GS Paper 2
Context: The Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, which was initially seen as a powerful tool for citizens to access government information, is facing concerns about its effectiveness and transparency
What is the RTI Act?
RTI Act (enacted in 2005) replaced the former Freedom of Information Act, 2002. Under the provisions of the RTI Act, any citizen of India may request information from a “public authority“ which is required to reply expeditiously or within thirty days.
Significance of RTI:
The Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2nd ARC) lauds the Right to Information (RTI) as the “master key of good governance.” This legislation marks a significant paradigm shift, transitioning from the veil of secrecy to the light of transparency.
- Often termed the dawn of a new era in democracy, RTI initiates the second democratic revolution, empowering citizens to access information crucial for an informed and accountable governance system.
Success of RTI
|Success||Details and Impact|
|Empowering Citizens||Over 50 lakh RTIs are filed annually, showcasing extensive use.|
|Public offices (90%) proactively share RTI-related information, promoting openness.|
|Access to Vital Information||RTI grants access to crucial information like competitive exam answer keys (IIT JEE, Civil Services), ensuring fairness.|
|Disclosure of property details of public officials helps prevent conflicts of interest.|
|Exposing Scams and Corruption||RTI played a pivotal role in uncovering major scams like the Commonwealth Games and 2G spectrum allocations.|
|Fosters accountability and corrective actions against wrongdoings.|
|Global Influence and Inspiration||The adoption of similar information access laws in Sri Lanka underscores India’s impactful legal framework.|
|Reflects India’s positive global influence and effective governance practices.|
|Transparency and Anti-Corruption Efforts||RTI promotes transparency in diverse sectors and empowers citizens in democratic processes.|
|Recognized by Transparency International for combating corruption through exposure and accountability.|
Areas of Concern with the RTI Act:
|Aspects of the RTI Act||Details and Impact|
|Amendments||The Digital Personal Data Protection Act, 2023, made significant amendments to the RTI Act, particularly regarding the disclosure of personal data.|
|This change has raised concerns about the impact of social audits and public officials’ accountability.|
|Union Government’s Control||The Right to Information (Amendment) Act, 2019, granted the Union Government unilateral power in deciding the tenure and salaries of information commissioners, affecting their independence.|
|Rules and Appointments||The implementation of the RTI Act depends on rules made by the Union and State Governments. This can lead to complications, as states have discretion in deciding payment methods for public authority fees.|
|Delayed appointments to information commissions have also undermined the RTI framework.|
|Online RTIs||While filing RTI applications online has made the process more accessible, some states lack online portals. The Union Government’s RTI portal has faced issues, including data loss and a more complex application process.|
|Low Satisfaction||Dissatisfaction with the RTI system is growing, as more citizens file first appeals, indicating their dissatisfaction with the information received from public officials.|
|Structural Problems||Many of the issues faced by the RTI Act stem from institutional and website-related problems, as well as narrowing avenues to conveniently file requests and appeals.|
|Limited Applicability||The RTI Act’s limitations regarding its applicability to political parties, the judiciary, and intelligence agencies have been subject to debate.|
|Moreover, the Act’s limited applicability to NGOs and private entities narrows its reach.|
|Non-compliance||Over 26% rejection rate of RTI applications on spurious grounds as per DoPT data. Appeals processes are delayed|
|Safety of Activists and Lack of Centralized Database||The safety of RTI activists remains a concern due to instances of violence and fatalities. Additionally, the absence of a centralized database hampers data access, impacting the Act’s intended transparency|
|Inconsistent Record Management||Poor record management by Public Information Officers (PIOs) leads to response delays and incomplete information|
|Grievance Redressed Backlog||Enforcing fines for non-compliance remains weak, with only a 1% imposition rate|
For the Impact of the DPDP Bill on the RTI Act: Click Here
While the RTI Act initially empowered citizens to seek government information, concerns have arisen about its diminishing effectiveness due to changes in the law, bureaucratic processes, and structural issues. These challenges threaten its role in ensuring transparency and accountability in government operations.
The Digital Personal Data Protection Bill must ensure that individuals’ personal data is collected and processed in a manner that respects their privacy rights under Article 21 of the Indian constitution. Comment.