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Millennium Post

Go softly for you tread on our rights

Unwitting or not, there’s an air of ill intent blowing from the judiciary. After Supreme Court’s controversial order asking AAP leader and advocate, Prashant Bhushant, to reveal names of the whistleblowers involved in exposing indiscretions to be inferred from CBI director Ranjit Sinha’s visitors’ logbook, it’s the turn of Madras High Court to come up with a bummer. In a fresh salvo, which has been rightly dubbed as a blow to transparency in officialdom, Madras HC has ruled that RTI applicants must give reasons for seeking information as it gave relief to its registry from disclosing file notings on a complaint against a chief metropolitan magistrate.

Whether it’s about saving its own tribe, or protecting its hallowed bastion, Madras HC has done a great deal of disservice by adding the completely unnecessary adjunct to the fundamental RTI. In fact, as noted by all the reports and flushed editorials on the issue, the high court’s ruling is in stark contrast to what the lawmakers had legislated, emboldening the Section 6(2), which says an RTI applicant wouldn’t be required to provide any reason while filing the request. In fact, most of the RTI enquiries have been premised on an individual hunch or an observed pattern hitherto unnoticed, and it was only after the reply had come in that the applicant could give some decipherable form or shape to his/her nebulous and unsubstantiated conjectures. Moreover, RTI has revealed several loopholes in our bureaucracy and state apparatus, particularly the enormous lacunae in our public distribution system, and in execution of welfare schemes like MGNREGA.

RTI is a basic civic and political right that enriches a democracy and empowers its citizens. Without RTI, a citizen is as good as a puppet, who assumes the role of a voter every five years, but otherwise remains a non-participating observer in the affairs of the state. It is a whopping ammunition in the hands of the teeming millions who are routinely excluded from the perks of a high economic growth rate or a burgeoning (un)free market.

Hence, the Madras HC ruling, much like the preceding apex court observation, is a misguided one, aimed to hide the warts in its own skin. Had it not been the case of its own metropolitan magistrate, would Madras HC ruled in exact those words? Evidently, it’s a self-serving order. It’s rather unfortunate that the one of the chief pillars of democracy is doddering thus. Without impartiality, judiciary is yet another cannon in the hands of the powerful against the masses.      

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