India is losing its cherished right to know
Right to Information:
- Supreme Court in Raj Narain vs the State of Uttar Pradesh case 1976 held that Right to information will be treated as a fundamental right under article 19.
- The Supreme Court held that in Indian democracy, people are the masters and they have the right to know about the working of the government.
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948 provided that everyone had the right to seek, receive, information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
- The International Covenant on Civil and Political rights 1966 states that everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression, the freedom to seek and impart information and ideas of all kinds.
Right to Information Act of 2005:
- The Right to Information Act of 2005 was enacted to give statutory backing to these provisions.
- Section 4 of the RTI Act requires suo motu disclosure of information by each public authority.
- Section 8 (1) mentions exemptions against furnishing information under RTI Act.
- Section 8 (2) provides for disclosure of information exempted under Official Secrets Act, 1923 if larger public interest is served.
- Citizens can file applications under the Right to Information Act with any public body and are guaranteed a reply from the public information officer of that public body within 30 days.
- In case of a no reply or dissatisfaction with the response, the citizen can file an appeal at the departmental level and then a second and final appeal with the Information Commission.
- Each State has its own State Information Commission to deal with second appeals concerning State bodies.
- Cases at the CIC come up for a hearing roughly after a two year wait.
- If the matter is not already infructuous or lost its significance, one can look forward to the commission deciding one’s case.
- But in matters of public importance, the Commission has adopted a new way of delegating its mandate to decide cases to the Ministry before it (the very same party that stands accused of prohibiting transparency).
- One of the cardinal rules of natural justice is that no one should be a judge in their own cause.
- However, the commission now allows, or rather wants, the very Ministry that stands accused of violating the RTI Act to act as the judge in their own cause and decide whether a disclosure is necessary.
- Bureaucrats reject RTIs with glee with no fear of facing penal provisions outlined in Section 20 of the RTI Act, knowing fully well that they have a free hand under the Information Commissioners.
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