Right to Information (RTI) : The Indian Constitution gives the citizens the right to freedom of expression, ie every citizen of the country has the right to express his free opinion on any subject and share it with others, but many independent thinkers have always believed that information And in the absence of transparency, freedom of expression has no importance. The right to information plays an important role in strengthening and democratizing large democracies like India.
Historical background of right to information
- At the global level, the right to information gained a new identity when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. Through this, everyone was empowered to seek and obtain information through media or any other means.
- According to Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the US, “Information is the currency of democracy and plays an important role in the growth and development of any vibrant civilized society.”
- With a view to strengthen Indian democracy and bring transparency in governance, the Indian Parliament enacted the Right to Information Act, 2005.
Right to Information Act, 2005
The Right to Information-RTI Act, 2005 is an Act of the Government of India, which has been enacted to provide the right to information to citizens.
Main provisions of the Act
- Under the provisions of this Act, any citizen of India can request for information from any government authority, arrangements have been made to provide this information within 30 days. If the information sought relates to life and personal liberty, there is a provision to make such information available within 48 hours.
- The Act also states that all public authorities will preserve their documents in a computer while preserving them.
- In case of dissatisfaction regarding the content of the information received, non-receipt of information within the stipulated time period, an appeal can be made from local to state and Central Information Commission.
- Through this Act, the President, Vice President, Prime Minister, Parliament and State Legislature as well as constitutional bodies like Supreme Court, High Court, Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and Election Commission and their respective posts also have the right to information. Has been brought under the purview of the Act.
- Under this Act, provision has been made to constitute a Chief Information Commissioner at the Central level and a Central Information Commission with a membership of 10 or less than 10 Information Commissioners. Based on this, a State Information Commission will be set up in the state as well.
- The Act applies to all other states except Jammu and Kashmir (here J&K Right to Information Act is in effect).
- This includes all constitutional bodies, institutions and bodies formed by the Acts of Parliament or the State Legislative Assembly.
- The obligation to disclose information adversely affecting the sovereignty, unity, integrity, strategic interests, etc. of the nation has been provided.
Objectives of RTI Act
- Bring transparency
- Fix accountability
- Empowering citizens
- Ban corruption
- Ensuring citizens’ participation in the process of democracy
Famous 2G Scam
This scam is the most prominent example of misuse of powers by officers in high positions. The scam caused a loss of Rs 1,76,645 crore to the Indian government. It is noteworthy that this big scam came to light when an RTI worker filed an RTI against it using the Act.
2010 Commonwealth Game
An RTI filed by a non-profit organization revealed that the Delhi government had withdrawn Rs 744 crore from the funds meant for the welfare of the Dalit community for the Commonwealth Games. Also, it was revealed from the RTI that the facilities on which the withdrawn money was used were all on paper only.
Recent Amendment in Information Act
Recently, the Central Government had amended the Right to Information Act, 2005, on which many critics and analysts believed that the move would endanger the basic spirit of the Right to Information Act.
Major amendments to the Act
- Under the amendment, a provision was made that the salary, allowances and other conditions of service of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners and State Chief Information Commissioners and State Information Commissioners would be decided by the Central Government.
- It is noteworthy that the term and service conditions of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners were provided in Section 13 of the RTI Act. The Act stated that the salaries, allowances and conditions of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners would be the same as the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners respectively. It also provided that the salary of the State Chief Information Commissioner and State Information Commissioners would be the same as the Election Commissioner and Chief Secretary respectively.
Criticism of amendment
The move of the central government was severely criticized by many RTIs and social workers. The workers said that with such amendments, the Central Government is trying to acquire the powers of determining the salaries, allowances and other conditions of service of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners and State Chief Information Commissioners and State Information Commissioners, the effect of which This reinforces the possibility that people in these positions are more interested in proving their loyalty to the government. Will not that work in the interests of ordinary citizens.
Public information portal of Rajasthan
- The Rajasthan government has recently launched the Jan Soochna Portal-JSP. The main objective of this portal is to make information related to government and government departments accessible to the general public.
- Experts say that this portal is an important achievement in advancing the right to information (RTI) – especially section (4) of the RTI Act – which is related to active disclosure or disclosure of information.
- It is necessary to have accountability with transparency and from this point of view JSP is extremely important and valuable, as it empowers the State Government to be accountable to all those who use the information available on the portal.
- Public Information Portal has been developed by the Information and Technology Department of Rajasthan.
- On this portal, 23-24 types of information of 13 departments of Rajasthan Government are available at one place.
- With the launch of this portal, Rajasthan has become the first state to provide information of multiple departments on a single platform.
Why is right to information important?
- The right to access to information empowers the poor and weak sections of society to seek and obtain information about public policies and actions, so that their welfare is possible.
- This Act brings all the steps of the government under scrutiny before the general public.
- This makes the government and government departments more accountable and brings transparency in their work.
- It improves adjudication by removing unnecessary privacy by public authority.
Challenges before RTI
lack of awareness
From a survey, it was found that only 15 percent of all the participants participating in it knew about the RTI Act. It was also revealed from the survey that most people either came to know about it from the media or got information from another person. This means that the work of its nodal agency on the awareness of RTI is very limited.
Poor quality of information provided
75 percent of the workers filing RTI are not fully satisfied with the information received. 91 and 96 percent of the petitioners from Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, respectively, have expressed dissatisfaction regarding the information received under the RTI. At the same time, many petitioners have also admitted to receiving unnecessary information.
Non timely receipt
The Act provides that under normal circumstances it is necessary to provide the information within 30 days, but the above survey revealed that due to mismanagement of the information, 50 percent of the petitioners do not receive the required information within this period. .
- The system of keeping and preserving records in the bureaucracy is very weak.
- There is a lack of adequate infrastructure and staff to run the information commissions.
- Complementary laws of the Right to Information Act, such as the Whistle Blower Protection Act, have not been implemented efficiently.
Right to information v / s right to privacy
- Theoretically, the right to information and the right to privacy are complementary to each other as well as opposed to each other.
- While the RTI increases the scope of access to information, the right to privacy emphasizes the confidentiality of information.
The RTI Act, 2005 was brought to achieve objectives like social justice, transparency and accountability, but it cannot be denied that it has failed to achieve its objective due to the failure of the RTI mechanism. It is necessary that the government and civic institutions should work together to strengthen the RTI Act, which will increase the participation of the people in the administration along with control over corruption.
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