From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : RTI Act
Mains level : Exemptions to the RTI
Veterans of the Indian Armed Forces have urged PM against exempting defense services from purview of RTI (Right to Information) Act, 2005.
Why in news?
- Last year, late CDS Rawat had urged the government making a pitch for defence services to be exempted from the RTI Act.
- He had stated that none of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) are under its purview and defence services, being even more sensitive, should be fully exempted too.
What is RTI?
- RTI is an act of the parliament which sets out the rules and procedures regarding citizens’ right to information.
- It replaced the former Freedom of Information Act, 2002.
- Under the provisions of RTI Act, any citizen of India may request information from a “public authority” (a body of Government or “instrumentality of State”) which is required to reply expeditiously or within 30.
- In case of the matter involving a petitioner’s life and liberty, the information has to be provided within 48 hours.
- The Act also requires every public authority to computerize their records for wide dissemination and to proactively publish certain categories of information so that the citizens need minimum recourse to request for information formally.
Constitutional status of RTI
- Since RTI, is implicit in the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, it is an implied FR.
- These are backed by the right to constitutional remedies that is, the right to approach the supreme court and high court under Article 32 and 226 respectively in case of infringement of any of FRs.
Benefits of RTI
- Greater accessibility of information: A person can seek information from any public authority in the form of copies, floppy disks, sample material etc under RTI.
- Efficient governance: RTI Act helps us in knowing the efficiency of the government’s functioning.
- Citizen’s participation: Information under RTI can be sought easily by requesting the public officer and assistant public officer in any public authority.
- Government obligation: Obtaining information from any public authority is obligatory for them.
- Maintenance of public record: Under RTI Act, it is the duty of public authorities to maintain records for easy access and to publish within 120 days the name of the particular officers who should give the information and in regard to the framing of the rules, regulations etc.
- Empowerment of Citizens: Every citizen has been empowered to be informed about anything that affects their life directly or indirectly.
Why do Veterans want RTI?
- The RTI has remained a powerful tool with the veterans and serving community to obtain information and documents concerning their service and pensioner issues.
- RTI Act has ensured maximum transparency in official establishments dealing with such cases.
- Even innocuous documents such as medical board proceedings concerning disabled soldiers and old service records of veterans are only made available through the RTI Act.
- Requesting that defence services are not be placed in Schedule 2 of the RTI Act, 2005, the lobby said that adequate protection is already available in Sections 8 and 9 of the Act.
- Armed forces can hold back information related to operational and security-related issues.
Necessity for RTI in armed forces
- Any such move will be a blow to transparency and will lead to an exponential increase in litigation and grievances.
- And any irregularities in defence procurements would also go under the carpet, besides massive discrepancies in promotions.
- Already they are so opaque and have faced so many strictures by the courts.
- Denying such a right of a powerful public-oriented tool to military personnel, veterans, military widows and their families would place them at a sharp disadvantage compared to citizens.
- This would also result in litigation blast with affected persons approaching judicial forums for minor issues.