Friday, March 15, 2013

On a mission to preserve integrity of RTI Act- Shailesh Gandhi

When Shailesh Gandhi, the only Right to Information (RTI) activist to have served as the Central Information Commissioner, assumed office, it definitely looked like a long row to hoe. But in no time he made a headway with his RTI activism.

Though he has retired from service, after four years with the Central Information Commission, his voice is as intense as before. Gandhi was here to inaugurate a seminar titled ‘Challenges of RTI’ held on Monday.Gandhi feels that many political and judicial decisions are diluting the purpose of the RTI.

The Supreme Court had judged that the Information Commissions must function as a two-person bench, with one judicial member, with a strong legal background, required to be part of the bench. Gandhi feels that the judgment made by the apex court is incorrect, as the requirement puts the hearings on hold for many days. “Out of all the RTI applications that we receive, less than two per cent need legal explanations. Therefore, a judicial representative is not a necessity,” he said. Gandhi said that he had filed a review petition against the judgment made by Justice Swatanter Kumar.

“Lawyer Prashant Bhooshan appeared for me in the apex court. Any move which could kill the purpose of the RTI should not be encouraged.”  Gandhi told Express that he has launched a crusade against the forces that try to dilute the RTI. “The Supreme Court and the High Courts are issuing stays on many of the orders made by the Information Commission without even considering the details. This trend should be discouraged. I appreciate every opportunity to spread awareness on RTI.”

An IITian, Gandhi’s focus shifted to the RTI when he was in his fifties. “The political scenario was much better then. But it was changing for the worse and I wanted to do something substantial for the society. I felt that the RTI is a remedy,” he said. Gandhi thinks that the RTI faces challenges from three domains - the government, state information commissions and judiciary. “Information is power. It can change the equations of power. So these challenges should be dealt with. I am ready to fight for the sanctity of the act,” Gandhi said.

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