Paralysis, fear about misuse of RTI Act, says SC

Paralysis, fear about misuse of RTI Act, says SC

“People who are in no way connected to an issue file RTI. It sometimes amounts to criminal intimidation... We are not against the right to information. But there is a need for guidelines,” the court said.

The Supreme Court on Monday expressed concern over the misuse of RTI Act, saying that there was some kind of “paralysis and fear” because of it.

“There should be some guidelines to check the unrivalled power of filing RTI applications. Can there be some filters rightfully applied? There are innumerable instances of blackmail,” a three-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice S A Bobde said.

The court sought to know, “is locus something foreign to law?” adding, “We have become wary of abuse of the RTI Act.” The court said that the law was having this peculiar effect, as the officers are not taking decisions.

“People who are in no way connected to an issue file RTI. It sometimes amounts to criminal intimidation... We are not against the right to information. But there is a need for guidelines,” the court said.

The top court made these observations while hearing a plea by advocate Prashant Bhushan on behalf of activists Anjali Bharadwaj and Commodore Lokesh Batra, for implementation of directions passed over filling up posts in Central Information Commission and State Information Commission. Bhushan said that there was no transparency as names of search and selection committee members were not on the public domain.

“The orders passed by the court earlier (in the judgement on February 15, 2019) remained unimplemented,” he said. Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, appearing for the Union government, said that the names would be disclosed. The court asked the government to comply with the directions within three months.

However, the bench, also comprising Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, expressed concern on the misuse of the transparency law. “You must take note of it. When I was in Bombay HC, a secretary told me (Maharashtra government) Mantralaya’s functioning was affected due to RTI Act,” the CJI told Bhushan.

“People in Mumbai mention themselves as RTI consultant. Public spirited persons must have something to do with the issue when they file RTI applications,” the bench said.

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