The decision of Thiruvananthapuram district’s Pallichal grama panchayat committee to declare RTI activist Vijitha as a ‘public nuisance’ due to her repeated appeals to the body has invited widespread criticisms.
V.V. Vijitha, an active member of the Mookkunnimala Samara Samithi, has filed close to 50 RTI applications on quarrying license, utilization of funds and other schemes which the panchayat committee felt was unnecessary and affected the functioning of the local body. Making troubles for the employees and disrupting the functions of the office were the reasons for attaching the ‘public nuisance’ tag to the 33-year old activist. The law pertains the RTI suggest all information except individual details and details related to national security should be made available through the act and therefore the step by the committee has drawn huge criticisms. The incidents of people misusing the act are rare despite the law being a powerful weapon. It should be brought to the notice of the concerned authorities and steps should be taken to resolve the matter. The panchayat has absolutely no right to disregard the law.
The Right to Information Act and the activists who have been bracing up the people and posing a threat to the corrupt has always been considered a ‘nuisance’. The panchayats, the Ministries and even the Judiciary have tried to oppose it. The situations are the same even at present and attempts are being made to dilute and remove several sections from the Act. The politicians who boast of playing a role in passing the law have themselves neglected it when the time came. Six parties who received covert financial help from the Central government were included under a ‘public authority’ and were made to comply with the RTI Act by the Information Commission two years ago. The move went bootless and the parties are trying to overcome the decision.
The citizens have right over the wealth and resources of a country as well as an equal right and share in utilizing them. Under the provisions of the Right to Information Act, any citizen may request information from a "public authority" or a body of the government which is required to reply expeditiously or within thirty days. All the government officials, institutions and outfits come under the Act and are answerable to the people. The officials resisting or repudiating the law is not new. The tax levied from the people goes to these officials and the information provided as per the public request consists of financial matters too. This is the reason why the Central Information Commission passed an order incorporating the political allies as defined by the ‘public authority’ responsible for convincing the public. But the parties have not submitted the details of their financial wealth and income since two years and the Central Information Commission is being indifferent on the matter.
None of the politicians have come forward to amend the Act in the Parliament, challenge it in Court or apologize for their wrongdoings. The BJP government, who would be completing a year soon, in power, has not appointed a Central Information Commission so far. The government, the officials as well as the political parties, in short have denied the people a law bestowed upon by the Parliament, an Act that works for the people. The BJP, Congress, NCP, CPI, CPM and the BSP oppose the Right to Information Act due to the fear of transparency. Several other ‘information’ would also be revealed along with their income and the details of its sources which plainly indicate corruption. It is estimated that the details of the income submitted by different political parties as per the rules of the Election Commission comes up to only a quarter of their original income. The people should come forward in support of the law and strongly resist the move to dilute the Right to Information Act.