The new RTI draft rule seeking abatement of proceedings with the death of appellants was objected to by former Delhi High Court Chief Justice A P Shah in 2011. The file notings accessed by activist Commodore (Retd) Lokesh Batra under the Right To Information (RTI) Act show that Shah had echoed the apprehensions of civil society members that the clause may encourage killing of applicants.
“The Information Commission is not a civil court and thus the provisions in the Central Information Commission (CIC) relating to abatement of proceedings in the face of the death of the party have no application to the proceedings under the RTI Act,” he had suggested to the National Advisory Council and the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) while framing the RTI rules in 2011.
In the proposed RTI rules for 2017, the Centre has brought in the provisions of abatement of proceedings with the death of RTI applicant and allowing withdrawal of appeal, which was part of the Central Information Commission (Management) Regulations 2007.
The plea challenging the validity of CIC rules is pending before the Supreme Court.
Shah agreed with the proposition of DoPT that RTI was the right of an individual filing the application and the proceedings would end upon his death, but added that having such provision in the rules was “not at all desirable” as it may result into killing of the applicant.
Reacting to the proposed rules, Venkatesh Nayak of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative today said that a lot has changed since 2007.
“Till 2008 there were hardly any reports of information seekers being killed or assaulted by people with vested interests. But today, there are at least 64 reported cases of murder, 157 cases of assault and 167 cases of threat and harassment as per media (English language) reports,” he claimed.
Nayak said, “What was an aberration in 2007 when the CIC regulations were issued, has become a gory phenomenon of attacks on RTI users over the last 10 years.
“Instead of dropping the appeal on death of information seekers, the RTI rules must empower the CIC to direct proactive disclosure of all information sought in accordance with the provisions of the Act,” he added.