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SIGNIFICANCE OF RTI IN DEMOCRACY

PROJECT ON:

RIGHT TO INFORMATION AND MEDIA LAW

SIGNIFICANCE OF RIGHT
TO INFORMATION
IN DEMOCRACY

SUBMITTED TO: SUBMITTED BY:


Ms. Kajori Manpreet
B.A.LL.B (Hons), Sem 7
Section A, 34/14

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ACKNOWLEDGMENT:
The following project of “RIGHT TO INFORMATION AND MEDIA LAW” on the topic
“SIGNIFICANCE OF RIGHT TO INFORMATION IN DEMOCRACY” is a sincere
effort by me. It has been prepared by me strictly according to the guidelines issued by Panjab
University, Chandigarh.

I am thankful to my subject teacher Ms. Kajori from the core of my heart, who gave me this
wonderful opportunity guidance to work on this project and get to know something which
otherwise I would have never known. Her constant support and guidance encouraged me to
prepare this project. I hope this project would come up to the soaring expectations of my
mentors and its readers.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS:

1) Abstract........................................................................................................................5

2) Introduction.................................................................................................................5

3) RTI in India: Legal Background.................................................................................6

4) Global View................................................................................................................6

5) International Organizations.........................................................................................7

6) Constitutional Provisions............................................................................................7

7) Other Legal Provisions...............................................................................................8

8) Landmark Judgments.................................................................................................8

9) RTI: Touchstone For Democracy...............................................................................9

10) RTI Is A New Life For Democracy.........................................................................11

11) RTI And Democracy: Legal Position In India........................................................14

12) Objectives Of RTI Act, 2005..................................................................................15

13) Conclusion...............................................................................................................18

14) Recommendations...................................................................................................18

15) Bibliography............................................................................................................20

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TABLE OF CASES:
1) Bennett Coleman & Co. v Union of India

2) Prabha Dutt v. Union of India

3) PUCL v. Union of India

4) Reliance Petrochemicals Ltd. v Proprietors, Indian express Newspapers Pvt. Ltd

5) Romesh Thappar v. State of Madras

6) Sakal Newspapers (Private) Ltd. v. Union of India

7) S. P. Gupta v. Union of India

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ABSTRACT:
The free flow of information is must for a democratic society as it helps the society to grow
and to retain a continuous debate and discussion among the people. No democratic
government can survive without accountability and the basic postulate of accountability that
is the people should have information about the functioning of the government. Gone are the
days when public dealings were kept in secret, a practice which often led to corruption,
misuse and abuse of statutory and administrative power. Freedom of information brings
openness in the administration which helps to promote transparency in state affairs, keep
government more accountable and ultimately reduce corruption. Disclosure of information in
regard to the functioning of the government must be the rule and secrecy an exception. The
Right to Information Act, 2005 was passed for making the government transparent and more
accountable; the effective use of it would, in a long run, curb corruption. In a responsible
Government like ours where all the agents of the public must be responsible for their conduct,
there could be no secrets. 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.1

INTRODUCTION:
“… Your landmark Right to Information Act is empowering citizens with the ability to get
the services to which they’re entitled and to hold officials accountable...”
-- US President Barack Obama in his address to Indian Parliament on November 8,
2010.

India is a democratic republic. Here the government is of the people, by the people and for
the people. Therefore the people of our country have the right to know about state affairs.
Freedom of information brings openness in the administration which helps to promote
transparency in state affairs, keep government more accountable and ultimately reduce
corruption. The free flow of information is must for democratic society as it helps the society
as it helps the society as it helps the society to grow and to retain a continuous debate and
discussion among the people.

But the access to information held by a public authority was not possible until 2005. Before
that the common people did not have any legal right to know about the public policies and
expenditures. It was quite ironical that people who voted the persons responsible for policy
formation to power and contributed towards the financing of huge costs of public activities
were denied access to the relevant information. The concept of good governance directly
emanates from the right to know which seems to implicit in the right to free speech and

1
Right to Information and Its Significance to Ensure Good Governance in India , available at: SSRN:
https://ssrn.com/abstract=2343109, (October 21, 2013).

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expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a).2 All modern governments believe that
openness is one of the principles of good governance.

It serves three purposes-

 Evaluation of the government by the citizens;


 Their participation in the decision making; and
 It casts a duty on the electorate to keep an eye on the deeds of its representatives and
not sit idle after exercising their franchise after five years.

In its very first session in 1946, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 59(1), stating
“freedom of Information is a fundamental human right and... the touchstone of all the
freedoms to which the United Nations is consecrated.”

RIGHT TO INFORMATION IN INDIA: LEGAL BACKGROUND:


Disclosure of Government Information in India was governed by a law enacted during the
British rule, the Official Secrets Act of 1889 which was last amended in 1923. Though the
intent of this law was to secure only information related to security of the State, sovereignty
of the country and friendly relations with foreign states, it contained provisions which could
make it a crime to disclose even non-classified information. Civil Service conduct rules and
the Indian Evidence Act put further restrictions on government officials' powers to disclose
information to the public.

On the other hand, the courts had consistently challenged attempts by the government to
restrict freedom of speech. In 1975, the Supreme Court delivered a judgment in which it held
that- the people…have a right to know every public act, everything that is done in a public
way, by their public functionaries. For two decades, activists had had to fight to get this
constitutional right enacted into law. The National Campaign for People's Right to
Information was formed in 1996 to work for legislation in this regard. Along with the Press
Council of India, it wrote an initial draft of a Right to Information Law.3

GLOBAL VIEW:

The UN‘s Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 had a catalytic effect on
movements for ‘open’ government, worldwide. Many democratic countries have taken
legislative action to give its citizens a right of access to information in the possession of the
government and its agencies. USA passed the Freedom of Information Act, 1966, which was
extensively amended in 1974, and again 1976, 1983. Canada enacted Access to Information
Act in 1982. Australia and New Zealand also passed similar legislation in 1982 and 1983,
respectively. In keeping with the spirit of the Universal Declaration of 1948 and its Article
19, the Preamble of the Constitution of India, adopted in 1950, has in its Article 19(1)(a)

2
S.P. Gupta v. Union of India, AIR 1982 SC 149.
3
Varun Malik, “Right to Information in India: A Hallmark of Democracy” 2 IJMSSR 43 (2013), retrieved
from http://www.irjcjournals.org/ijmssr/Feb2013/8.pdf (Visited on September 29, 2017).

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provides exactly similar guarantees to the citizens, the right to ‘freedom of speech and
expression’ as one of the fundamental rights listed in Part III of the Constitution.
More than 50 countries now have guaranteed their citizens the right to know. However,
freedom of information legislation is not a new concept. It has been into existence since 18th
century as evident in the case of Sweden. The history of RTI is a struggle between the power
of the state and that of the civil society. The degree of success has invariably been determined
by their relative strengths, although external factors may have sometimes played a role. In
many regions enactment of RTI had resulted from the fall of authoritarian regime.

INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS:
India is a signatory to the UDHR (1948) and the ICCPR (1966). As a party to these
instruments it is under an international obligation to effectively guarantee the right to
information. Further, under Article 51 (c) of the Indian Constitution the state is duty bound to
foster respect for international laws and treaty obligations. This binds the Indian Government
to create suitable conditions to implement international laws and obligations with respect to
right to information. Further the Indian Constitution also has some provisions which
indirectly promote the right to information.

CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS:
The Indian constitution has an array of basic and inalienable rights termed as Fundamental
rights contained in Chapter III. These include the right to equal protection of the laws and the
right to equality before the law, the right to freedom of speech and expression and the right to
life and personal liberty. These are backed by the right to Constitutional Remedies under
Article 32.

The legal position with regard to the right to information has developed through several
Supreme Court decisions given in the context of fundamental rights. The legal discourse on
the right to information started with petitions of the press to the Supreme Court for
enforcement of certain logistical implications of the right of freedom of speech and
expression such as challenging governmental orders for control of newsprint.4

A. Article 19 (1) (a)


This provision guarantees the fundamental right to free speech and expression, which
includes within it the right to access information. The pre-requisite for enjoying this right is
knowledge and information. Thus the right to information becomes a constitutional right as
the right to free speech also guarantees right to receive and collect and information. Article
19(2) permits the State to make such laws as to impose reasonable restrictions on the exercise
of the freedoms guaranteed under this provision on grounds such as security of the state,
sovereignty and integrity of India and other grounds as enumerated in the provision.

B. Article 21
This article talks about right to life and personal liberty, which includes the right to know
about things that affect our lives. The expression ―life and personal liberty‖ is a broad term,

4
ibid

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which includes within itself variety of rights and attributes. The Supreme Court read into this
article as a broad right to include right to know within its purview. The apex court held that
―right to know is a necessary ingredient of participatory democracy……... It is wide enough
to expand to a full range of rights including the right to hold a particular opinion and the right
to sustain and nurture that opinion. It confers on all persons a right to know which includes
right to information.

C. Article 32
This article guarantees a right to constitutional remedies on the situation of a violation of the
fundamental right of any citizen. The constitution also imposes certain duties upon the
citizens under Article 51 A. A fully informed citizen is better equipped for the performance
of these duties.

RTI is not specifically mentioned in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, and does not
fall under any of three subject lists of the Constitution. As such it is a residuary matter and
the power to legislate on such matters rests with the Central government.5

OTHER LEGAL PROVISIONS:


Prior to the enactment of a comprehensive law on access to information in 2005 several
Indian laws provided for the right to access information in a specific context.

• Section 76 of the Indian Evidence Act, contains what has been termed as ‗freedom of
information in embryonic form‘. This provision requires public officials to provide copies
public documents to anyone who has a right to inspect them.

• The Factories Act, 1948 provides for compulsory disclosure of information to factory
workers regarding dangers, including health hazards, and also the measures to overcome such
hazards.

• The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and environmental Impact Assessment


Regulations provide for instances of public consultation and allow access to information
about the pollution caused by industries covered by the regulations.

• Recently, the Commission to review the Constitution of India in its report recommends
explicit inclusion of right to information including freedom of press and other media as a
fundamental right.

LANDMARK JUDGMENTS:

 Bennett Coleman & Co. v Union of India6


The judges in this case remarked; ―it is indisputable that by freedom of the press meant the
right of all citizens to speak, publish, and express their views……Freedom of speech and
expression includes within its compass the right of all citizens to read and be informed.

5
ibid at 44
6
1973 AIR 106

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 Prabha Dutt v. Union of India7


The court held that there could be no reason for refusing permission to the media to interview
prisoners on death row. Repeated violations of civil rights by the police and other law
enforcement agencies have compelled the courts to give directions to the concerned agencies
for ensuring transparency in their functioning.

 Sakal Newspapers (Private) Ltd. v. Union of India8


The Supreme Court held that the impugned Act and the Order imposed unconstitutional
restriction on the freedom of the press. The court also held that restriction upon freedom of
speech was to be examined with lesser presumption of constitutionality than the restrictions
upon freedom of trade or business. The court brought in the preferred freedom doctrine in
Indian Constitution.

 Romesh Thappar v. State of Madras9


One of the earliest cases where the Supreme Court laid emphasis on the people‘s right to
know. There the petitioner had challenged an order issued by the then Government of Madras
under Section 9(1-A) of the Madras Maintenance of Public Order Act, 1949 imposing a ban
on the circulation of the petitioner‘s journal Cross Roads was struck down as voilative of the
right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a).

 S. P. Gupta v. Union of India10


This case is popularly known as Judges Transfer case, Bhagwati, J. had advised in the
landmark case that it is essential for the people to have as much information about
governmental operations as possible. Participation in government by the people is regarded,
as an important aspect of democracy and people cannot participate unless they have
information as to what is going on in the country.

THE RIGHT TO INFORMATION: TOUCH STONE FOR


DEMOCRACY:
The great democratizing power of information has given us all the chance to effect
change and alleviate poverty in ways we cannot even imagine today. Our task...is to
make that change real for those in need, wherever they may be. With information on
our side, with knowledge a potential for all, the path to poverty can be reversed.”

--(Kofi Annan, Former Secretary-General, United Nations)

This is the age of information affluence. Technology, with its capacity for storing simplifying
and communicating information with astonishing speed has, more than ever, put information
at the entire of development. Information is a global resource of unlimited potential for all
government is a vast shore house of this resource. The information kept by government held

7
AIR 1982 SC 6
8
1962 AIR 305
9
1950 AIR 124
10
AIR 1982 SC 149

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the memory of the nation and provides a full portrait of its activities, performance and future
plans.11

The “Right to Information” is fundamental to the realization of economic, social, political


right and an effective democracy, which requires informed participation by all. The right to
information has now been recognized as a fundamental human right, which in turn is linked
to respect for the inherent dignity of all human beings and as an essential component of
participatory democracy and is described as the “oxygen of democracy”.12

The core issues of the Right to Information lie in:

(1) People’s participation in governance and the democratic process as a means of


ensuring effective democracy.
(2) Accountability of the Government to the public.
(3) Acting as a check on rampant corruption and abuse of power including those powers,
which are discretionary in nature.
(4) Ensuring transparency in the functioning of the Government.
(5) Protecting and upholding human rights, which are fundamental to realizing the
inherent dignity to man.

In a country like ours the focal point of the movement for the right to information has been
developmental issues. Health, safety, environment, food security and human rights are all
directly linked to the “Right to Information”.

Public participation in the democratic and governmental process becomes meaningful when
citizens have adequate access to official information.

“No democratic government can survive without accountability and the basic postulate of
accountability is that the people should have information about the functioning of the
government. That an open society is the new democratic culture towards which every liberal
democracy is moving and our society should be no exception. The concept of the open
government is the direct emanation from the right to know which seems to be implicit in the
right of free speech and expression guaranteed under article 19(1)(a). Therefore, disclosure
of information in regards to functioning of the government must be the rule and secrecy in
exception, justified only when the strictest requirement of public interest so demands.”13

The essence of an effective representative democracy is the participation of a well-informed


citizenry in the democratic process. In the matter of PUCL v. Union of India14 court said
that:

“Right to participate by casting vote at the time of election would be meaningless unless the
voters are well informed about all sides of the issues, in respect of which they are called upon
to express their views by casting their votes. Disinformation, misinformation and non-
information all equally create an uninformed citizenry which would finally make democracy
a mobacracy and a farce...the voter has to cast intelligent and rational vote according to his
11
CHRI 2003 Report
12
Manish Kumar Chaubey, Right to Information: Various Dimensions 146 (Regal Publications, New Delhi, 2012).
13
supra note 2
14
2003 4 SCC 399

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own criteria. A well-informed voter is the foundation of a democratic structure. That


information to a voter, who is a citizen of this country, is one facet of the fundamental right
under Article 19(1).

A liberal information-sharing regime guaranteed by law is the practical answer to the present
search for deeper democracy and people-centred development. Right to Information is both a
practical short cut to achieving the goals of poverty eradication and good governance and a
long recognized human right. Human beings need information in order to realize their full
social, political and economic potential. Information is a public resource, collected and stored
by government in trust for people. The challenge is to share it equitably and manage it too the
best advantage of all the society.

Information is the currency that every citizen requires to participate in the life and
governance of society and the various legislations, which provide the Right to Information,
represent the substratum on which the superstructure of effective representative democracy
can grow and flourish.

RIGHT TO INFORMATION IS A NEW LIFE FOR DEMOCRACY:

The Right to Information or access to information is basic to the democratic way of life. In
act, real democracy cannot function without a free and unfettered exercise of this right.15
--Justice Baghwati

In the modern world democracy signifies that the ultimate authority in political affairs
rightfully belongs to the people. In the democratic countries at the present movement, the
accent is on open government. Of course, there are quite a few things which must be kept
confidential in the interest of public security or national interest sometime the law may
impose secrecy in the interest of the individual. But then the secrecy ought not to be more
than what is absolutely necessary. In this area, with an accent on the latter. There are many
reasons suggesting an open government. Participation in government by the people is
regarded as an important aspect of democracy and people cannot participate unless they have
information as to what is going on in the country. A modern democratic state being
answerable to the people, the people are entitled to know what policies and programs, how,
and why, are being followed by the government. People have to pass verdict every three or
five years on the performance of the government, and decide whether it should stay in office
or not, people cannot exercise their choice intelligently unless they are given adequate
information about the functioning of the government. Another factor justifying openness by
the government is that being on activist entity, government gathers a vast arsenal of powers in
a welfare state.

Freedom of expression and right to information are considered as integral concepts in modern
democracies. Since the last decades of the last century, there has been an unstoppable global
trend towards the recognition of right to information or knowledge and freedom of speech or
expression among the people of all countries and intern-governmental organizations. In a
democracy, the greater the access to information, the greater the responsiveness of
government to the needs of the community. The right to information and freedom of

15
AIR 1997 SC, pp. 73-74

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expression have been recognized as fundamental human rights, which upholds the dignity of
all human beings. Free speech is protected by international human rights law, under Article
19 of the universal Declaration of Human Rights. In our country, the largest democracy in the
world in every sense of the term, the enactment of the Right to Information Act, marks a
significant step towards our goal of greater democracy. In a democracy those who manage
the affair of the society are supposed to be the trustees of the people and have to be
accountable for their acts and omissions. That is why in democratic countries at the present
movement, the accent is on “open government”. That is why the access to the relevant
materials having a bearing on the commission and omissions of the government are emerging
as prerequisites of democratic governance. A Government, which reveals in secrecy not only,
acts against democratic decency, basic human rights but equally busies itself with its own
burial. The people consent is the justification for continuance of the Government in power.
Thus in every democratic set-up everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression and
this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds.
The means of acquiring information without which there can be no well information citizenry
is through freedom of access to the materials in the possession of the government and also to
proceeding of the Government.

The plea for freedom of speech and expression was raised for the first time in the history of
democracy by the Athenian orator Secrets (B.C. 436-386), who committed suicide after his
country was defeated and conquered by Philip of Macedon at the Battle of Chaeronea. His
immortal speech “Logos Areopagicos” was a strong plea for restoring democracy and
freedom of expression in Athens.

Of course, it took 77 years for us to transform from a system legitimized by the colonial
official secrets Act to one where citizens can demand the right to information. The absence of
communication tools, and law levels of literacy compounded the poor flow of information.
With offices full of dusty files all over, the standard of keeping records is abysmally poor.
But the growth of information technology has now made things easier and many states are
competing with each other to attract more investment with open window systems, now we
entered another era of democracy where everything is transparent.

In India, the movement for the right to information has been vibrant for a long time. The
common man, academician and the media have been raising the voice since independence, as
many of the basic and survival needs like food security, shelter and employment are closely
linked to the right of information.

Throughout twentieth century, ‘Democracy’ being the common creed amongst the nations, no
contemporary analysis of the ‘Rule of law’ can afford to ignore the vast expansion of the
government functions which has occurred as a result both of the growing complexity of
modern life and the minimum postulates of political philosophy and social justice. That is
why almost in all democratic countries at the present moment the accent is on an open
government and transparency. It is the basic postulate of democracy that government shall be
based on consent of the government. The consent of the governed implies not only that
consent shall be free but also it shall be grounded on an adequate information and discussion
aided by the widest possible dissemination of from diverse and antagonistic sources,16
consequently citizens must have access to information, ‘Right to Know’ about the

16
supra note 7

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functioning of the government and public functionaries. As no democratic government can


survive without accountability and transparency, the basic postulate of accountability is that
people should have information about the functions of Government. It cannot be over
emphasized that even from a conceptual standpoint, the public right to information is an
indispensable prerequisite of democracy. To ensure such accountability, the people must have
right to know about the policies, programmes, doings, or misdoings, or their representative in
the legislative and executive branches of the administration.

Right to information is as crucial as freedom of expression in any democracy. It is only


through information and resultant expressions that people can influence the government of
the people, for the people and by the people. It is essential for the discovery of truth and
transparency. Furthers the search for truth and helps in achieving the age old Bharatiya
concept of “Vasudhaiva Kudumbakam”. Suppressing or hiding information can ruin a family,
relationships or individuals with each other and the same is applicable to nation also.
Moreover, it is integral to tolerance, which is considered by many as a basic value in society.
Gandhiji taught us to be tolerant towards all types of violence. To be tolerant is to develop a
sense of imaginative sympathy in every person. When a person is informed, he or she can
imagine himself or herself in the place of the other. That itself may lead to solutions for many
problems and issues. Such tolerance serves as a model that encourages more tolerance.

One of the fundamentals of democratic government is that government must be sensitive to


public opinion. Public opinion can be formed only when the public have the knowledge about
the functioning of the Government. It is, therefore, necessary that the people should have
access to the full knowledge about the functioning of the Government. Right to information
of the facts about the functioning of administration is therefore is, one of the important and
valuable rights of a citizen in democratic state. In parliamentary democracy, people are ruled
in the form of the executive by the political parties elected by them once in four or five years.
In a democracy, those who manage the affairs of the society are supposed to be the trustees of
the people and have to be accountable for their acts and omissions, that stands the essence of
participative democracy and a representative government.

Right to Information is the power to the people in democracy:

Instead of being dependant on vague suppositions and assumptions, people armed with sound
factual information have the confidence to take on those in power. Even the most
marginalities can act in their own interests.
For example-
 A daily wage earner can ask to see work registers to check if they are being paid hat a
contractor is claiming on their behalf from the government.
 A parent can challenge the basis on which school admission is given.
 A pensioner can check if personal records held by government are accurate or
misinterpreted their entitlements.
 A resident can question the quality of a road being laid in their locality against
specifications stated in the government contract.17

17
supra note 6

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RIGHT TO INFORMATION AND DEMOCRACY: LEGAL POSITION


IN INDIA:
Transparency has increased than ever before in the working of the public bodies as a result of
number of RTI applications. “Right to know is an important ingredient of participatory
democracy. The concentration of political and administrative power in the management of the
country’seconomic and social resources led to wide spread corruption jeopardizing the
universally acknowledged principles of good governance namely democracy, liberty and the
rule of law. Democracy, in turn requires accountability and transparency through devolution
of information and effective participation citizens in decision making”.18

The Right to Information (RTI) generally understood as the ‘right to access information held
by public authorities’, is not just a necessity of the citizens; it is a precondition for good
governance. To be specific, RTI makes democracy more meaningful and allows citizens to
participate in the governance process. An efficient representative democracy presupposes free
access to information held by public authorities by making discloser of information in the
public domain. A truly democratic set- up requires an informed citizenry who is a direct
stakeholder in every public authority’s action.19

In Reliance Petrochemicals Ltd. v Proprietors, Indian express Newspapers Pvt. Ltd.20


Supreme Court observed that right to information is an essential ingredient of a participatory
democracy. When citizens are able to access timely and accurate information about their
government's policymaking processes and resource allocation will be in a position to
scrutinize the rationale and impact of these policies thus able to suggest in alternatives more
effectively suited to their needs. “Until the implementation of the Right to Information Act, it
was not possible for an ordinary persons to seek the details of a decision making process,
which was found most often, as ineffective in terms of its outcome. It was, therefore, not
possible to hold a free and frank discussion on issues of common concern of people or to fix
the responsibility for any action. Such an era of darkness in policy planning, including
monitoring and evaluation of schemes by affected persons, is over.”

Every citizen of the country has a right to know the functioning of the government. A Right
to Information will make sure that people can hold public bodies accountable without having
to lay the entire burden on their elected representatives who are themselves often unable to
get the information sought though all the resources are at their command. Right to
Information is derived from our fundamental right of expression under Article 19. If we do
not have information on how our Government and Public Institutions function, we cannot
express any informed opinion on it. This has been accepted by various Supreme Court
judgments, since 1977. All of us accept that the freedom of the press is an essential element
for a democracy to function. It is worthwhile to understand the underlying assumption in this
well entrenched belief.

Why is the freedom of the media considered as one of the essential features for a democracy?
Democracy revolves around the basic idea of Citizens being at the centre of governance and a

18
N. V. Paranjape, Right to Information Law in India 2 (LexisNexis, Gurgaon, Haryana, 1st edn., 2014).
19
Anil Singh, “Right to information and Democracy: Legal position in India” 1 IJLDAI 34 retrieved from
ijldai.thelawbridade.com (Visited on October 1, 2017).
20
AIR 1989 SC 190

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rule of the people. Normally it is presumed that whatever is done by the government is done
for the public for public welfare with optimum benefits from the funds used. However, the
reality is other way round, as in recent times; there are many incidences of misuse,
misappropriation and also careless use of public funds. In order to check it, a complete
transparency in all public dealings is required. Transparency would go a long way in helping
to expose the corrupt and allowing the honest to do their jobs without fear or favour.

When a government is transparent, there is less chance for corruption and more room for
accountability. That’s why Freedom of Information Acts (FOIAs) is becoming standard good
practice in the international arena. The RTI generally understood as the right to ccess
information held by public authorities’ is not just a necessity of the citizens; it is a
precondition to good governance. To be specific, ATI makes democracy more vibrant and
meaningful and allows citizens to participate in the governance process of the county. In
particular, it empowers ordinary citizens, especially those in rural areas.21

OBJECTIVES OF RIGHT TO INFORMATION ACT, 2005:

Until 2005, a common man had no access to information held by a public authority. Freedom
of speech and expression is guaranteed by the Constitution of India, nonetheless, citizen had
no right to know about the public policies of the government, therefore, unable to participate
in public policies, planning and its executions. Right to information has been recognized as
constitutional right in all most all the developed and under developing countries in the world;
nonetheless a separate and elaborate legislation was required to strengthen the same. Right to
Information Act, 2005 (herein after referred to as ‘the Act’) was passed by the Parliament as
Act to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens to secure
access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency
and accountability in the working of every public authority as stated in its preamble.

This enactment sets out its objectives in the Preamble, which aims to promote transparency
and accountability in the working of every public office. This Act was incorporated into the
Statute book on the premise that informed citizenry and transparency are vital to a vibrant
democracy. It also says, “Democracy requires an informed citizenry and transparency of
governance which are vital to its functioning and also to contain corruption and to hold
governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed. This Act has enabled
the common man to seek information. Until now, people have to obey the laws, whereas the
government machinery controlled everything. But with the advent of this Act, the
government agencies are under an obligation to obey the law and the people have got
controlling power. Due to this Act, transparency is creeping into governance. Now a citizen
can get information. This has paved the way for good governance. Thus, this Act is regarded
as a milestone in the history of social legislation to share information to citizens regarding
working of the government to make them more transparent as a result of which corruption,
could be checkmated to a greater extent. The Right to Information Act thus provides an
effective framework for effectuating the right to information, a fundamental right, as
enshrined in Article 19 of the Constitution of India.22

21
supra note 14
22
P. Chandra Sekhar, “Right to Information in strengthening Participatory Democracy” GMJ 4 (2010) retrieved
from www.caluniv.ac.in>global-mdia-journal (Visited on October 1, 2017).

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Greater Transparency-

With a view to ensuring maximum disclosure of information regarding government rules,


regulations and decisions, every public authority is mandated to maintain all its records duly
catalogued and indexed in a manner and form which facilitates the right to information under
the Act’. The public authorities are therefore required to make prompt disclosures through
publication of relevant documents. In compliance of the provisions of the Act, all levels of
Government – Centre, States and Local Bodies, including Village level Panchayats – have
put the records in public domain, through publications as well as internet in the regional
languages. And, to facilitate access to information, a citizen has earned the right to:

(i) inspection of works, documents, records;


(ii) taking notes, extracts or certified copies from public documents
or records;
(iii) taking certified sample of material; and
iv) obtaining information in electronic form, if available.23

Thus, all the public authorities have duly placed the information in public domain so that a
citizen has the right to know as to what is going on inside a public organization. In cases
where the information sought for are not provided within the stipulated period, or the
information furnished is incomplete, misleading or incorrect, the citizen is free to file a
complaint or appeal before the Information Commission, for necessary directions to the
parties as per the provisions of the Act. The Commission has the mandate, inter-alia, to
impose penalty and/or to recommend disciplinary action against the information providers, if
held responsible for obstructing the free flow of information.

Greater Accountability-

The RTI provides people with mechanism to access information, which they can use to hold
the government to account or to seek explanation as to why particular decisions have been
taken, by whom and with what consequences or outcomes. In addition, every public authority
is required ‘to provide reasons for its administrative or quasi-judicial decisions, to the
affected persons’ u/s 4(1)(d) of the Act. Until the advent of the RTI Act, it was not possible
for an ordinary citizen to seek the details of a decision making process, which was found
most often, as ineffective in terms of its outcome.

It was, therefore, not possible to hold a free and frank discussion on issues of common
concern of people or to fix responsibility for any action. Such an era of darkness in policy
planning is now history. The information regime has, in effect, created conducive conditions
for every one to have a better understanding of how the government works or how a
particular decision was reached. Such a regime empowers people to make appropriate choice
of leaders and the policies that affect them. This has begun to impact on delivery of socio-
economic services, particularly for the poor.

18
ibid at 5

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Participatory Citizen-Government Partnership-

The RTI Act provides a framework for promotion of citizen-government partnership in


carrying out programmes for the welfare of the people. The principle of partnership is derived
from the fact that people are not only the ultimate beneficiaries of development, but also the
agents of development. The stakeholders’ participation leads to better projects and yields
dynamic development. The disclosure of information has enabled the beneficiaries, mainly
through NGOs, to assume a central role in design and execution of projects. RTI has instilled
a wider sense of ownership in development activities. Besides, access to information has
enabled the people to participate in economic and political processes through a dialogue
between people and the government or public campaign on public policies.

For instance, information obtained under RTI, in respect of utilization of funds, allocated
under rural employment guarantee scheme, has been used by NGOs for campaigns in favour
or against political leaders during recent elections in some States, resulting in desirable
impact on political processes. Almost all the welfare projects, particularly at Village and
Panchayat levels, are being designed and pursued in cooperation with, and support of, NGOs
or affected persons, with a view to raising the satisfaction level of people.

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CONCLUSION:
India is the largest democracy in the world. Despite a bewildering variety of religions,
cultures, languages, food habits, customs and traditions, the ballot box keeps the country
together.

Immense problems such as extremes of wealth and poverty still prevail because of the caste
system in rural India, but there is respect and fear for the power of the vote. However, there
are still millions today in the nearly 600,000 villages who are not yet on the voter's list and
have no rights. The economic planners, policy makers and the so-called experts sitting in
Delhi and the State capitals are ignorant of ground realities and hopelessly out of touch with
the situation in the villages.

There is no transparency and no accountability at the local level where it counts the most.
Poor citizens cannot go up to the lowest government functionary and ask how much and for
what purpose money is being spent in their village. They have no right to ask for detailed
information on expenditure because that is where the corruption begins -- making false
receipts and vouchers running into millions of dollars.

The general conviction among the over 300 million living below the poverty line is that the
public exchequer is being looted, and that the money earmarked for development is going
into the pockets of the rich and the powerful. From the highest echelons of Government to the
lowest village functionary, the lawmakers and law enforcers are often also the law breakers,
and no one in the Government can touch them.

It takes years for donors and policy makers to wake up and realize what is happening. What is
needed is not stronger laws, stricter punishment or more visits to the villages to supervise
officials and look into accounts books. Nor will recruiting more experts and re-employing
retired bureaucrats help when too often they have been the problem in the first place.24

RECOMMENDATIONS:
Access to information laws should provide clear guidance to public servants as to how to
respond to requests when the information is not held by the public body, even if it relates to
its functions and responsibilities. If information does not exist, public officials should be
prepared to inform the requester. Such responses are a key part of open government and can
form the basis of constructive dialogue between the administration and the public about the
type of information needed in order to improve government efficiency and increase the
quality of decision making and policy making.

• Public authorities should have the duty to inform the information commissioner or similar
oversight body of instances when requests were refused for lack of information. Such
requirements are particularly important in transitional and developing countries like ours
where information management can be deficient.

24
Varun Malik, “Right to Information in India: A Hallmark of Democracy” 2 IJMSSR 43 (2013), retrieved
from http://www.irjcjournals.org/ijmssr/Feb2013/8.pdf (Visited on September 29, 2017).

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• Establishing indexes of the information held by particular bodies, and making these indexes
public can greatly assist information officers in rapid retrieval of information upon receipt of
a request, or in quick identification of the nonexistence of information. Such indexes should
also list the titles of documents subject to classification under other laws, in order to facilitate
requests for these documents and review of the necessity of the classification according to the
standards established by the access to information law.

• Proactive transparency and the posting of materials on government websites facilitates


access to information, but cannot in them self guarantee the right of access to information. At
a minimum, where requesters do have Internet access, officials should provide exact URLs, a
service which entails little effort and no expense.25

25
ibid

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BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Books:

 Paranjape N. V., Right to Information Law in India (LexisNexis, Gurgaon, Haryana,


1st edn., 2014).

 Kumar Chaubey Manish, Right to Information: Various Dimensions 146 (Regal


Publications, New Delhi, 2012).

WEBSITES:

 https://ssrn.com/abstract

 http://www.irjcjournals.org

 ijldai.thelawbrigade.com

 www.caluniv.ac.in>global-mdia-journal

 http://www.aarf.asia

 docs.manupatra.in

 http://www.legalindia.com

 www.caluniv.ac.in

 www.insightonindia.com

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