Indian constitution clearly states that sovereignty of our country lies in the hands of people. On 12 Oct. 2005, this powerful statement regained its strength when Right To Information Act was enacted by the government.It mandates timely response to citizen requests for government information.The country seems to be divided in two phases after independence. First phase is the time when whole country was in the clutches of bureaucrats. They held the most important place(more rightly “The Dictators”, as they worked only on their own whims) of our country. Any individual who had to get his work done smoothly was supposed to butter the attitude of officials. It was totally up to the discretion of the officials to get that person’s work done or not as they were not answerable to anyone. No person was allowed to ask the authorities about anything whether it be the progress of his work or any official information about his society. The second phase is dedicated to the enactment of Right To Information Act,2005 which gave the people of India a new weapon to defend themselves from the hostile attitude of bureaucrats as well as to attack the government officials for their carelessbehaviortowards public service.
RTI has shown its immense utility in a very short span of just 5 years and some months. People of our country have whole heartedly welcomed it which seems that “This Is What Our Country Was Waiting For”.I think that this is the only bill in the history of India which allowed no criticism against it and is fully drafted in keeping view the utilitarian principle. Be it citizen or even the government officials, everyone appreciate its importance and use it in one or other part of his life because yes the civil life is not easier as it seems to be and you are unaware of this until you intrude into the system.
The use of this law is as much exciting as the law itself. As already stated it is not like other government works where you have to rub your soles to have your work done. It is mainly because you don’t have to appear before the same official every time. Its only once and if you are unsatisfied jump over to the higher one until you get to the Chief Information Commissioner of that state All it needs is the investment of Rs.10 from your side. And yeah no body can deny that Rs.10 is not a big deal for anyone in today’s world. Let’s have it more clearly by an example. You have a newly constructed road in your street. But after few months its condition worsens and troubles you. Just write an application in the name of Public Information Officer of concerned department asking the particulars of construction such as the total budget passed for construction, the amount of material used in construction, the proportion of mixture of various ingredients etc. Get a stamp of Rs.10 fixed over it and post it. The information will be in your hands in only 30 days. In case if you didn’t get it or it contains insufficient information, appeal to the First Appeal Officer of the department. If then also you are not satisfied appeal to the State Information Commissioner. The information provided by them will be enough evidence to grill any culprit government official
Impact Of this Act
Now that the statute requires information about the pendency of the applications, reasons as to why they are not disposed of or the reasons behind the rejection of an application, there is bound to be improvement in the efficiency of the departments. As of now, the only supervision of efficiency is supervision that is made by the superior officers at the time of reviewing the employees’ work and while recording comments in the annual confidential reports or ACRs. This process has not proved successful and though it may be continued, still the threat of a Designated official calling for the relevant information at the instance of a citizen will be a salutary check on the inefficiency of officers. It also checks lethargy or bad faith or corrupt motives.
Another important aspect is that in India we have not given respect and prominence to the rights of the individual Citizen. True democracy is impossible until we recognize the majesty of the individual Citizen. If individual Citizens are empowered to ensure greater accountability and transparency in governance, it can bring about a major change. There has been no vehicle available for individual citizens to impact the governance structure. In a system reeking with corruption and becoming increasingly insensitive to the problems of the disadvantaged Citizenry, the Right To Information has shown promise of empowering Citizens to get accountability and act as an enforcer of good governance.
The overall impact of these decisions has been to establish clearly that the right to freedom of information, or the public’s right to know, is embedded in the provisions guaranteeing fundamental rights in the Constitution. Various Indian laws provide for the right to access information in specific contexts. Section 76 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, contains what has been termed a ‘Freedom of Information Act in embryonic form’. This provision requires public officials to provide copies of public documents to anyone who has a right to inspect them.
By enacting the Right to Information Act India has moved from an opaque and arbitrary system of government to the beginning of an era where there will be greater transparency and to a system where the citizen will be empowered and the true center of power. Only by empowering the ordinary citizen can any nation progress towards greatness and by enacting the Right to Information Act 2005 India has taken a small but significant step towards that goal. The real Swaraj will come not by the acquisition of authority by a few but by the acquisition of capacity by all to resist authority when abused. Thus with the enactment of this Act India has taken a small step towards achieving real Swaraj.
Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University,
[Submitted as an entry for the MightyLaws.in Blog Post Writing Competition, 2011]