RIGHT TO INFORMATION ACT, 2005 AND ITS IMPACT IN DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE      

INTRODUCTION

Right to Information act, 2005 was a great blow to the vicious cycle of corruption that was slowly hollowing the development process of India. Right to Information passed the powers into the hands of public and set the fear in the minds of governmental machinery.

Right to Information bill, 2005 was passed by the United Province Alliance (UPA) Government and duly signed by President APJ Abdul Kalam on 15 July, 2005 and came into effect into force from 12 October, 2005. The act replaced the prior Freedom of Information Act, 2002, covering its loopholes and bringing in new amendments. The act empowered the Indian citizens in any corner of the country to access any information regarding any governmental procedure or even on controversial topic like governmental spending. Under Section 3 of the Right to Information act, 2005 any Indian Citizen seek for information. The act set out the rules and procedures through which Indian citizens can access governmental information from any public authority, which has to be handed within thirty days of filing such an appeal. In cases of urgency, involving the question of life or death of the petitioner, the information has to be provided within 48 hours of filing of such an appeal. The act even obliged the governmental departments to put some accessible and superfluous information on digital platforms, so that it may reduce the workload on such public authority.

Although many acts like Official Secrets Act, 1923 forestalled the governmental agencies from providing any unnecessary information to the general public but the Right to Information act, 2005 has overridden the provisions of these acts and acted as an implied right for the citizens. Though the Right to Information, 2005 is not a fundamental right but still it acts as a protector and facilitator for the smooth functioning of many other fundamental rights like Article 19(1) (a) Freedom of Expression and Speech and Article 21 Right to Life and Personal Liberty. Even though RTI act has proved purposeful but many of its provisions were impeded by the Whistle Blowers Prevention Act, 2011. The act was amended in 2019 and was passed as Right to Information Act 2019 on 25 July, 2005. The amendments bought major changes in the terms of service of the CIC (Central Information Commissioner) and information commissioners heading Central departments and State departments respectively.

Even though the RTI act covers a very wide range of governmental offices under its jurisdiction still many important offices of National security like Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, National Security Guards, Assam Rifles, Border Roads Organization etc. are exempted from its purview.

PROCEDURE TO FILE AN RTI

Any person who wants to seek any information from any Governmental Ministry can go by the following steps:

  • Visit https://rtionline.gov.in. , the official RTI Portal.
  • Click on the submit request option. The “Guidelines for use of RTI ONLINE PORTAL’ will appear against the user.
  • After going through the given guidelines, the petitioner should click the checkbox and then submit.
  • In the next step, the petitioner should chose the specified ministry, department and apex body regarding whose jurisdiction the RTI is being filed.
  • If the applicant has provided his/ her phone number with the appeal s/he may even receive a message. The columns with * mark are compulsory and should not be left vacant.
  • If the applicant belongs to the BPL category, s/ he may choose the same and provide the BPL certificate and they can be exempted from paying the appeal fees.

IMPACT ON GOVERNANCE

Improvement in accountability and performance of the Government: as the general public is now empowered with the ability to access any details regarding the development and working of any governmental department, this has made the public offices more accountable than before and made them more responsible towards the public.

Promotion of partnership between citizens and government in decision making:  now with the power of information, the public can fully participate in the decision making procedure with the government. This has acted as a major key player in the development process in specific area. This is also helps people not in only becoming the beneficiary but also the agent of change.

Reduction of corruption in Government departments: one the most important impact of the Right to Information Act, 2005 is the reduction of corruption. There has been a significant reduction in levels of corruption in these government department as their have working has been made more transparent and accountable due to the legislation. This has further reduced the sense of distrust between the public and officials, which in turn helps the democracy grow in a healthy manner.

DEMERITS

Low public awareness: due to lack of awareness and knowledge, a large population of the India citizen remain unaware of a legislation like Right to Information and settle with the despairs. Even the segment who have knowledge about the legislation, don’t want to participate and even are not affected much corruption.

Huge backlog and delay in disposal of cases: the recent years after the implementation of the legislation, it was thought to be one of the most revolutionary act as the act compelled the officer to provide the requested information within a stipulated time frame failing to which s/he could be punished. But slowly the legislation lost its effectiveness like any other legislation due to reasons like insufficient number of information commissioner, poor quality of information,  ineffective record management system etc.

Dilution of the law: with the 2019 amendment, the power in the hands of the Centre has increased with regard to the appointment and terms of service of the CIC and directly interferes with their autonomy.

CONCLUSION

With the RTI act in place, a dream of a corruption free India was realized. The right to seek was taken away from the status of privilege to a necessity. It invoked a spirit of democracy in the citizens again. But with the passing time, it has been become a legislation on the pages only. Although the Right to Information act, 2005 has a played a large part of its role in curbing corruption but still it has a bigger part to play in curbing the blooming corruption again. It’s high time to realize the need for RTI once again.

REFERENCES

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_to_Information_Act,_2005#Amendment
  2. https://www.indiatoday.in/information/story/how-to-file-rti-online-1801811-2021-05-12
  3. https://cic.gov.in/sites/default/files/Neeraj%20assignment-converted.pdf
  4. https://www.drishtiias.com/daily-updates/daily-news-editorials/challenges-related-to-rti-act

Aishwarya Says:

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