send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org mentioning your email id and mobileno registered with us! if details not recieved
Resend Opt after 60 Sec.
Please verify your mobile number
Subscribe to Notifications
Stay updated with the latest Current affairs and other important updates regarding video Lectures, Test Schedules, live sessions etc..
Refer & Earn
My Abhipedia Earning
Kindly Login to view your earning
The following statements made by eminent administrative thinkers and practitioners highlight the importance of right to information.
Woodrow Wilson: “I for one have the conviction that government ought to be all outside and not inside. I, for my part, believe that there ought to be no place where everything can be done that everyone does not know about. Everyone knows corruption thrives in secret places and avoids public places”.
Lord Acton: “Nothing is safe that does not show that it can bear discussion and publicity”.
“If liberty and equality, as is thought by some are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost” Aristotle
Right to information has been seen as the key to strengthening participatory democracy and ushering in people centred governance. Access to information can empower the poor and the weaker sections of society to demand and get information about public policies and actions, thereby leading to their welfare. Without good governance, no amount of developmental schemes can bring improvements in the quality of life of the citizens. Good governance has four elements- transparency, accountability, predictability and participation.
1. Transparency refers to availability of information to the general public and clarity about functioning of governmental institutions.
2. Right to information opens up government’s records to public scrutiny, thereby arming citizens with a vital tool to inform them about what the government does and how effectively, thus making the government more accountable.
3. Transparency in government organizations makes them function more objectively thereby enhancing predictability.
4. Information about functioning of government also enables citizens to participate in the governance process effectively.
In a fundamental sense, right to information is a basic necessity of good governance.
In recognition of the need for transparency in public affairs; the Indian Parliamentenacted the Right to Information Act (hereinafter referred to as the RTI Act or the Act) in2005. It is a path breaking legislation empowering people and promoting transparency.
While right to information is implicitly guaranteed by the Constitution, the Act sets out the practical regime for citizens to secure access to information on all matters of governance.
The right to information is necessary due to the following reasons:
Sweden was the first country to provide freedom of information to its citizens as far back as 1766. In other countries, however, the developments in this regard have been far more recent. Among other Scandinavian countries, Finland enacted the Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation in 1951, followed by Denmark and Norway in 1970. The United States enacted its FOI Act in 1966, exactly two hundred years after Sweden. The Act was amended in 1974 to limit the exemptions and to provide for penalties against those government officials who would be found withholding information or treating FOI requests in an arbitrary or capricious fashion. Austria, France and the Netherlands passed this legislation during the 70s, while Australia, Canada and New Zealand enacted it in 1982-83. Various states or provinces of the United States, Canada and Australia have also enacted their own FOI legislations.
In Bulgaria, the Access to Information Act was enacted in June 2000. The scope of its applicability is wide, since the term "public information", under the act, has been construed to mean "any information relating to social life", which gives the citizens an opportunity to form their own opinion about the activities of the persons obligated to provide information. The Act gives the right of access to information not only to the citizens but also to the non-citizens as well as the legal entities.
Ireland enacted the FOI Act in 1997, which came into force in 1998. In the Republic of South Africa, the Right of Access to Information is a Constitutional right, which has been further reinforced with the Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2000. The objectives of the act, inter alia, include promotion of a culture of human rights and social justice, imparting accountability and good governance and enabling public participation in decision making by public bodies that affect their rights. The Act contains two separate parts, each dealing with the right of access to records of public bodies and private bodies respectively.
The Japanese law concerning the Disclosure of Information held by administrative organs is applicable to defined "administrative organs". It seeks to ensure that the government is accountable to the people for its various operations, and contributes to the promotion of a fair and democratic administration that is subject to the people's accurate understanding and criticism.
In Britain, a White Paper called ‘Your Right to Know’ was published in 1997 and three years later, on 30 November 2000, the Freedom of Information Act received the Royal Assent. The Freedom of Information Act 2000, requires each of the public authorities to adopt and maintain a publication scheme whose purpose is to specify the classes of information that the authority publishes or intends to publish, the form in which this is or will be done; and whether there is any charge for the information. Each scheme must be approved by the information commissioner who is an independent public official responsible directly to parliament.
On the whole, the legislations in developed democracies have three fundamental features:
1. A legal right of access to government records without a demonstrated need to know;
2. Specific exemptions to protect national security, personal privacy, law enforcement and the like; and
3. Where access is refused, a right of appeal independent of government officials.
In India, the first political commitment to the citizen's Right to Information came up on the eve of the Lok Sabha elections in 1977 as a corollary to public resentment against suppression of information, press censorship and abuse of authority during the internal emergency of 1975-77. In its election manifesto of 1977, the Janata Party promised “an open government”, and declasred that it would not misuse the intelligence services and governmental authority for personal and partisan ends". Pursuant to this commitment, the Janata government headed by Morarji Desai constituted in 1977, a working group to ascertain if the Official Secrets Act, 1923, could be modified so as to facilitate greater flow of information to the public. The working group recommended that the Act of 1923 should be retained without change.
The events, which helped create political commitment to the Right to Information for the second time, when the National Front government's renewed commitment to this Right was the outcome of the people's frustration over the earlier government's reluctance to part with the information relating to Bofors and other deals. In its 1989 Lok Sabha Election Manifesto, the National Front committed itself to "open government", and declared unequivocally that "People's Right to Information shall be guaranteed through constitutional provisions". Reiterating this commitment, the then Prime Minister V.P. Singh, in his first broadcast to the nation in December 1989 said, "We will have to increase access to information. If the government functions in full public view, wrong doings will be minimised.
Despite such a strong commitment, there was actually no headway towards transparency and openness in our governmental functioning due to the early fall of the National Front government.
The Right to Information movement initiated by Aruna Roy in Rajasthan has been quite successful. A people’s organisation called Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan is doing significant work in making the government respond to the demands of information and accountability. The right to information initiated in the State of Rajasthan in 1994, provided an opportunity to the people to demand information on spending in developmental activities, ensure accountability and redressal of grievances. Later, a Committee was set up at the Centre under the Chairmanship of Justice P.B. Sawant to draft a model bill to be introduced in the Parliament and the States.
In 1997, the Government of India had set up a Working Group on Right to Information and Promotion of Open and Transparent Government. It was entrusted with the responsibility of examining the feasibility of introducing a Right to Information Act. The working group accepted the following broad principles for the formulation of legislation.
1. Disclosure of information should be the rule and secrecy the exception
2. Exceptions should be clearly defined
3. There should be an independent mechanism for adjudication of disputes between the citizens and public authority. Later the Conference of Chief Ministers held in 1997, in its Action Plan for Effective and Responsive Government at the Central and State levels, reiterated the introduction of legislation on Right to Information, as there is secrecy and lack of transparency in many governmental decision making activities.
NDA government introduced the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill, 2000 in the Parliament.
Meanwhile, instead of waiting for a central legislation, half a dozen states enacted their own laws on Right to Information (RTI). These include Goa (1997), Tamil Nadu (1997), Rajasthan (2000), Maharashtra (2000), Karnataka (2000) and Delhi (2001). In some of these states, the law though has been too weak. The Tamil Nadu Act, for instance, has imposed more than twenty restrictions on the application of the Right. The Goa and Karnataka Acts, on the other hand, have several good features.
The government had tabled the Right to Information Bill in Parliament on December 23, 2004. The National Advisory Council, (of the present government) had recommended 36 amendments to the Freedom of Information Act 2002 including changing its name to the Right to Information Act, which would emphasize the fundamental nature of the right. The Parliament had passed the Right to Information Bill on 11th May 2005 with 146 amendments.
The new legislation confers on all citizens the right of access to the information and correspondingly, makes the dissemination of such information an obligation on all public authorities. It aims at promoting transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. It has the widest possible reach covering Central Government, State Governments, Panchayati Raj Institutions, local bodies and recipients of government grants. Its various provisions are mentioned below:
ARC- II has regarded RTI as a master key to Good Governance. To make it more effective it has made following recommendations:
By: Abhipedia ProfileResourcesReport error
Access to prime resources