India’s apex human rights body gets about 40 RTI queries a month. But of late, the number has shot up to almost 200. And a lot of them have to do with former chief justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan’s assets.
Balakrishnan is chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
“The number of queries on the chairperson’s assets has gone up. The questions range from how much his assets are worth to asking why he is not disclosing it,” an NHRC official who did not wish to be named told IANS.
Balakrishnan has been facing allegations after his family members reportedly amassed wealth disproportionate to their known sources of income.
An RTI activist had approached the income tax department seeking details of Balakrishnan’s wealth, saying that the former chief justice had filed an affidavit to the tax authorities, claiming that he cannot disclose his assets and all relevant details were already put up on the Supreme Court website.
Balakrishnan told the income tax officials that he cannot disclose his assets to the public as the information could be misused.
Besides queries on Balakrishnan, a chunk of the other RTI questions have to do with the status of various cases which the NHRC is handling.
“Around 30 percent of the RTI queries seek information on the status of different cases which the commission is handling. People want to know if the NHRC’s recommendations have been taken up by the government. Or if changes in laws suggested by us have been implemented,” the NHRC official said.
“There are also queries on how many cases the commission has taken up since its inception, how many cases have been expedited, what the categories are. There is a lot of interest in cases of encounters. All these queries involve sifting through a lot of paper work and we are bogged down,” the official added.
But it’s not just the “serious” questions, the RTI cell of the commission – which constitutes four members – is bogged down with.
“We also get a lot of frivolous questions. For instance, how many foreign trips have the members gone for or how much money is spent on food and beverage,” the official added.