The enactment of the Right to Information Act, 2005 is a landmark in the history of administration in India. The new legislation has brought sensitivity, responsibility and accountability to the development process. RTI Act is path-breaking in controlling corruption and delays in the implementation of government-sponsored programmes and in the functioning of public authorities. The act provides impetus for development process and remedy to combat corruption in public authorities. Though the RTI Act is contradictory to Official Secrecy Act, 1923 and not free from pitfalls, it is an important instrument for strengthening democracy, accelerating economic development of the country in general and rural areas in particular.
Various sections of society, particularly media personnel, social activities and positive thinking people have always expressed that right to seek information should be a fundamental right, just as we have right of speech and expression. On the international plane, the citizen’s right to information is described as freedom of information, access of information or right to information. Right to information is implicit in the constitution of India, which establishes a representative democracy with inalienable rights for the citizens of the country, which have been reinforced time and again by judiciary. Right to information in India has significantly sought to expand democratic space and empower the citizens to exercise control on the corrupt practices under the power of the state. Various studies reveal that, many people are not aware of the detail features, scope and procedures in the working of the different provisions of Right to Information 3 Act which is a major setback to the basic objective of peop1e’s empowerment. This section provides the salient features of the RTI Act, about the application procedure, time, rejection grounds and other aspects.
RTI Act came into force on October 12, 2005 (120th day of its enactment on June 19, 2005). Some provisions have come into force with immediate effect viz. obligations of public authorities, designation of Public Information Officers and Assistant Public Information Officers, constitution of Central Information Commission, constitution of State Information Commission, non-applicability of the act to Intelligence and Security Organizations and power to make rules to carry out the provisions of the act. Meaning of Information: Information means any material in any form including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force but does not include file noting. Information means only that information which is recorded in a material form and not oral. Opinions are information if they are reduced into writing. Therefore it is implied that the Act does not concern itself with any oral communications. Notwithstanding their right to information, the citizens are not entitled to all information available with the public authorities. The citizens entitlement to information is limited to the extent of information recorded and published and to the extent of information recorded but unpublished and if non-publication is due to any secrecy provisions, the information 4 officer is given the powers to decide whether the revealing of information will serve a larger public interest, than that served by retaining the information as secret.
There are many objectives of RTI Act. The important objectives of the Act are outlined below.
To create awareness: The Right to Information Act will create a sense of awareness among the common people so that they will be able to participate in the formation of government policies and programmes. The act is expected to create a voice producing mechanism and conscious citizens which are pre-requisites of a civilized society.
To invite suggestions: The people will be able to examine the faults of the government policies and implementing machineries. Observing the faults, they will be able to deliver their suggestions which will help the government in rectifying its faults. The act has emphasized on the citizen’s sovereignty and has upgraded the psychology of the people.
To change the psychology of bureaucracy: The act will help to form a sensitive bureaucracy for the congenial management and effective implementation of the government policies and 5 programmes as suitable to the common people. Further, the Act is expected to change the psychology and sentiment of the bureaucracy so that they will be able to upgrade their mind in consonance with the benefit of the people.
To reduce official secrecy: The Act will be able to tear the traditional culture of official secrecy of the bureaucracy and will make open for the people.
To increase the dignity of the country: Right to information Act will bring about transparency in the functioning of the government and reduce the corruption levels. It will increase the dignity of the country in the international sphere.
To strengthen the root of the Indian Federation: As per the provision of the federation, if the law of any state contravenes with the law of the central government, then the law of the central government is declared as more powerful and the law of the state becomes ineffective.
To publicise the act: For this act, mass media will be more powerful in publishing more viable news relating to the important decisions of the Government. Realizing the scope, area of operation and felt needs of the people, the Act can be amended.
To encourage value based politics: The act will help to strengthen the quality of democracy and value based politics in the country. Act will also help to solve many chronic problems associated with the socioeconomic development of the country.
It can be said that the right to know is the most fundamental of all those rights, which are critical for upholding human dignity. Usefulness of RTI Act can be stated as under:
Helps in overall Administrative Improvement: Questions under RTI Act were asked about the socio-economic development of Panchayats under various schemes. The answers revealed a lot of misutilisation of money. This made the people to improve the administrative system to get the full advantage of Government schemes for rural development. This needs to be replicated to other Panchayats. The purpose of RTI should be to improve administrative system which stands in the way of Development.
Remedial Measure to contain Corruption: Corruption is anti-development. RTI can help in identifying the methodology and practice of corruption, e. g. Bombay University through RTI was found wanting in affiliating an institute to award MBA degrees, etc. without fulfilling necessary requirements.
Procedural Reforms: Right to Information Act can help in finding out as to what is the wrong with the procedures, e. g. in Haryana, Haryana Urban Development Authority has become a den of corrupt practices due to wrong procedures. Even to get a map of house cleared may take months. Nothing can be done without money. Thus RTI Act is an important step in reforming the procedures which to corrupt practices.
Citizen-Friendly Administration: Complaints under RTI Act revealed in Maharashtra that the posting and transfers are done through letters written by politicians to fleece the people through them. The action against police officers is being taken and this would slowly make the police administration answerable to the people.
RTI Act can Expose Top Leadership: Information received through RTI Act, 2005 in Union and State Commissions reveal that personnel at top level are responsible for many ills in administration. The principle of seniority in posting is causing many problems. Only competent people practicing some ethical standards and who have faith in discharging their duties honestly must be put on jobs at higher levels. They can set the tone of administration under their control.
Delays in Administration: Many of the complaints filed under RTI Act related to delays especially in settling service conditions, etc. some are intentional delays to promote corruption while otherwise there are problems in procedural practice. Based upon the information generated, the Government should change the procedures which stand in the way of responsive administration, e. g. privatizing ticket reservation in railways can remove delays and intentional corruption.
Keep the Administration System Active: Right to Information Act, 2005 is expected to keep the civil services active through feed-back of the people through information sought by them. Information asked by the people can also help the civil servants in ascertaining the satisfaction of the people. Based upon these questions asked in the form of information can help in generating administrative reforms and in keeping the administrative system active.
RTI Act can provide the means to improve: RTI Act will generate administrative reform as transfers made with huge amounts of money result in more corruption. Hence RTI Act can help in solving the problems of corruption for transfer and fleecing the ordinary people. It can be successful provided we attune the civil service and political elite to ensure that the Government can function efficiently. Most of the problems can be solved if we remove the administrative bottlenecks. This would also reduce work of officers engaged in the implementation of RTI Act.
A large number of people in the developing countries including India continue to live in extreme poverty. They are still deprived of adequate food, clean water, and other basic necessities of life despite the massive administrative structure created to spearhead national developmental programmes. The last ten years have seen an increasing concentration of income, resources and wealth amongst people, corporations and countries. This disparity has grown from thirty percent in 1960 to seventy-four percent in 2005. The latest Human Development reports show that twenty percent of the people control eighty-six percent of the world Gross National Product, eighty-two percent of the export market and sixty-eight percent of the foreign direct investment. As against this, the bottom twenty percent of the people are compelled to live with income of only $1 a day and get a share of one percent of the world Gross Domestic Product, one percent of world export market and four percent of foreign direct investment. Social justice demands that the greatest attention should be paid to the under privileged so that they are able to extricate themselves from the poverty equilibrium in which they are trapped. The question arises as to how the developing countries can translate their aims and objectives enshrined in their constitution to change the lives of teeming millions suffering from abject poverty, disease, squalor, hunger, unemployment, and other socioeconomic ailments. This is possible only if these countries are administered and managed efficiently. It requires an overhaul of the old administrative structure creating a new administrative set up required for socio-economic development. Organizations are not mere structures but action systems. Action system is a structured device through which resources are mobilised and transformed by the use of certain skills and technology to produce pre-designed output. Increased productivity in the work of the 12 developing countries depends to a great extent on the executive branch.
The Executive Branch can pursue its objectives provided the prevailing administrative system is conducive to the socio-economic system. The design of an administrative system is a basic aid to the achievement of its primary objectives; if the design is unsound, the achievement of objectives is likely to fall short of expectations. Administration can provide the means whereby the most effective use can be made of the knowledge and skills of the personnel engaged in different activities. The benefits of modern science and technology can reach the people only if such services are properly planned and effectively implemented. An increase in the scientific nature of determination is an important factor in raising its efficiency. From the grassroots struggle in Rajasthan in the early 90’s there has been the enactment of Right to Information Act, 2005 – a historical path-breaking legislation. The campaign for RTI Act was started by grass-roots movements. The idea was to empower people with legislation and an administrative apparatus that would keep a check on sarkar.
Our RTI Act is considered to be one of the best in the world, but it will be effective only if the independence of RTI commissions is maintained. Abraham Lincoln, the former President of the U. S. A. , defined democracy that „it is of the people, by the people, for the people. Democracy in India has been, most probably, up to the level of “by the people”. By introducing the RTI Act, the range of democracy extended up to “of the people”. Introduction of the RTI Act in India supports the opinion of Sir Crips, a renowned philosopher, that democracy is a type of Government in which every citizen has the equal right and freedom to express its opinion and deliver its thought in a fearless manner. RTI Act in our Country is at an infant stage. The Act seems to be a unique weapon to check corruption. We should wait for some time to reap the desired result.
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