RTI is an effective means to bring in transparency and accountability in administration. Only if it’s institutions are preserved. Comment. (15 Marks)

Mentors Comments:

The path-breaking Right to Information Act which has come into effect in 2005 has been heralded as the most significant reform in public administration in India in the last 72 years.

Its revolutionary effect is visible from the fact that:

  • Every year, an estimated 5-8 million RTI queries are filed 
  • Around 45 RTI activists have been killed so far, not counting the many attacked.
  • It played a big role in exposing the Adarsh scam, irregularity in MGNREGA and other schemes.

How RTI brings in transparency and accountability in administration

  • Empowerment of people: RTI Act has lent voice to the aspirations of ordinary citizens in issues of governance. It gave the common people a defining power to shape the government schemes and policies. It empowered the people to question, audit, review, examine, and assess government acts.
  • Checking corruption: RTI is the most effective instrument to check corruption where the citizen has the right to take the initiative to seek information from the state and thereby promotes openness, transparency and accountability in administration by making the government more open to public scrutiny. 
  • Awareness: RTI Act empowered the people to seek definite and direct answer from the officials of their works or lack of it. RTI applications have annually increased by 8 to 10 times. Around 13.70 lakh RTI applications were received in 2018-19 by the registered Central Public Authorities (PAs) which shows how people have become aware of this powerful act.
  • Increasing ambit of RTI: SC judgement in 2019 opened office of CJI to RTI. An effort is underway to bring political parties under RTI also but it is vehemently opposed by the political parties.
  • Suo moto disclosure of information has become a trend in many ministries and government offices.

How threats on CIC as an institution is weakening RTI:

  • RTI Amendment Bill 2019: which seeks to amend Sections 13, 16, and 27 of the RTI Act. The amendment threatens RTI through provisions such as:
    • CIC’s fixed term of 5 years has been changed to “term as may be prescribed by the Central Government”
  • The salaries, allowances and other terms of service of the Chief Information Commissioner and the Information Commissioners “shall be such as may be prescribed by the Central Government” which were earlier equivalent to Chief Election Commissioner.
  • The proposed amendment allows the Central government to control through rules, the terms and conditions of appointment of Commissioners in the States which is an assault on federalism.

Other institutional issues with RTI

  • High pendency: The Information Commissions were envisioned as the watchdogs in the implementation of the RTI act. 15 years later, the commissions seem to be going the way of the Judiciary in terms of pendency. CIC currently has more than 30,000 pending cases.
  • Delay in appointments of Information Commissioners and resultant vacancies: Despite the SC direction, four vacancies continue to remain unfilled in the CIC since January 1, 2019, in addition to thousands of vacancy in State Information offices.
  • Non-transparency in appointment procedure of CIC and other Information Commissioners. 

The Amendments under the 2019 bill will lead to the dismantling RTI as they empower the Central government to unilaterally decide tenure, salary, allowances and other terms of service of Information Commissioners. The Commission which is vested by law with status, independence and authority, will now function as a department of the Central government.

Steps that can be taken to preserve the integrity of institutions under RTI are:

  • Revoking the unwanted amendments proposed in RTI Amendment Bill 2019.
  • Transparency in the process and quick appointment of Information Commissioners.
  • Reducing the pendency in RTI disposal.
  • Awareness Generation through Mass media campaign; organisation of workshops, Publication of Guide books etc.
  • Simplification of processes for filing of RTI Requests and Appeals to central Government Authorities 
  • Setting up of an institutional mechanism for collaborative working with CSOs and Media and included consultation meetings of the National RTI Committee, RTI Fellowships, etc.

Independent structures set up to regulate and monitor the government are vital to a democratic state committed to deliver justice and constitutional guarantees. In this context, preserving the integrity of institutions is a must for an effective functioning of RTI. 

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Theertha Vijayan
Theertha Vijayan
2 years ago

Pls check

Deepanshu Gulyani
Deepanshu Gulyani
2 years ago

MOJO9a02U00D28381180

New Doc 2019-12-29 12.06.22_6.jpg
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Ayush M
Ayush M
2 years ago

MOJO9c01S00A12020949

Dipanshu Sharma
Dipanshu Sharma
2 years ago
Dipanshu Sharma
Dipanshu Sharma
2 years ago

Not reviewed