NEW DELHI: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has cautioned people seeking information under the RTI Act against the use of objectionable and indecent language in their information applications.
"The Commission takes grave objection to this (use of objectionable language) and would like to send a message to all the appellants not to cross the borders of decency and propriety in use of language in their appeals," said Information Commissioner O P Kejariwal in a recent order.
The CIC which was hearing to a RTI appeal, filed by Laxmi Shanker Awasthi against Northern Railways, expressed its anguish over use of indecent words in his application placed before the CIC.
Awasthi, who drafted his application in Hindi, had used offensive words to cast severe blame upon the concerned departments and had further charged them of being untruthful in their actions.
"...The appellant has held that all the concerned departments are guilty of falsehood and lying. He has actually used the word 'jhooti' report," said the Commission.
Earlier, Awasthi filed his RTI application with NR's Public Informtion officer (PIO) seeking information relating to his appointment on compassionate grounds after the death of his wife, an ex-railway employee.
The matter which was taken up by a Special Court, established to look into such cases, had rejected his application following which a verbal intimation was also provided to Awasthi.
The Commission which disposed off Awasthi's appeal expressed its displeasure over his usage of words while terming all the concerned reports as false and fabricated.
The wise have spoken. From behind the mask of junkets for ‘training’ and ‘imparting education’ accepted with impunity from those arraigned in front of them as defendants, a line also used by the now much-lamented Rebecca Marks of Enron during her heydays in Maharashtra vs the Rest of India, the erudite but often contradictory ‘badshahs’ of the Central Information Commission (CIC) have declared that citizens of India cannot place allegations of corruption or perjury at the doors of public authority.
Certainly, we as citizens of India are entitled to suffer unlimited marginalisation from the gentle lily-soft hands and washed sandalwood feet of those who misgovern. Our rulers and their hobby-horses can kick us, beat us, berate us, and make us suffer inhuman indignities. But the CIC has ruled. We cannot “cross the borders of decency and propriety in use of language in their appeals”. And what is this border that we have crossed?
It seems we citizens have dared to charge the public authorities of “being untruthful in their actions”. In writing! The whole nation is doing it in all forms of media, but an application to the CIC does not accept this. In fact, we have been informed in one case that “...the appellant has held that all the concerned departments are guilty of falsehood and lying. He has actually used the word ‘jhooti’ report.” Thus spake the CIC, which has of late not really covered itself with glory, with some of its own missives.
For example, one applicant was accused of “misuse” when he used the ‘via post office’ route for an RTI application, a method which is displayed on the CIC’s own website. A lady applicant was physically pushed around in the CIC’s office. The pendency status at the CIC, of course, is another matter altogether. And to cap it all, the court of CIC is probably the only one in India where respondents-defendants wearing uniforms are allowed to bring firearms and armed guards inside the chambers, while applicants shiver in fear outside.
But we cannot accuse the public authorities of falsehood and lying. And if we do, then the judgement shall be swift as well as dismissive.
Some will say that this correspondent is being economical with the truth. That, in actual fact, the public authorities in India are incapable of framing false reports or lying through their teeth, and so need to be constantly addressed as minor gods, or at least with due respect. They may be correct. But then again, the CIC may be in line to receive a message too, that all is not right in its ivory tower.