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Monday, January 3, 2011

Remove root causes of attacks on RTI activists: Letter to Maharashtra CM

Shri Prithviraj Chavan,
Chief Minister of Maharashtra,
Mantralaya, 6th Floor,
Madame Cama Road,
Mumbai 400032

Sub: Disclose politicians’ businesses to restore Rule of Law & prevent attacks on Activists


The New Year has started inauspiciously for RTI activists of Maharashtra. On Sunday, January 2, two RTI activists were brutally attacked in Mumbai (Bhandup) and Pune (Talegaon) on Sunday. The finger of suspicion points towards powerful politicians and concessionaires of large government contracts:

· In Bhandup, Yashwant Gavand was attacked by about 30 persons connected to the local Shiv Sena Corporator Suresh Shinde. We learn that Mr Gavand had successfully exposed, through RTI, several assets that were not declared to the Election Commission in the last election, including a 4,000 square-metre plot.

· In Talegaon, Arun Mane – an associate of the slain activist Satish Shetty -- was attacked with a sharp instrument, and warned to stay away from the Shetty murder case. We are told that he was investigating matters connected with toll-tax collection and real-estate agents IRB Infrastructure Developers, believed to be involved in the Shetty murder.

Last year, there were 11 attacks on activists in various parts of Maharashtra, and five of them were fatal. Our state was the leading state in attacks on activists, accounting for 50% of such attacks nationwide. Appended at the end of this letter is a tally of attacks on activists in 2010, all of which remain unsolved cases in the police registers.

After every attack and murder, the state administration’s standard reply is, “Matter is under investigation. We will find the culprits.” That is eyewash, because the top brass knows exactly what is going on: an innocent citizen blew the whistle on the rackets run by politically-connected people, and they bumped him off.

Sir, last year, soon after the Shetty murder, Mumbai’s Police Commissioner issued a circular for protection of Activists. This was closely followed by a GR issued by Govt. of Maharashtra. Both of these suggested several measures, including a mandate to promptly register FIRs in response to complaint by activists. Please read these documents:

a) Police Commissioner’s Circular:

b) Maharashtra GR on protection to Activists:

However, our common experience as activists and civil society is that these circulars were not implemented at all; these circulars were nothing but a damage-control exercise of the government, drafted for the benefit of the press.

What you must do to ensure Rule of Law in Maharashtra

IMPOSE 6-MONTH DEADLINE FOR SUO MOTO DISCLOSURE OF ASSETS & SOURCES OF INCOME OF POLICITIANS, BUREAUCRATS, JUDGES & THEIR FAMILY MEMBERS. Please make necessary laws and rules to ensure that MLAs, MPs, Municipal Corporators, judges and leaders of political parties come clean about their assets and business dealings. The secrecy surrounding the phenomenal growth of their personal wealth is the main cause of corruption, growth of mafias and the killing of activists. Failure to meet 6-month disclosure deadline must invite automatic disqualification and prosecution.

FRAME APPEAL PROCEDURE RULES FOR RTI IN MAHARASHTRA, WITH A CLAUSE THAT RTI PENALTY CLAUSE (SECTION 20) IS TO BE STRICTLY ENFORCED: By not penalizing slippery public information officers and by not compelling evasive public authorities to provide information, State Information Commissioners are deliberately blunting the activist’s sword and prolonging his battle for years and years, until somebody gets him in the end. Make appropriate rules to ensure strict compliance with RTI Act 2005.

ORDER STRICT ACTION AGAINST POLICEMEN WHO SHIRK THEIR MANDATED DUTY TO REGISTER FIR WITHIN 48 HOURS, BASED ON DOCUMENTS THAT THE RTI ACTIVIST PAINSTAKINGLY GATHERS. Through deliberate inaction, the State Home Department and police leave the citizen-activist standing in the line of fire for months and years, alone, undefended and crying out for justice. He is an orphan, an easy target. It is police’s mandated duty to register an FIR within 48 hours, based on documents and information that the citizen-activist painstakingly gathers, and this has been reiterated repeatedly by various laws, authorities and apex courts. Please read the following:
A) What CrPC says about the duty of police to register FIR:
B) What Maharashtra DGP’s order said:
C) What Supreme Court ordered in 2008:
D) What Bombay High Court (full bench) said in 2009:

PASS A GOVT. RESOLUTION (GR) DIRECTING ALL DEPARTMENTS TO RECEIVE CITIZENS’ COMPLAINTS ABOUT CORRUPTION, MISUSE OF POWER & NON-ENFORCEMENT OF RULES & LAWS. Please set up time-bound mechanisms for departmental inquiry and disciplinary action. Currently, faced with of blatant corruption in govt. departments, some RTI activists act as investigating agencies for months and years in order to go to court, becoming highly visible and risking their own lives.

We trust you will take up this matter with utmost urgency.

Yours Sincerely,

G R Vora
Address: Plot - 275 / 3,
Gope Nivas, Sion E, Mumbai - 400022.

Mohd. Afzal 9820490435

Krishnaraj Rao 9821588114

Sunil Ahya 9821070606

Copy to:
1. Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, South Block, New Delhi - 110001.
2. NAC Chairperson Mrs Sonia Gandhi, 10 Janpath, New Delhi - 110001.

Maharashtra’s Table of Shame: Attacks on Activists in 2010

Name of Activist




Probable reason for attack

Nayana Kathpalia

Fired at in her Churchgate home

Jan 2010


PIL against hawkers in Mumbai

Satish Shetty


Jan 2010


Exposing land scams incl. those by IRB Infrastructure

Arun Sawant

Attacked, permanently paralysed

Feb 2010


Exposing land scams at Badlapur Municipal Council

Sumaira Abdulali, Naseer Jalal and Viju B

Murderous assault by mob on highway

March 2010


Exposing illegal sand mining, involvement of local MLA

Vithal Gite


April 2010


Exposed corruption at Panchayat & Block levels

Abhay Patil

Mobbed & threatened

April 2010


Made corruption charges against politician

Dattatreya Patil


May 2010


Exposing corruption in Handloom Sector

Stalin D and Debi Goenka


May 2010


While inspecting site of mangrove destruction

Ashok Shinde


July 2010


For filing PIL against corruption PWD officials

Ramdas Ghadegaokar


Aug 2010


RTI against irregularities in fuel and grain sales in Public Distribution System

Irfan Yusuf Qazi


Dec 2010


Protest against nuclear power plant in Jaitapur

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