The Assam Police has declined to share information sought under the RTI Act on witch hunting in the state, citing an exemption provision for its CID wing, though the state government tabled the same data in the Assembly 10 days after.
The RTI application was submitted to the SPIO of the Home Department on March 13 this year and the final reply came from the CID wing of Assam Police on May 26.
It took the concerned authorities 74 days to give the final reply against the prescribed timeframe of 30 days for providing information under the RTI Act.
"...I am directed to inform you that this organisation is exempted from the purview of Right to Information Act 2005 as per section 24(4) of this Act vide Government of Assam, Notification No PLA-384/2005/54 dated 8th March, 2006," Superintendent of Police (CID) said in its reply.
The RTI application was forwarded to the Assam Police by the Home Department asking to reply to the queries related to witch-hunting incidents across the state and the steps being taken to prevent such unfortunate cases.
Just 10 days after the RTI application was filed, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Rockybul Hussain on March 23 had informed the House on behalf of the Home Minister that at least 77 persons had been killed and 60 others injured in witch-hunting incidents across Assam since 2010.
In a written reply to a query by BJP MLA Prasanta Phukan during the last Budget Session, Hussain had said these persons had been murdered due to superstitious beliefs between 2010 and February, 2015.
Out of the 77 persons killed, there were 35 women and of the injured 60 people, 46 were women.
During the said period, a total of 93 instances of witchcraft had been reported from across the state, the minister had said.
Hussain had also informed the House about the measures the government was taking to prevent this deadly superstitious belief and said the Additional Director General of CID had prepared a draft anti-witch hunting bill as per the direction of the Gauhati High Court.
Moreover, the RTI application, which was filed on March 13, was forwarded to the Assam Police PIO on April 10 by the Home Department SPIO, delayed by more than 20 days.
The RTI Act 2005 says that if the application needs to be transferred to another authority, it should be done "as soon as practicable but in no case later than five days from the date of receipt of the application".
The Assam Police PIO cum Assistant Inspector General of Police (A) later forwarded the queries to the Special Superintendent of Police (CID) on May 16 for providing the answers to the applicant, which were finally declined and informed the applicant through a letter on May 26.
The landmark Act also says that information delayed is equivalent to information denied.
"If the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, fails to give decision on the request for information within the period specified..., the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall be deemed to have refused the request," the Act says.