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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 44 New Delhi October 24, 2015

Governments Neglecting RTI Responsibilities

Saturday 24 October 2015, by Bharat Dogra

COMMUNICATION

The completion of 10 years of the Right to Information (RTI) is a cause for celebration. India’s RTI law has been widely recognised as one of the best legislations on this issue in the world, and millions of people have used this legislation in effective and socially relevant ways. However, this sense of achievement has been impaired to a significant extent because of increasing tendencies on the part of the government authorities, at the Central as well as State levels, to adopt an attitude of neglect and even hostility towards the RTI. This disturbing trend, which had started in the later years of the UPA Government, has been accentuated even further under the NDA Government.

This is evident from the long delays in filling up the positions of Information Commissioners in various States as well as at the Central level. The very long and inexplicable delays in the appointment of the Chief Information Commissioner in the Central Information Commission led to a heavy accumulation of appeals. If there is no action on appeals for a long time, the entire system under which information can be obtained can break down.

Another serious area of neglect has been the inability of many government authorities to supply suo moto information on various important aspects. If this had been done properly and promptly, the complaints of some authorities that they receive too many applications could also have been avoided.

The issue of bringing political parties within the coverage of the RTI law has also been pending for a long time. This should be settled quickly so that the political parties function in a more transparent way.

Avenues should also be explored to bring various private sector organisations within the scope of the RTI as its role is fast increasing in the economy.

Second-generation reforms relating to transparency and fighting corruption should also be strengthened in the form of suitable legislation of citizens’ grievances and a Lokpal. Proper protection for whistle-blowers and RTI activists should be ensured as well.

Bharat Dogra
C-27, Raksha Kunj, Paschim Vihar, New Delhi-110063, Phone: 011-25255303