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Govt intimidating CIC with litigation, says ex-member Ex-Info Commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu Seeks President’s Help

December 05, 2018 06:15 AM


Govt intimidating CIC with litigation, says ex-member
Ex-Info Commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu Seeks President’s Help

New Delhi:

Former information commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu has alleged that the government was using the litigation route to intimidate the Central Information Commission and to dissuade information commissioners from discharging their legal duties.

In a letter to President Ram Nath Kovind on Tuesday, Acharyulu said there were around 1,700 writ petitions, mostly filed “surprisingly and sadly” by the government and institutions like the Reserve Bank of India, seeking action against the commission/commissioners for doing their work mandated under the RTI Act. The CIC was set up under the RTI Act to deal with grievances related to RTI requests, and has jurisdiction over all central public authorities.

Acharyulu, who completed his five-year tenure on November 21, sought the President’s intervention in “smoothening the inherent contradiction” where one wing of the Union of India acted against the other. “Government offices want their ‘rights’ (of non-disclosure) to be protected from the information commission created by the Union of India as per the will of Parliament,” he wrote.

While the trigger for Acharyulu’s letter to the President was two petitions filed by the RBI against the CIC for ordering it to implement Supreme Court orders upholding CIC’s direction to disclose names of wilful defaulters of banks, he also cited his own “curious” case in which he was impleaded for an order he passed seeking the educational details of PM Narendra Modi.

Acharyulu told TOI, “I have written this because it is high time someone spoke. These instances have been clear attempts to disallow people from seeking information under the RTI Act, and for the commission and commissioners to not order the government to disclose information.”

Acharyulu likened the state of affairs in CIC with the global trend of filing Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP), which he said were “frivolous lawsuits meant to intimidate the target into ceasing public activities such as speaking out against an organisation or a person”.

In his petition to the President, he said, “Please save the Right to Information of the people from SLAPP and independence of CIC from this swarming threat of (writ) petitions by government bodies for acting as per law.

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