The Lok Sabha has passed the Right to Information Amendment Bill 2019. The bill introduces changes in the terms and conditions of appointment of the chief information commissioner (CIC) at the Centre and the information commissioners in states. The RTI amendment bill has three provisions that have been challenged by the Opposition members in Parliament and by activists working in the field.
What is the significance of RTI? Discuss the issues related with it.
The Right to Information (RTI) Act was passed in 2005 with the objective to establish an infrastructure for citizens to access information held by Public Authorities. This in turn led to increased transparency and accountability at the
Significance of RTI
- Informed Citizenry: Democracy requires an informed citizenry and transparency of information for its functioning. RTI enabled healthy democracy and also contained corruption and held governments accountable to the people.
- Empowered People’s Voice: RTI has become a weapon in the hands of common citizens to fight for their rights. It has given ordinary citizens the confidence and the right to ask questions from government authorities.
- Increased Responsiveness: Greater access of the citizen to information, led to increased responsiveness of government to community needs.
- Awareness of Rights: RTI has led to awareness of rights and responsibilities as citizens among people. This led to increased accountability of officials through RTI and litigation.
- Discharge of Duties: Information through RTI has led to legitimate discharge of their duties by officers. It raised the standards of public services.
- Led to Culture of Obligation: RTI has developed obligation at village, district, state or national level to disclose information to the people.
- Empowered Poor Communities: RTI empowered poor communities to raise their voices on the basis of information and demand their rights from the government. This ensured that the government remained answerable to the poor.
- Anti-corruption Tool: In the past 14 years, it has been instrumental in uncovering a list of major scams. Scams like Adarsh Society Scam, 2G scam, Commonwealth Games Scam, Indian Red Cross Society Scam are some noticeable achievements under RTI.
- Strengthened Democracy: Every citizen has the right to claim information from public authorities under the act. This strengthened democracy through active participation of the public.
Issues in RTI
- Poor Information Storage Infrastructure: Information infrastructure in the country is poor mainly due to manual storing facilities, poorly trained PIOs etc.
- Increasing Pendency of Cases: Better vigilance has led to increasing number of appeals. This has in-turn resulted in an increase in pendency as well as increase in waiting time for hearing appeals.
- Definition of Information: Supreme Court stated that ‘information’ for the purpose of this Act would mean information held by the PIO or under his control. However,
if the information is not held by the PIO, the public authority is not under obligation to provide that information.
- Low Awareness Level: Awareness about RTI is still very low. Awareness level is low, especially among the disadvantaged communities such as women, rural population, OBC/SC/ST population.
- Constraints Faced in Filing Applications: Under Section 26 of the RTI Act, the appropriate Government is expected to publish and distribute user guides (within 18 months of enactment of the Act) for information seekers. However Nodal Departments have not published these guides in many states.
Since the implementation of the RTI Act, it has established itself as an important tool in handling corruption and inefficiency in the Government. Although there have been instances of misuse of the Act, it has served its purpose well.