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Atul Patankar

Seekers of truth land behind bars

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Atul Patankar

As reported by NALIN VERMA at telegraphindia.com on September 7 , 2009

 

Patna, Sept. 6: Bihar became the first state to implement the Right to Information Act in 2006, earning accolades. Ironically, it is also turning out to be the first state where information seekers are reportedly being framed for misdemeanour and are being put behind bars.

Case in point: One Sheoprakash Rai sought information about a government scheme from Buxar district magistrate, who called Rai to his chamber on February 1, 2008. He then went on to sent Rai to jail after framing a case of obstruction in official duty against him.

The information commission, headed by chief information commissioner S.K. Singh (a retired judge of Patna High Court), clamped a fine of Rs 25,000 on the Buxar DM. Singh retired in October 2008 and since then the state has had no chief information commissioner.

Next, the government appointed J.N. Bhatt (a retired Chief Justice of Patna High Court) as the chief information commissioner following Singh’s retirement. But a Gujarat resident, Bhatt never joined office. The government, too, did nothing to fill-up the vacant post in the past year.

Now, the high court has issued a showcause to the state asking it to explain the delay in the appointment on the constitutional position. Incidentally, the high court has also issued a notice to its former chief justice (Bhatt) to state the reason for not joining.

As the issue of appointment is in limbo, a dozen information-seekers have been framed in false cases for their offence of seeking information.

They include Rambalak Sharma, framed for murder, as he sought information related to a land dispute case from Lakhisarai SP, Ramchandra Mandal, charged with extortion, for seeking information about work on a project from Lakhisarai chief engineer, Umesh Sharma, booked under the arms act, for submitted an RTI application to Masaurhi sub-divisional officer, said Parveen Amanullah, the Bihar RTI forum covenor.

“It is a peculiar situation. The Constitution has armed people with the right to seek information. But these officials, instead of co-operating are taking applicants as offenders,” Amanullah told The Telegraph.

Surprisingly, Bihar, the first state to implement the act, has only two information commissioners against sanctioned posts of 10. On the other hand, Jharkhand, with a population lesser than Bihar, has seven information commissioners.

Uttar Pradesh has as many as 11 commissioners, nine seven and five in Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, respectively.

Sources said, the Bihar information commission has as many as 25,856 applications seeking information under the RTI Act pending.

“The government has so far taken no decision about the appointment of the vacant chief information commissioner’s post,” said principal secretary of personnel department Amir Subhani.

 

 

Source: The Telegraph - Calcutta (Kolkata) | Nation | Seekers of truth land behind bars

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      View full entry
    • momita
      By momita
      RTI activist Valmiki Yadav (40) and associate Dhramendra Yadav (34) were shot near their village Bichwe around 7 pm, The Times of India quoted Jamui SDPO Rampukar Singh as saying. Officials said that the accused first attacked the victims with rods and sticks before shooting them.
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      In April, two unidentified gunmen shot dead RTI activist Jayant Kumar in Bihar's Vaishali district. The assailants fled the scene on a bike immediately after the incident.
       

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