New Delhi, Dec 16 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Monday said “fear” and “abuse of RTI Act” by vested interests was leading to blackmail and extortion.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and Surya Kant also asked the Centre to fill all vacancies in the information commission within three months, and also sought to know if any guidelines can be evolved to address the abuse of the Right to Information Act.
The Chief Justice said the people who are in no way connected to an issue file RTI, leading to criminal intimidation, which is a nice word for blackmail. “We are not against the right to information. But there is a need for guidelines. It cannot be an unbridled right”, said the Chief Justice.
The bench’s observation came on the argument by lawyer Prashant Bhushan that despite the top court’s February 15 judgment, the Centre and state governments have failed to appoint information commissioners in Central Information Commission and State Information Commission. Bhushan told the court he was involved in drafting of the RTI Act.
The Chief Justice replied, “Why do you think that we are asking you (to develop the guidelines to filter RTI requests)? People file RTI after going to you. That is why we need guidelines.”
The Chief Justice said there may be innumerable cases of blackmail and extortion, and if there is a cognizable offence, then the people concerned should file a complaint with the anti-corruption bureau.
“Why should every member get information, for example, if someone needs an axe to grind against an officer… We are asking methods to stop abuse of RTI, why do you think it happens”, queried the Chief Justice to Bhushan.
Justice Gavai observed that there are people who use ‘RTI Consultants’ on their letterheads. “They call themselves RTI activists, is that an occupation? We want to stop the abuse of RTI”, said the Chief Justice.
The top court also directed that the Centre publish the names of the members of the Search Committee to be put up on the website in two weeks, after it was told that the committee was constituted on December 14.
The Chief Justice also asked Bhushan to file a contempt petition if government fails to implement its February 15 judgement.
The bench was hearing an interim application filed by one Anjali Bhardwaj seeking direction to the government to appoint information commissioners in a time-bound and transparent manner.