KNC501/KNC601 Constitution of India, Law and Engineering
Chapter 15: Regulation to Information
Democracy requires an informed citizenry and transparency of information which are vital to its functioning and also to contain corruption and to hold governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed, says the preamble of the Indian Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.
Information as a term has been derived from the Latin words “formation” and “forma” which means giving shape to something and forming a pattern respectively.
Information is needed by human beings to realize their full social, political and economic potential. It is the key which helps make decisions. It is also a public resource collected and stored by government in trust for people
The Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI) is a Central Legislation to provide for setting out the particular regime of right to information for citizens.
The right to Information Bill, 2005 was passed by the Lok Sabha on May 11, 2005 and by the Rajya Sabha on May 12, 2005 and received the assent of the President of India on June 15, 2005 and came to force on October 12, 2005.It has replaced the Freedom of Information Act, 2002.
This act is applicable throughout India.
This law is very comprehensive and covers almost all matters of governance and has the widest possible reach, being applicable to Government at all levels- Union, State and Local.
The Right to Information Act is in accord with Article 19 of the Constitution of India, which enables Indians to exercise their fundamental Right of Speech, Expression and as often interpreted by the Supreme Court the inalienable Right to receive and impart Information. Currently, the RTI Act in India is passing through a decisive phase, much more needs to be done to facilitate its growth and development.
Objectives of RTI
Good governance has four elements- transparency, accountability, predictability and participation and RTI helps in achieving the same.
Right to Information is just like oxygen for democracy. It stands for transparency.
Information would lead to openness, accountability and integrity. Besides, apart from ensuring greater transparency it also acts as a deterrent against the arbitrary exercise of public powers. A culture of individual action, political consciousness and public spirit is the basis for the success of democracy.
Open Government is the new democratic culture of an open society towards which every liberal democracy is moving, and our country should be no exception. In a country like India which is committed to socialistic pattern of society, right to know becomes a necessity for the poor, ignorant and illiterate masses.
Objective of the Act is to establish the practical regime of right to information for citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority, the constitution of a Central Information Commission and State Information Commission and for matters connected therewith and incidental thereto.
One of the brilliant features of RTI is that it makes public authorities answerable to the general public, which strengthen the participatory democracy. Every public authorities is required to provide reasons for its administrative and quasi-judicial decisions to the affected persons u/s 4(1)(d) of the Act, and hence the possibility of arbitrariness reduce to the great extent.
The worldwide accepted indicators of good governance over the period of time are:
- Voice and accountability
- Political stability and absence of violence
- Government effectiveness
- Regulatory quality
- Rule of law
- Control of corruption
Rights which are provided in various sections of the Act certainly facilitates the greater transparency in work of public authorities. For instance, under section 2(j), of the Act, a citizen has the right to:
- Inspection of work, documents, records
- Taking notes extracts or certified copies of the documents or records
- Taking certified sample of material, and
- Obtaining information in electronic form, if available
- Under section 4(1)(d) of the Act, a public authority is required to provide reasons for its administrative or quasi-judicial decision to the affected persons.
The commission u/s 20(1) has power to impose penalties or to recommend disciplinary action against the information providers, if held for being stone in path of the free flow of information. In other words, intention of the framers of this Act is that there should not be any bottle neck in the process of free flow of information to the citizens. The citizens are thus better informed about the performance and contributions of the elected representatives, which augurs well for a healthy democracy and democratic governance of projects.
Right to Information: A Global View
Over 50 countries now have freedom of information laws and another 15-20 are actively considering adopting one. These nations are joined by a growing number of inter-Governmental bodies including the World Bank, European Union and UNDP that have established FOI policies. It provides that all citizens enjoy rights of freedom of opinion and expression, including the right to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas, a guarantee now generally considered to include an obligation of openness on the part of Government.