RTI was brought in to promote transparency and accountability in the working public authorities but the RTI activists face significant challenges. Discuss. Briefly evaluate the proposed amendments to the RTI rules that further threatens the safety of the activists.

RTI was brought in to promote transparency and accountability in the working public authorities but the RTI activists face significant challenges. Discuss. Briefly evaluate the proposed amendments to the RTI rules that further threatens the safety of the activists.

Approach: 

  • Introduce with the RTI
  • Highlight challenges RTI activists face like violence, large pendency etc.
  • Discuss the issues with proposed amendments to rules 10 and 12
  • Conclude with suggestions on how to make RTI more effective
Model Answer :

The Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI) provides 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. The Act remains one of the most empowering pieces of legislation.

Challenges faced by RTI community:

  • Violent Reactions: The RTI activists are already exposed to violence. According to the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), 69 activists have been killed, 130 RTI activists have been victims of assault and 170 others are victims of harrassment.
  • Attitude of GOI: Some of the agencies of Government of India refuse to disclose the required information. The rejection rate in PMO itself is very high.
  • Training of Information officers: The Information Officers do not necessarily get the right training, often do not get the updated information which would make their action more appropriate.
  • Huge pendency of cases: In some states, the Information Commissions are burdened with huge pendency of cases. For example. UP has has more than 48,000 cases with the Commissions.
  • Powers of the Commission: The Commission does not have enough power for getting responses to its questions. It does not have the mechanisms for following up on whether its orders have been complied with.

Proposed Amendments:

Some of the amendments to the RTI Act proposed by the government of India have raised concerns with the RTI activits. The most controversial amendment pertained to Rules 10 and 12.

  • Deletion of Rule 10(1): The amendment means that the CIC need not hear an appellant before dismissing an appeal if it is not satisfied that it is a fit case to proceed with.
    • Activists say no appeal should be dismissed without giving a hearing to the appellant.
  • Rule 12 on ‘Withdrawal/Abatement of Appeal’: The Amendment would allow proceedings pending before the Commission to end in case of the applicant’s death.
    • This makes the job of those who file RTIs even more risky and creates the conditions of more violence against the RTI activists.

Way forward:

Identifying the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and proactively disclose information for those questions could help reduce the RTI applications. For capacity building, universities could include the RTI Act in their curriculum. Implementation of the Whistle Blowers Protection Act (2011) would go a long way in protecting the RTI activists.

Subjects : Editorials

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