Right to Information (RTI) is an act of the Parliament of India which sets out the rules and procedures regarding citizens’ right to information. This particular act was passed as an independent act by the Indian Parliament in the year 2005.
The RTI act has been useful in getting to know our personal grievances, making our politicians and elected representatives accountable.
The RTI act empowers common public in India by indirectly involving them in decision making and in other important public affairs. Every citizen in India through this act got the privilege of right to be informed.
RTI ACT: Controversial, yet beneficial.
Very recently, an RTI application was filed by a group of individuals seeking to know about source of a particular line in NCERT History textbook of grade 7th which said “Temples were rebuilt after they were destroyed by the Mughals”. The individuals wanted to know about the source of information regarding the text to which the response was “Source of information is unknown”.
In such a case, one may argue that RTI act doesn’t mandate an authorised body to respond “according to the query” (meaning, they just have to respond, it does not matter what the response is) that is, an authorised body doesn’t necessarily have to respond, they can just pass the query off by saying “no source of information available.”
But at the same time, RTI ACT as mentioned earlier is a powerful tool for citizens through which commoners in the country can keep an eye on the government and its activities. For example, in 2016, when Demonetisation was announced by the Government of India, Mr. Venkatesh Nayak filed an RTI application which revealed that RBI did not agree with Government of India’s justification that the decision would curb corruption in India.
Another example could be the Commonwealth Games Scam, in which an RTI application was filed by a non-profit organisation which revealed that Delhi Government had diverted Rs. 744 crores from funds which were kept only for Dalits to Commonwealth Games.
A very successful case was also found in Bangalore where a bundle of corruptions and dereliction of duties in allowing encroachment of government land of 12,000 square feet without the permission from the respective authorities by New Cambridge School Trust. The Assistant Executive Engineer who was supposed to actions against the encroachment of land which was worth Rs. 6 crores was found protecting the illegal encroachment of land. These irregularities came out when an RTI application was filed before the Executive Engineer Division in Bangalore.
RTI act from the beginning has been into controversies for being chaotic and problematic in many cases. But in my view, these instances of chaos are again because of the same loopholes we have in our democratic system and legal system we strive to fight against via the help of RTI act. Nonetheless, the act has enabled the citizens to become more aware and hold the government accountable when required. This is evident from the fact that India ranked 4th best in the world for RTI laws. The recent amendment of act in 2019 is however criticised as many feel, it would give Central Government more power.