIs,” the bench said while hearing a petition by RTI activist Anjali Bhardwaj on filling up of vacancies in the Information Commissions at the Centre and in states.
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The response by the bench came on the submission made by advocate Prashant Bhushan who cited the court’s previous order in the PIL.“People are afraid of taking decisions because of the RTI provisions. We are being told no officer wants to write anything, take a view because of this law,” observed the bench.
On this, Bhushan replied that officers will be afraid only if they do something illegal, but the CJI said, “Not everyone does everything illegal. The purpose of the RTI was perhaps to elicit information about what concerned them. But we are seeing all types of people filing all kinds of applications who have nothing to do with these subjects. There is no concept of a locus in this law.”
The bench further asked Bhushan, “Is RTI activism a profession now? In Mumbai, you will find letterheads printed like that. It is a very serious matter and nothing short than criminal intimidation which
is a nicer word for blackmailing.”
CJI Bobde also expressed his concern about the RTI applications being filed with malafide interests and said, “We aren’t against the RTI, but is it not necessary to evolve some kind of guidelines? This unbridled right. There are times when applicants are set up by rivals. Why should we not have some kind of filters? It cannot be anybody asking anything.”
The bench also asked on the issue of appointment, gave the Centre three months to fill up all vacancies in the Central Information Commission. It also asked them to make public the names of the members of the Search Committee within two weeks.