Chennai: The sit-in protest at the state information commission by RTI activist Siva Elango on Wednesday, protesting chief information commissioner K.S. Sripathi’s insistence to ‘stand’ during the hearing, landed the activist in Puzhal prison. Mr Elango, president of Satta Panchayat Iyakkam (SPI), was arrested on charges of preventing Mr Sripathi from discharging his duties and was lodged in Puzhal prison in 15 days’ judicial custody. Protesting the arrest, RTI activists in the city will be staging a sit-in at the commission on Friday at 2.30 pm.
Mr Elangovan went to the commission in T. Nagar on Wednesday afternoon in connection with an enquiry for the appeal filed by him last year. Mr Sripathi and state information commissioner Akbar Ali heard the case. Mr Sripathi asked Mr Elango to stand up and reply to his queries, said SPI secretary A. Jai Ganesh, who accompanied Mr Elango. Annoyed by the insistence of the commissioner, Mr Elango asked Mr Sripathi to produce the order or rule that the petitioner should not remain seated during enquiry. “He told the commission that no such practice was followed in the Central Information Commission,” he quoted Mr Elango as saying.
According to Mr Ganesh, Mr Sripathi refused to hear Mr Elango unless he stood up. “The commissioner asked the public information officer whether the information sought by the petitioner was provided or not. He dismissed the case immediately after the PIO replied in the affirmative,” he told DC. Protesting this, he said, Mr Elango insisted that he be heard and again asked the commissioner to produce the order that a petitioner should remain standing during the hearing. However, he said when Mr Sripathi asked them to leave, Mr Elango refused to and staged a sit-in.
Following his protest, Mr Sripathi informed the Teynampet police and lodged a formal complaint. The police picked up Mr Elango and booked him under various IPC sections. He was remanded in judicial custody after being produced before a magistrate court at Saidapet. When asked whether there are rules that a petitioner should not be seated during hearing, former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi told DC, “I don’t know if there is such a rule. My own belief is, it is wrong.
This is the unconventional belief that people must stand before them. Judges also make people stand up before them. It is unfortunate.” He said he personally would always ask the petitioner to remain seated while replying. “Most central commissioners ask petitioners to remain seated during the hearing,” he added.