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Activists call out officials for not publishing 'information' on websites in Maharashtra

Activists call out officials for not publishing 'information' on websites in Maharashtra
"Coercive, defamatory and illegal methods are used to stop citizens from using their fundamental right (to obtain information)," said Gandhi.

Right to Information (RTI) activists in Maharashtra have alleged that bureaucrats are not publishing RTI queries and their responses on official websites despite an order from the state government. The officials are also not following the direction to allow inspection of public records, said RTI activist and former central information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi Friday. A signature campaign has been launched to draw Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis' attention to this non-compliance of the government's own orders, Gandhi told PTI.

"We have decided to collect signatures of 1,000 activists and citizens from across the state and present them to the chief minister," he said. As per a `government resolution' (GR) of August 25, 2015, all public authorities are supposed to upload the RTI queries they receive and the responses to them on their websites. Another GR, issued on November 26, 2018, directs all public authorities to allow the inspection of public records at government offices between 3 pm to 5 pm every Monday. Gandhi said these directives were very laudable, but they were not being implemented.

"If these GRs are implemented properly, it would reduce the number of RTI applications considerably, make it impossible for anyone to blackmail (by threatening to file RTI query) and also improve transparency," he said. "We want to apprise the chief minister about it so that he issues a directive to all government departments to implement these two GRs," he said. Gandhi also said they wanted to bring to Fadnavis' notice "illegal and anti-democratic practise" of denigrating or banning RTI users at some government offices.

"Coercive, defamatory and illegal methods are used to stop citizens from using their fundamental right (to obtain information)," said Gandhi, who was a CIC from 2008 to 2012. There were numerous instances where officials issued illegal circulars calling RTI users blackmailers or extortionists, refusing to give them information or banning them from government offices, he said.

(With inputs from agencies.)

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