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MP: ‘RTI Activist Shot Dead in Vidisha had Filed 130 RTI Applications, Mainly Concerning PWD’

Fact-finding report and family of Ranjeet Soni allege he was killed for exposing corruption, seek deeper probe and placing of all his RTI applications in public domain.
MP: ‘RTI Activist Shot Dead in Vidisha had Filed 130 RTI Applications, Mainly Concerning PWD’

RTI activist Ranjeet Soni was shot dead in Madhya Pradesh. Image Courtesy: NDTV

New Delhi: Ranjeet Soni, 46, an RTI activist, was shot dead in daylight at around 5 p.m on June 2, 2022. He was shot in the back of the head at point-blank range within the premises of the office of the Public Works Department (PWD), Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh (MP) just outside the main entrance to the office.

On June 19, 2022, a fact-finding team consisting of Anjali Bhardwaj, Rolly Shivhare, Ajay Dubey, Amrita Johri and Santosh Malviya visited Vidisha to gather information about the circumstances surrounding the death of Soni and his work on exposing corruption through the use of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

The team met with the wife and children of Soni at their residence in Vidisha. It also spoke to a lawyer who had been helping Soni with the legal follow-up of his cases and a journalist associated with a local newspaper who had been reporting on the case.  

In its fact-finding report, the team found that Soni had been extensively using the RTI Act to access government information. Upon receiving documents showing misuse of public funds or corruption, he was filing complaints to various authorities including the Lokayukta, PWD and the Chief Minister’s Office, according to a press statement issued by the team.

His wife, Gayatri, told the team that Soni used to work as a contractor and often undertook government works in collaboration with other contractors, including those being investigated for his murder, namely, Jaswant Raghuvanshi and S. Kumar Choube. She also mentioned that he stopped working with them as a contractor on government works, due to some falling out between them a few years ago.

“It is clear that Ranjeet Soni had been extensively using the RTI Act to access information from the government. As per local journalists, he had filed more than 130 RTI applications and complaints, many of which were filed to the PWD.... A perusal of the RTI applications filed by him show that in several cases he was seeking information which in any case should have been proactively disclosed by the concerned public authority as required under Section 4 of the RTI Act,” says the report.

According to his lawyer, Soni had been threatened multiple times to withdraw the RTI applications by contractors against whom he had filed complaints and had also previously been attacked in the PWD’s office. He had filed complaints about these incidents to the Police seeking appropriate action as well.

The report recommends making public all the RTI applications filed by Ranjeet Soni and their replies, a thorough probe into the various complaints he filed, and an investigation into the nexus between the contractors and officials, as also the state government must adopt a policy/law to provide protection to whistleblowers and people exposing corruption along the lines of the provisions of the Whistle Blowers Protection Act which was passed by Parliament in 2014 but has not been operationalised till date as the Central government has not notified the requisite rules.

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