Dear fellow activists,
Did you think that UP and Bihar are lawless states? You will shout Jai Maharashtra when you read this scoreboard of murder:
1) July 20, Amit Jethwa, Ahmedabad, Gujarat
2) May 31, Datta Patil, Kolhapur, Maharashtra
3) April 21, RTI activist Vitthal Gite, Beed, Maharashtra
4) April 11, Sola Ranga Rao, Krishna District, Andhra Pradesh
5) February 26, Arun Sawant, Badlapur, Maharashtra
6) February 14, Shashidhar Mishra, Begusarai, Bihar
7) February 11, Vishram Laxman Dodiya, Ahmedabad, Gujarat
8) January 13, Satish Shetty, Pune, Maharashtra
Maharashtra is the top performer, and Garvi Gujarat is a distant second.
After every murder, the state administration’s standard reply is, “Matter is under investigation. We will find the culprits.” That is eyewash; in most cases, the top brass knows exactly what is going on: an innocent citizen blew the whistle on the rackets run by powerful politically-connected people, and they bumped him off. Chief ministers Ashok Chavan and Narendra Modi know quite a bit, but their silence is golden.
Through their inaction and apathy, state government and police cold-bloodedly leave the citizen-activist standing in the line of fire for months and years, alone, undefended and crying out for justice. He is an orphan, an easy target.
It is police’s mandated duty to register an FIR within 48 hours, based on documents and information that the citizen-activist painstakingly gathers. How many different ways must this truth be told?
• What CrPC says about the duty of police to register FIR: http://www.box.net/shared/xj8r9i0nri
• What Maharashtra DGP’s order said: http://www.box.net/shared/zv71ig8hf9
• What Supreme Court said in 2008: http://www.box.net/shared/q6vemxlgfa
• What Bombay High Court (full bench) said in 2009: http://www.box.net/shared/kiqxd2goim
• What Mumbai Police Commissioner Sivanandhan’s circular said after Satish Shetty’s murder: http://www.box.net/shared/49mbtov831
But in spite of all this, police still won’t register an FIR against builders, land and illegal mining mafias, etc. And Supreme Court and High Court will do nothing to make this happen, despite their own righteous-sounding orders. So the citizen is helpless and alone in his battle.
State Information Commissioners are helping to put hundreds of activists in harm’s way. By not penalizing slippery public information officers and by not compelling evasive public authorities to provide information, SICs blunt the activist’s sword and prolong his battle for years and years, until somebody gets him in the end.
Are SICs doing this in good faith? Do they really believe that this is the way to implement the RTI Act? Hmm… tough question. To find the answer to that, let us think aloud: A committee consisting of Chief Minister, a trusted cabinet minister and the opposition leader hand-picks a candidate whose name is forwarded by General Administration Department. This candidate is hand-picked to become the second appellate authority, a.k.a. SIC, whose only purpose is to support citizen-activists who want to dig skeletons out of administration cupboards.
So, in Maharashtra, the soft-spoken and hard-of-hearing Dr Suresh Joshi and his paan-chewing sidekick Ramanand Tiwari — both formerly from Urban Development ministry — were specifically selected to help you get all possible information from Mantralaya and public authorities, and to expose corruption and rackets in high places.
Good joke, no? Please laugh and say Jai Maharashtra. Laughter is the best medicine for everything… except maybe bullet wounds.