Back in 2010, the Bombay High Court, while hearing the murder case of Right to Information (RTI) activist Satish Shetty in Maharashtra, ordered the state government to provide police protection to the many activists who complain of threats after filing applications under the RTI Act.
Two years have passed, but not much has changed, with RTI applicants still vulnerable to a backlash. Activist Anis Khan (50) is a case in point — on December 2, two men barged into his home, accosted his wife as she was tending to her children, and issued a threat, saying that she should convince her husband to withdraw his RTI application if she cared for his safety.
Hand in glove
Khan had filed an RTI query about Railway Police Force (RPF) personnel stationed at Bhandup and Nahur railway station, who he suspects work hand in glove with the illegal ticket-booking touts, allowing them to flourish in exchange for bribes.
“These touts have been selling tickets outside the Passenger Reservation System (PRS) centres at these stations. However, I came to know that the RPF constables and inspectors stationed there are in collusion with the touts. They make a show of seizing them when the public is watching, and then let them go by night, probably after extracting money from them,” said Khan, who filed the query with the RPF authorities at CST.
In his query, he had asked for the names of the RPF officers on duty at the Bhandup and Nahur railway stations between 9.45 pm and 11 pm, and also the CCTV footage of the stations recorded in this time span.
“My wife was at home when these strangers came and threatened her. She went to Bhandup police station to register a complaint,” added Khan.
On the basis of his wife Assadunnisa’s complaint, officers of the Bhandup police station registered an FIR under Sections 452, 504, 506 (b) and 34 of the IPC against an unidentified group of people. The charges include criminal intimidation, trespassing after preparation for committing hurt, and intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace.
A police officer said, “The case has been registered with us and we will take appropriate action once we have enough proof against the persons the complaint is lodged against.”
Khan said that he decided to file a query under the RTI Act after many of his letters to the RPF office about the matter failed to generate any response. Left with no other option, he filed the RTI query on November 27.
“If we come to know that the RPF is involved in leaking the address of Anis Khan, we will take strict action,” said Anil Sharma, chief security commissioner, Central Railways.
Shailesh Gandhi, former RTI commissioner, said, “There is no such clause in the Act which says that it is mandatory to keep the RTI query a secret, but administratively and ethically it is wrong to do so. In such cases, the commissioner can also upload the footage on the website so that it is known to all.”