Recently, Right to Information (RTI) activist Yashwant Shinde had submitted a complaint to the Mumbai’s Commissioner of Police, alleging that he was assaulted by the deputy commissioner of police (DCP) (zone III) inside the cabin when he went for hearing in his first appeal.
In his support, several activists, including former Central Information Commissioner (CIC) Shailesh Gandhi, activist Anil Galgali and Sucheta Dalal, founder trustee of Moneylife Foundation, Dolphy D’souza, Convenor of. Police Reforms Watch presented a memorandum to CP Sanjay Barve, seeking action against the DCP.
Following up on this, Moneylife Foundation had organised a meeting with citizens and activists to discuss common misconceptions about the RTI Act and how we can work towards dispelling such rumours.
The activists present at the session were of differed opinions when it came to tackling abuse of RTI users. Anil Gagali said, "RTI applicants need to understand that rejection of your appplication does not mean you have to follow the same ardous process of going through the first or second appeals. There are other avenues one can approach to get the reply. File a complaint, send a letter, file a RTI on the progress of your complaint. A RTI application is only one of the ways to get your information."
On the same lines, activist Bhaskar Prabhu also suggested RTI users to think outside the box and approach appellate authorities with patience and respect. "They may be rude, they may be abusive, but that does not mean you have to stoop to their level. Proceed with patience. If he refuses the first time, go a second time, then a third time. But change your approach. You have nothing to fear, you are only asking for what is rightfully yours," he explained.
While discussing how this issue can be brought to the attention of the general public and concerned authorities, activist Dolphy D'souza said, "We need to organise a protest. A peacful protest perhaps in front of the police station. We don't need huge numbers, even a mere 50 people would do. We also need this to be further carried forward through the media."
After a vibrant discussion on the safety of RTI users, it was collectively decided to take a call after 10th January by which Mumbai CP Mr Barve has assured some action.
Speaking about his achievement, Mr Zaveri said, “The point is to never give up. I had filed a RTI application with the High Court which was rejected incorrectly. I filed first appeal, which was also rejected. But I followed through with a second appeal as well.”
Sec (13) in Bombay High Court’s RTI rules states the exceptions under which the appellate authority or information officer will can refuse to divulge the information request. Specifically under (a) the rules states “such information which is not in the public domain”.
Mr Zaveri followed up his RTI application with letters to the appellate authority presenting his case as to why this particular rule is completely against the basic principles of the RTI Act and was able to convince the relevant authorities to have it deleted.
This session also saw the attendance of eminent RTI activists such as Mr Galgali, Bhaskar Prabhu, Mr D’souza, DS Ranga Rao, among others.