The Right to Information (RTI) may be a vital tool for great governance. Transparency and accountability are for good governance. If there is no transparency, accountability cannot be fixed. There should be maximum disclosure and minimum confidentiality.
The Main thrust of RTI law is to alter the culture of secrecy and aloofness that has long plagued India’s monolithic and opaque bureaucracy. The RTI Act has promised to reverse this culture of secrecy and unaccountability by recognizing that the govt only holds information on behalf of the owners–Citizens. It requires public authorities to disclose all information about their activities proactively and maintain all information they keep in a manner that facilitates the people’s right to information. Indeed, by breaking down this culture of secrecy, the law also opens channels of communication between citizens and government. Currently, communication between the government and people is a method , where citizens are vulnerable to government manipulation of information which is usually wont to suit government interest by for instance , gaining the required mandate during an election. Without access to reliable information on government activities instead of propaganda it’s difficult for citizens to form , political informed choices in the ballot box. However, the RTI Act provides citizens with an important tool to tell themselves a few government’s record in office. In this way, it empowers ordinary people to form more informed electoral decisions, giving them a chance to participate more effectively in governance and policy formulation.
Right to Information or RTI means the liberty of individuals to possess access to government information. It implies that citizens and non-governmental organizations should enjoy a reasonably free access to all files and documents pertaining to the governmental operations, decisions, and performance. In other words, it means openness and transparency in the functioning of the government. Thus, it is antithetical to secrecy in public administration.
After the introduction of RTI Act, 2005 certain development has been marked in the society:
- it’s made administration more accountable to people
- it’s reduced the gap between administration and other people
- it’s made people conscious of administrative decision-making
- It facilitates better delivery of products and services to people by civil servants
- It facilitates intelligent and constructive criticism of administration
- It has increased people’s participation in administration
- It has reduced the abuse of authority by the public servants.
RTI Act is one among the strongest weapons which will be systematically employed by the citizens to see the activities of the govt either from time to time or continuously as they wish to. It is not only a powerful tool against government but also against judicial corruption. The Delhi High Court’s ruling that information about judges’ assets cannot be kept concealed and it must be disclosed to any citizen seeking the knowledge under the Right to Information Act is remarkable. The historic verdict further held that the office of the judge of India may be a public authority and it cannot enjoy special exemption from the RTI Act. Despite opposition from a neighborhood of judges, the supreme court went ahead with the ruling describing the transparency law as powerful beacon. This bold decision by the court will undoubtedly go a long way in uplifting the sagging image of the Indian judiciary. It was hard to fathom any rationale behind the specious views expressed by certain Supreme Court judges that the RTI Act should never be applicable to them as unveiling information regarding the private wealth of judges could undermine the independence of the judiciary.
Four years after it came into force, RTI has emerged not just as a tool for securing information, but also as a means to getting things done. A 30-year-old daily wager suffering from kidney stones Thanked Right to Information (RTI) Act as he was finally able to get himself operated at a government hospital after doing the rounds of the place for nearly a year. Haroon, who lives in a slum cluster in northeast Delhi, had been going to Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital for one year to get his stones removed, but in vain as doctors would put him off with one excuse or another. He was sent back from the hospital four times—once he had to return home from the operation theatre. However, he filed and RTI application with the help of an NGO Pardarshita, seeking the details of his case. While Haroon didn’t get a reply to his application, it was enough to fix responsibility. A few days later, when he went to the hospital for the check up, the doctor made sure his operation was done. Exactly four years after it came into force on October 12, 2005, Haroon is among thousands of people who have used the RTI Act for securing not just information but also getting things done. No wonder then that the realisation has finally started to seep in amongst Indians that RTI is not just a tool for securing information that would have otherwise been buried in the files of a government babu, but it is also a means to getting things done. For many, RTI has also become a weapon with which to fight a system that constantly fails to deliver. The act ensures a timely response to citizens’ requests for government information, promoting transparency and accountability. There are innumerable cases where the common man has used the RTI Act and benefited. People who could not get things such as ration cards, pension and passports even months after applying for them, got these within days of filing the RTI application But still a lot needs to be done. There have been a lot of success stories but it’s still a long journey. The process of appointment of information commissioners and how to deal with complaints against them needs to be made transparent and participatory. The law is still evolving and it will depend on people pressurising the government and how the judiciary responds to it.
Author: Aditya Singh,
Amity Law School, Noida/ 2nd year