On 16 January, 2019, RTI activist Bal Govind Singh was shot dead in the Sarailakhansi area of Uttar Pradesh.
Police said that Bal Govind Singh (50), resident of Badhuwa Godam was sitting at a tea shop, situated in Chatti when four assailants, riding on two motorcycles, shot him multiple times, he died instantly.
The alleged perpetrator, who was on the police wanted list for multiple other crimes, was killed in a subsequent shoot-out with police.
The Right to Information Act was enacted by the government of India in 2005, after a sustained struggle from anti-corruption activists led by the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS)1.
The enactment of the RTI Act served as a major tool in the hands of all citizens to demand greater transparency in governance, with the CHRI estimating that approximately 5.5 million RTI applications are filed every year in India. The Indian judiciary has a well-documented case history of upholding and promoting the right to information.
In a landmark judgement in the State of Uttar Pradesh v. Raj Narain (1975), the Supreme Court of India observed that the right to information is derived from the fundamental right to freedom of speech. It ruled that the people in India “have a right to know every public act, everything that is done in a public way by their public functionaries”.
Since this judgement, the Supreme Court and various High Courts in India have upheld the importance of the right to information and in some instances have equated it with the fundamental right to life and liberty.
The spate of attacks against RTI activists in recent years not only constitute a violation of the rights of the human rights defenders but enable a governance of corrupt practices, where fundamental rights of all citizens are endangered.
The RTI Act came into force in 2005. Since 2010, at least 20 RTI activists were murdered in Bihar alone as of November 2021.
The correct and updated figure for the murder of RTI activists across India is not available. The government does not maintain a record of attacks on RTI activists.
However, according to the data compiled on the AttacksOnRTIusers.org website, which is maintained by an NGO called Commonwealth Human Rights Initiatives, there were at least 465 attacks on RTI activists as of November 12, 2021.