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Documentary on Information as Right: use of RTI Act by civil rights activists.

July 26, 2020 By: information Category: RTI Column

 

Documentary on Information as Right: use of RTI Act by civil rights activists- Click for Watch.

Right to information takes centre stage in Indian elections

May 19, 2024 By: information Category: RTI Column

The Daily Star, Thursday, May 16, 2024

Shamsul Bari and Ruhi Naz

India’s right to information (RTI) regime has been going through a rough patch since the Bhartiya Janata party (BJP) government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in May 2014. RTI activists and informed citizens are concerned that the government is weakening the power of the law. One illustration of this is the delay in nominating information commissioners, leading to a huge backlog of requests. In August last year, opposition Indian National Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge accused the government of “killing the RTI Act bit by bit,” adding that it is “not just an attack on the constitutional right, but another step in the conspiracy to end democracy.”

Against this backdrop, the unanimous decision on February 15, 2024 of a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Indian Supreme Court, led by its chief justice, to strike down the now infamous Electoral Bonds Scheme of 2018 and order the disclosure of a huge amount of sensitive information hitherto concealed from citizens came as a shot in the arm of India’s RTI Act, 2005. In Bangladesh, there is much to learn about the enormous potential of our own RTI Act, 2009 from the Indian experience. Read more

Arrest and imprisonment of journalist over RTI request is ominous

April 24, 2024 By: information Category: RTI Column

The Daily Star, Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Shamsul Bari and Ruhi Naz

The arrest and imprisonment of a journalist last month in Sherpur District over his request under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2009 has rattled concerned citizens. According to media reports, on March 5, Shafiuzzaman Rana, a correspondent for Bangla daily Desh Rupantor went to the office of the Nokla UNO (Upazila Executive Officer) to submit an RTI application about the purchase of computers and laptops under a government project. Rana asked for a receipt of the application, but the office assistant asked him to wait till the arrival of the UNO, who was at a meeting. This apparently led to heated discussions between the two, upon which Rana called the deputy commissioner of the district directly to complain.

Hearing the commotion, the UNO returned to her office and a more serious altercation broke out between the two sides. Nokla police were called in and Rana was quickly arrested for misbehaviour with public officials. With equal alacrity, a mobile court conducted by the assistant commissioner (land) sentenced Rana to six months’ imprisonment and ordered the seizure of his two mobile phones. He was charged with “trespassing into a government office, causing commotion, obstructing government work, creating a disorderly situation, and misconduct.” Read more

There is so much more to the RTI Act

March 19, 2024 By: information Category: RTI Column

The Daily Star, Friday, March 15, 2024

Shamsul Bari and Ruhi Naz

Office-goers in Dhaka’s Agargaon area were frustrated by a makeshift mini market that had sprung up on the sidewalks outside their buildings, and annoyed by the stench, trash, and blood from the slaughtering of chickens right in front. After several attempts to end the ordeal, an employee of the University Grants Commission (UGC), one of the offices in the neighbourhood, resorted to the Right to Information (RTI) Act. He sent an information request to the Designated Officer (DO) of the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) seeking a copy of the authorisation provided to run the market—and if none was obtained, to know what measures were taken for its eviction.

The next day, the market was gone. A very polite Designated Officer of DNCC called the applicant to reassure him that the closure was permanent. It would have been better, though, if the applicant had insisted on a written reply as that would most likely have led to in-depth discussions on the subject within the DNCC hierarchy Read more

Reassuring stories of progress

February 20, 2024 By: information Category: RTI Column

The Daily Star, Thursday, February 15, 2024

Shamsul Bari and Ruhi Naz

People living along the road from Garments Bazar to Boideshirhat in Chirirbandar upazila, Dinajpur were fed up. Road repairs, which began in 2018, had been going on for five years. So, in June 2023, a group of right to information (RTI) activists from the region decided to use the RTI process to try and resolve the inconvenience caused to local residents. Naushad Hossain and a number of his colleagues submitted separate RTI requests to the designated officer (DO) of the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) in Dinajpur. They asked, inter alia, for information including the budget and time frame for the road construction project, the reasons for the delay and the measures taken—if any—to alleviate inconvenience for residents, and to penalise the contractor and government officials involved for their role in the delay. They also wanted to know if and how the public was kept informed.

The RTI law stipulates a time frame for responses to such queries, and Naushad received only partial information within this period, so he launched an appeal to the higher authority of the LGED office. Receiving no response, he filed a complaint to the Information Commission (IC). At its hearing on December 18, 2023, the commission noted the discrepancies between the information sought by Naushad and those provided in the partial disclosure by the DO. Read more