Thorough Probe Sought into RTI Activist’s Death

BeyondHeadlines News Desk

The National Campaign for People’s Right to Information has sought thorough and impartial investigation into the death of RTI activist Ravinder Balwani.

Balwani was hit by a speeding car on April 23 in Vasant Kunj on his way back home from a court hearing. He succumbed to his injuries later in AIIMS Trauma Centre.

A former manager with Delhi Transco Limited, Balwani as an RTI activist exposed several corruption cases in the power sector.

His family members have also alleged foul play in his death and demanded an independent probe into the incident.

His son Varun said the fact that his father was an RTI activist who had been regularly raising issues of corruption in power sector and was also receiving death threats has made them suspicious about the whole incident.

“Considering the nature of injuries that the postmortem has revealed, our doubts about this being a clear case of murder stand confirmed,  Varun said.

Here is the full statement by NCPRI:

The National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) expresses its deep sense of shock over the death of Mr. Ravinder Balwani, a RTI user on 23rd April 2012. He had filed several RTIs and complaints with the Delhi Lokayukta pertaining to corruption in the power sector.

These include complaints on tariff revision by the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission and the alleged misuse of official position for personal benefit by a Delhi Transco Limited official. On the basis of his appeal to the Chief Information Commission, in an order dated 31.5.2007, the Industrial Finance Corporation of India Ltd (IFCI) was declared a public authority under the RTI Act. This order was subsequently upheld by the Delhi High Court.

He was killed in a hit and run case in Delhi on 23rd April 2012. Given that he had filed a complaint in Indraprastha police station in 2009 on receiving death threats, and that his family insists on foul play, the NCPRI demands that this case is investigated thoroughly with utmost seriousness.

The NCPRI appreciates the order of the Chief Information Commissioner, Mr. Shailesh Gandhi who invoked an earlier resolution from September 2011, directing the public authorities concerned to declare suo motu on their website all the information that Mr. Balwani had asked for.

Considering Mr. Balwani’s complaints of receiving death threats, this hit and run demonstrates yet another instance of the clear and present danger that all RTI users face from vested interests that are allowed to operate with impunity. Since 2005 more than ten murders and close to a hundred cases of physical attacks can be linked to the use of the RTI Act by victims seeking accountability from public authorities for their actions. Governments have done nothing substantial to prevent such attacks from occurring or to bring the murderers to justice quickly.

It is the prime duty of the State to protect each one of its citizens, particularly those at greater risk because they are crusading for transparency and accountability.

The NCPRI calls upon the Central and State Governments to institute an effective mechanism for providing protection to RTI users and anti-corruption crusaders in the same manner as whistleblowers within public authorities.

In this context, it is important to make a demand for a strong and effective Whistleblower Bill (Public Interest Disclosure and Protection for Persons Making the Disclosure Bill, 2010) which has been introduced in parliament. The Central and State Governments need to demonstrate their commitment to protecting law-abiding citizens by taking this first step.


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