Information is Power

The Right to Information Act 2005 in India sets out a practical regime for providing information under the control of public authorities to citizens. This is in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. The R.T.I Act was enacted as a result of a long process of public mobilition and litigation for greater transparancy. In the 1990s The mass organisation ” Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan ” began a movement for disclosure of Panchayat records to curb corruption in the state of Rajasthan. After a long struggle the MKSS succeeded in gettingthe government to pass orders for disclosure of Panchayat records. The MKSS then scaled up its efforts for a wider disclosure law to cover all aspects of governance at all levels. Many citizens aggrieved by the non-disclosure of crucial government information had got direction for disclosure of such information from the courts. Over the years the Courts have established that the right to information is an integral part of the fundamental right to freedom of speach guaranteed under article 19 of the Constitution of India. These public and legal pressures finally led to the RTI Act being enacted. Section – 4 of the RTI Act mandates that public Authorities will reveal as much information as possible voluntarily to the public. Section – 5 provides for the designation of public information officers. Section – 6 details the way in which citizens can apply for information. Section – 7 provides the procedure for disposal of a request for information. Section – 8 gives details of that information that is exempt from disclosure . Section 19 provides the procedure for appeal in cases where public Information officers do not disclose information within 30 days of application . This Act has brought about a great ferment with the common citizens both individually and through organisations delving out sensitive information that has improved governance. The impact of the legislation can be gauged from the fact that close to twenty RTI activists, including one woman, have been killed by vested interests affected by their information seeking. The government has also tried to amend the Act and weaken it. Failing to do so it has packed the Information Commissions with corrupt retired bureaucrats who do not penalise the offending Public Information Officers for not giving information. So the initial cutting edge of the legislation has been considerably blunted. There is now a need for another round of mass and legal action to give the Act more teeth.

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