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Maharashtra Minister’s Office Directs Official to Take Action Against People Who File More Than One RTI Applications

Official issued circular and cancelled it on the same day; RTI activists call it “mockery of democracy”.

Maharashtra Minister of State for Social Justice and Special Assistance Dilip Kamble’s Office on March 19 has reportedly asked the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities Nitin Dhage to “take action” against people filing more than one RTI applications. Dhage issued a circular and cancelled it within 24 hours saying it was “issued by mistake”.

Directions From Dilip Kamble’s Office

On March 19, R M Pardeshi, Officer on Special Duty to Kamble had asked Dhage to take the step citing a letter from a Solapur-resident Dipak Patil addressed to the minister, written on the same day. As per Pardeshi, “Patil has requested that action be taken against the persons for filing two or more RTI applications seeking information about the persons with disabilities schools.”

As per a report published in The Indian Express by Vishwas Waghmode, the minister’s office also noted that Patil had referred to a circular issued by Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited’s (MSEDCL) Pune division that mentioned “a Supreme Court case and a central information commissioner’s order for making people ineligible for seeking information repeatedly and taking criminal action if they continued to seek information”.

Also read: Modi’s Banking Crisis: RTI Reveals Record Rise In Bad Bank Loans Under Modi Govt

Circular Issued and Cancelled

After receiving the direction from the minister’s office, Daghe issued a circular to district heads on March 30. He asked them to submit details related to RTI applicants — names, addresses, the information they are seeking and whether it was given to them — to the headquarters within 15 days.

As per a Pune Mirror report by Vijay Chavan, the circular also stated: “It is required to stop the rampant filings of applications under RTI Act, 2005. The persons, who are filing RTIs on more than two occasions, with the intention of harassment and misusing the law, must be punished by conducting criminal proceedings against him or her by disqualifying them from filing the RTI applications in future.”

However, Dhage cancelled the order within 24 hours. Speaking to IE, he said, “Since there is model code of conduct in force, the circular is being cancelled and no further action should be taken on the letter.”

“We have issued this circular by mistake. It refers to a 2011 SC judgment, which we are searching for. Initially, we had asked the staffers to check if it even exists in the first place. No copy has been found yet. We have also erroneously referred to the state minister’s letter. We regret the error and are in the process of withdrawing the circular,” Dhage told Pune Mirror.

“Mockery of Democracy”

Rafique Khan, member of Prahar Apang Kranti Andolan and a disability rights activist, called it a “mockery of democracy” and attempt to “sabotage the (rights) movement”. “The people who visit the office are already deprived because of many reasons. The authority is trying to threaten the activists. Why are they scared if they are transparent? We have already taken the issue to Chief Minister’s Office,” he told Pune Mirror.

Wagholi-based activist Dharmendra Satav told Pune Mirror, “The SC order does not concern RTI applications. It talks about activists resorting to extortion to obtain information under RTI. The authority concerned is trying to mislead the people and wants to reduce its workload by simply inducing panic. We will raise this issue with the Chief Minister.”.

President of Surajya Sangharsh Samiti, Vijay Kumbhar underlined that the circular was an attempt to “kill the RTI movement”. He told Pune Mirror, “We will raise this issue on different fronts. RTI activists are being killed every alternate day. Now, this circular is another attempt to kill the RTI movement.”

Also read: Maharashtra: RTI Reveals Farmers’ Suicides Doubled in 2015-18 Under BJP-Shiv Sena Govt

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