Right to Information – RTI – Summary
Through various judgements, it was held by the Supreme Court that people cannot speak unless the they know. Hence, the Right to Information (RTI) is a fundamental right, embedded in Article 19(1) of the Indian Constitution which specifies that every citizen has freedom of speech and expression.
RTI Background Timeline
- In 1994, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghatan (MKSS) started a grassroots campaign for Right to Information – demanding information concerning development works in rural Rajasthan. This movement grew and the campaign resulted in the government of Rajasthan enacting a law on Right to Information in 2000.
- In 1996, NCPRI and other groups, with support from Press Council of India, send draft RTI bill to the Union government
- In 1997, Government refers the draft bill to a committee headed by H.D. Shourie & The Shourie Committee submits its report. Tamil-Nadu became the first state in India to have passed a law on Right to Information.
- 2001 – Parliamentary committee gives its recommendations
- 2002 – Supreme Court gives ultimatum to the government regarding the right to information & Freedom of Information Act passed in Parliament
- 2003 – The Act gets presidential assent, but is not notified.
- 2004 – The RTI Bill is introduced in Parliament and referred to a parliamentary committee; this bill covered only the central government
- 2005 The RTI Bill is passed in Parliament; comes into force from October.
RTI in Rajasthan
Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) was constituted on 1-5-1990 in the village Sohan Garh in Deogarh Tehsil of Rajsamand District. Its objective was to use various modes of struggle to change the lives of the rural poor. Its struggle started for minimum wage to the rural poor for construction work undertaken by Village Panchayat, which turned into demand for details of Panchayat level expenditure. Within four years, it grew into a movement and a campaign for a comprehensive legislation at both the State and Central levels. The Rajasthan Right to Information law was finally passed in May 2000, but it came into force on 26 January 2001 after the rules were framed.
Need for RTI
The Right to Information was seen as a powerful tool for citizen empowerment. It showed an early promise by exposing wrongdoings at high places, such as in the organisation of the Commonwealth Games, and the allocation of 2G spectrum and coal blocks. It is required to:
- To empower the citizens.
- To promote transparency and accountability in the working of the Government.
- To check corruption.
- To make our democracy work for the people in real sense.
Achievements of RTI:
- The answer keys of civil service examination and IIT-JEE are now available on the websites of the Union Public Service Commission and IIT-JEE respectively, helping students to find out their scores even before the official announcement.
- Assets and wealth declaration of all public servants — PM and his entire council of ministers, civil servants — are now in the public domain.
Criticism of RTI
The RTI Assessment and Analysis Group (RAAG) report found: 4-5 million applications are filed under the Act every year. This has resulted in additional burden on the existing work force and further decreased work delivery of public services.
Few additional criticism of RTI are as under:
- Lack of Awareness: As per a survey, Only 36 per cent in rural and 38 per cent urban areas have heard of the RTI Act. Further, women in sufficient numbers are not taking advantage of the provisions of the RTI Act
- Poor Record-keeping: Poor record-keeping practices within the bureaucracy results in missing files, which is violation of section 4 of RTI Act.
- Lack of Infrastructure & Training: There is lack of infrastructure and training of staff for running Information Commissions. It is estimated that 45% of public information officers did not receive any training
- Dilution of supplementary laws such as the one for whistleblower protection.
- Lack of Proactive declaration of information by the government as stipulated in RTI law increase applications.
- Need to put all RTI replies on government websites to curb unnecessary applications.
- Increasing frivolous RTI applications. (Public authorities have also complained some applicants of using RTI for blackmail).
Right to Information Acts:
- Central Information Commission (CIC)
- State (Rajasthan) Information Commission – RIC