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Analysing the Status of the Right to Information Act in India


(SYLLABUS RELEVANCE: GS 2: Polity and Governance)

Why is it in the news?

  1. The Right to Information Act (RTI), enacted in 2005, has played a pivotal role in promoting transparency and accountability in India.
  2. Over the years, however, concerns have emerged regarding its effectiveness and the accessibility of information.
  3. This analysis delves into the factors contributing to the perceived weakening of the RTI Act, examining legislative amendments, implementation issues, and challenges in the digital era.

An Analysis

Legislative Amendments:

a) Digital Personal Data Protection Act, 2023:

# Amended the RTI Act’s personal data disclosure provision.

# Concerns raised about hindrance to ‘social audits’ in welfare schemes.

# Potential for public officials to evade accountability.

b) Right to Information (Amendment) Act, 2019:

# Granted Union Government unilateral power over information commissioners’ terms and salaries.

# Raises questions about the independence of information commissions.

Implementation Challenges:

a) Dependent on Subordinate Rules:

# Implementation relies on Rules made by Union and State Governments.

# Varied payment methods across states lead to complications.

# Delayed or inconvenient payment methods hinder accessibility.

  1. b) Tardy Appointments to Information Commissions:

# Central Information Commission (CIC) and State Information Commissions (SICs) often face delays in appointments.

# Undermines confidence in the RTI framework.

# Appeals can take months or even years to be heard.

c) Lack of Online RTI Accessibility:

# Online RTI applications eliminate barriers but are not uniformly available.

# Some State Government bodies are not registered on online portals.

# Union Government’s RTI portal faces usability issues and data glitches.

III) Growing Dissatisfaction:

# Rising number of first appeals indicates dissatisfaction with information provided.

# People are not receiving adequate information from public officials.

Conclusion

  1. The Right to Information Act, once hailed as a model for transparency legislation, faces challenges that have contributed to its perceived weakening.
  2. Legislative amendments, implementation issues, and growing dissatisfaction among citizens pose significant hurdles to the effective functioning of the RTI Act.
  3. Addressing these concerns is crucial to preserving its role as a tool for holding public officials accountable and ensuring transparency in governance.

Top of Form

VALUE ADDITION

     Overview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005
MandateEnacted by Parliament to empower citizens, promote accountability, ensure transparency in government operations and combat corruption.
The Right to Information (Amendment) Act, 2019 I) Reduced the tenure of the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and Information Commissioners (ICs) from 5 to 3 years.

II) Central government can now notify the term of office for the CIC and ICs.

Public AuthoritiesI) Definition: Institutions of self-government established under the Constitution, laws, or government notifications.

II) Includes Ministries, Public sector undertakings, Regulators, and Entities substantially financed by government funds, directly or indirectly.

Functioning of RTI ActThree-Tier Structure

I) Public Information Officers (PIOs):

# Designated by Public Authorities.

# Responsible for providing information to RTI applicants within 30 days.

II) Appellate Authority: Handles appeals against decisions of PIOs.

III) State Information Commission or Central Information Commission (CIC):

# Mandated to hear appeals against the Appellate Authority’s orders.

# Comprises a Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and up to 10 Information Commissioners (ICs).

Utility of RTI

 

I) Addresses Constitutional Rights;

II) Empowers citizens to seek answers from the government;

III) Essential for Democracy;

IV) Facilitates government accountability;

V) Prevents Policy Paralysis;

VI) Ensures informed decision-making; Fosters Equitable Decision-Making; and

VII) Enhances transparency and participation in governance.

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