RTI Act: A safeguard to participatory democracy

Right to Information Act has been revolutionary in terms of the transparency that is offered to people of the world’s largest democracy. It became a real assurance of the fruitfulness of democracy to the people which helps citizens seek answers from an accountable government from and for them. Right to Information Act, 2005 has ensured a timely response to the request of citizens regarding government information.

The RTI provides multiple objectives such as strengthening democratic values through empowering people, checking corruption, ensuring transparency and accountancy in governance etc. has been made by Parliament of India on 15 June 2005. The Act came into effect on 12 October 2005 and has been implemented ever since to address the queries of citizens of India. All the authorities come under this Act, making it one of the most powerful laws of the country. All government agencies, under both government and the Centre, come under the purview of the Act. It includes bodies under public undertakings such as Government departments, Ministries at the as well as level, Judiciary, Government-owned Companies, Government Universities, Government Schools, Works Departments, Road Authorities, Provident Fund department etc. Every day over 48000 applications are filed which shows the immense insight the act has given people to exercise their rights judiciously.

RTI Act: A safeguard to participatory democracy

The history of the right to information dates back to the Universal Declaration of human rights in 1948, providing everyone with the right to seek, receive, information and ideas through any media. The International Covenant on Civil and Political rights 1966 also states that everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression, the freedom to seek and impart information and ideas of all kinds. The formation of RTI law started in 1986, through a judgement of Supreme Court in Mr Kulwal v/s Jaipur Municipal Corporation case. It has replaced the Freedom of Information Act, 2002 resolving its major weakness that it does not acknowledge the Right to Information of people.

RTI Act: A safeguard to participatory democracy

FEATURES OF THE REVOLUTIONARY ACT

It extends to all parts of the Union of India. “Information” means any material in any form, including Records, Documents, Memos, e-mails, Opinions, Advice, 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. The “Right to Information” means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes the right to:

RTI Act: A safeguard to participatory democracy
  • Inspection of work, documents, and records;
  • Taking notes, extracts and certified copies of documents or records;
  • Taking certified samples of material;
  • Obtaining information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts where such information is stored in a 1923 computer or in any other device.

It also releases the restrictions to information disclosure in India exerted by the Official Secrets Act, 1923. It sought to create central and state information commissions.

TIME LIMIT: In normal cases information to an applicant is to be supplied within 30 days from the receipt of the application by the public authority. If information is concerned with the life or liberty of a person, it shall be supplied within 48 hours. In case the application is sent through the Assistant Officer or it is sent to a wrong public authority, five days shall be added to the period of thirty days or 48 hours, as the case may be.

RTI Act: A safeguard to participatory democracy

This act also recommends every public authority to computerize their records for wide dissemination. It carefully and deliberately empowered the Information Commission to be the highest authority in the country with the authority to order any office in the country to provide information as per the provisions of the Act. And it empowered the Commission to fine any official who did not follow the mandate. Every government institution is required to set up a public information officer. Some intelligence and security organisations of highly confidential nature are exempted from providing information under this act unless it specifies serious cases of corruption and human rights violations. At times there can also be misuses of the provisions provided in this act which can cause wastage of time and money.

The Right to Information Act plays a crucial role in upholding the dignity of human beings and in promoting . It acts as a bridge between the secret chambers of public governance and the common man. It nullifies the feeling of alienation that common man might feel in a world of money and muscle power. This act does not create a new bureaucracy for implementation of objectives, but it just suggested the change in the attitude of the officials recommending them to be more open. It can also be considered as the codification of Article 19 of the of India. It also promotes the idea of social inclusion by giving an opportunity to even the weaker sections of the society to exercise their rights to demand information on public policies and actions which can lead to their welfare. The required information would arm citizen to advocate for themselves.

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