RTI activist Elango was arrested on Wednesday for taking a seat during a hearing before a two member bench of chief information commissioner K S Sripathi and commissioner S F Akbar.
Members of Aam Aadmi Party and Lok Satta Party also participated in the protest against the arrest of Elango. The police detained the protesters at a marriage hall.
“RTI applicants are not politicians to prostrate in front of party leaders and commission. The government should disband TNSIC and appoint a humane person as the chief of the RTI body,” said an RTI activist.
SPI general secretary Senthil Arumugam said demonstrations were held in several places in the state. “TNSIC has been harassing applicants and they are killing the RTI Act. The commission has even neglected the basic right of activists to sit during a hearing.”
He said the government should dismiss the commission. “We will intensify the protests across the state if the present commission continues to harass applicants.”
Journalist T N Gopalan said the action of the TNSIC was highly condemnable. “Tamil Nadu has not seen such an outrage in the recent past. The only job of the TNSIC is to reject RTI applications.”
M Sambath, an RTI activist from Ambattur, said he had also been denied a seat during a hearing in the TNSIC. “The commission allows government officials to sit during the hearings, but they insist RTI applicants to stand till the proceedings ends.”
Activists allege the commission goes easy on public information officers (PIOs) who delay and deny information.
The commission can impose a penalty of up to Rs 25,000 on a PIO for failing to furnish information within 30 days and for deliberately providing incorrect, incomplete and misleading information.
V Gopalakrishnan, another RTI activist, said: “I am scared to go for the first appeal proceedings in TNSIC as they may lodge cases against us. The government should appoint an honest officer to protect the RTI Act.”
David Manohar, a member of the Aam Aadmi Party, said TNSIC was trying to enforce slavery on RTI activists and common people. “Government officers are here to serve people. However, unfortunately, TNSIC has been harassing the RTI applicants.”
Meanwhile, former central chief information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi launched an online petition to urge the National Human Rights Commission to take cognizance of the incident and to issue directions to all judicial and quasi-judicial bodies in the country to offer a chair.
RTI activists in the state have been conducting a series of protests since 2010 after K S Sripathi was appointed as the state chief information commissioner.
They campaigned against his appointment, saying Sripathi, as vigilance commissioner, had pushed for exempting the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) and the Tamil Nadu Vigilance Commission from the purview of the RTI Act.
When he was the chief secretary, Sripathi had challenged the order of the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission, which had directed the government to disclose details as to whether IAS and IPS officers had disclosed their assets.
Sripathi was also under the scanner for allegedly availing a Tamil Nadu Housing Board (TNHB) flat at Nerkundram.