- Prelims: RTI Act, CIC, Governance etc
- Mains GS Paper I and II: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies, Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability etc
- The Right to Information (RTI) Act was passed by Parliament in 2005, aiming to give people access to the records of the Central and State
INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE
The Right to Information (RTI) Act:
Reasons for Adoption of Information Act
- Corruption and scandals
- International pressure and activism
- Modernization and the information society
Why is RTI an empowering legislation for people?
- Obligation on the government to respond to them in a time-bound manner
- To get them information to hold the government accountable.
- Balance of power in favor of those governed.
Use of RTI by people:
- Tax money: what is happening with taxpayers’ money
- It has enabled people to expose big-ticket scams such as the Adarsh, Commonwealth Games and Vyapam scams.
- Human rights: People have been able to expose human rights violations
- Democracy: Strengthening participatory democracy
- Can empower the poor and the weaker sections of society
- Accountability: Making the government more accountable
- Improves decision making by public authority
- Lack of awareness of this law and lack of widespread adoption.
- Some States with an RTI application within 150 words: Condensing the question, especially for those who might not have the benefit of a formal education.
- Public information officers: use words like this division does not have the information.
- Under RTI Act: liability is on the officer to find out who is holding the information and transfer the RTI application.
- Large number of denials where people are just told that this information cannot be provided to you, which is an illegal denial.
- Within the government: asking for information is not encouraged
- maintaining datasets and information: putting information in the public domain has become a big problem.
- Example: During COVID-19, when the government was asked how many people lost their lives due to lack of oxygen, about the number of migrant workers, on all of that the government said, we don’t have any data.
- Information commissioners do not have adequate authorities to enforce the RTI Act.
- In case of award of compensation to activists by public authority as ordered by commision, compliance cannot be secured.
- Poor record-keeping practices
- Lack of adequate infrastructure and staff for running information commissions
- Dilution of supplementary laws like the whistleblowers protection Act.
- Attempts of Amendments by government:
- File notings will not be part of the right to information
- Political parties will be left out of the ambit of the RTI Act.
How to file an RTI?
- No set format: There is no set format in which an RTI application has to be filed.
- The quality of information one receives depends on how the questions are drafted and framed.
- Despite threats, attacks and murders of RTI users: people are still using the law extensively, which testifies to the fact that it’s something that they find very powerful.
- The Data Protection Bill: It will set up a system of amending the RTI law in a manner that all personal information will be exempted.
- There is granular information that is put up saying this is the name of the person, [these are] the rations that they are being given, their address, so as to enable a social audit in order to put pressure on the government and hold them accountable.
- The Right to Information Act: It was made to achieve social justice, transparency and to make government accountable but this act has not achieved its full objectives due to some impediments created due to systematic failures.
QUESTION FOR PRACTICE
Q. What do you understand about the term ‘good governance’? How far have recent initiatives in terms of e-Governance steps taken by the State have helped the beneficiaries? Discuss with suitable examples.(UPSC 2022) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)