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RTI act democratized the information and decentralized
the power. Power no more remains confined to
select few, rather it was made available equally
to all the citizens
“That Government Is Best Which Governs Least.” - Henry David Thoreau
governance, in modern democracy, means democratization of governance. In participatory
democracy people elect their leaders to govern them. But governance is not the monopoly
of elected leaders. When governance becomes the privilege of select few or when
the people who are governed are kept out of the affairs of governance, it
degenerates into misgovernance and becomes a travesty of democracy.
governance is characterized by transparency and accountability and the best way
to ensure transparency and accountability in governance is through increased
and informed participation of people. People are biggest stakeholder in
governance, they have a critical and crucial role to play. So, it is imperative
that people must have the right to know about the activities of the government.
2005, Indian Parliament passed Right to Information Act [RTI] which gave
the common citizen the right to seek information regarding government projects,
schemes and other activities. It was a landmark Act which came with the
potentiality to change the very idea of governance and the power equation between common people and the government. The act was promulgated
with the vision of democratization of governance and empowerment of common people
Therefore, Right to Information has been given the status of a fundamental
right under Article 19(1) of the Constitution.
the following sections of the article, it is discussed how RTI act has empowered
the common people, promoted good governance and strengthened participatory democracy.
pre-RTI era people’s role was only restricted to the election of their leaders
people did not have any right to know about the issues of government activities
But RTI actgave the common people the
much-needed right to seek information about the works of their government. The
act was given the status of fundamental right and it is evident from the fact that
how crucial it is for the proper functioning of the government.
to French philosophers Michel Foucault, power is derived from knowledge and
information is the basic component of knowledge. So, in this age of
technology driven information \revolution, empowerment means access to information. The first thing any tyrannical government does is to restrict
the people’s access to the resources of information and monopolize over it
while the principle of good governance demands
free flow of information. Concentration
of information inevitably leads to centralization of power.
act democratized the information and decentralized the power. Power no more
remains confined to select few,
rather it was made available equally to all
the citizens. So, undoubtedly RTI serves as a great tool of empowerment for the
facilitated and encouraged the participation of common people in the process of
governance. Earlier people had the will, but did not have the way to take part in so-called ‘official’ affairs. But RTI act paved the way for
active participation of the common people in governance. People showed
increased interest in the affairs of government and sought information
regarding various issues affecting their lives and well-being.
any vibrant society, participation of people in governance is very essential.
The main reason behind this is that governance is not a prerogative of a
particular group or class, it affects the whole society. So, the government
policies and schemes must be formulated keeping in mind the interests of all
the sections of the society, especially the downtrodden and marginalized. It
would only be possible when all the sections are given right to take part in
act empowered the people to
seek definite and direct answer from the officials of their works or lack of it. So, accountability invariably led to efficiency and sense of responsibility among government officials.
is the cornerstone of any good government. But in Indian bureaucratic system and
government functionaries, transparency was an exception rather than being a
norm. According to latest  ranking of Transparency International, India
stands at 94, out of 176 nations. The survey also revealed that 54% Indians
paid bribe, at least once, to get things done.
act has the potentiality to tackle with this rampant corruption in both at
grass root level and at power corridors of high and mighty. After enactment of
this act, many a cases of corruption came to light. From the Commonwealth Games to the 2G scam, RTI queries have been the starting point of exposure in
a score of recent cases of corruption. It is the most powerful weapon in hands
of common people to challenge the impenetrable fortress of officialdom.
is all about people’s participation and empowerment. RTI act has played a significant role in strengthening democracy by
promoting decentralization of power and good governance. RTI made it
possible, to a great extent, for the people to decide and determine the way
they want to be governed. RTI act gave the common people a defining power to shape the government schemes and
policies. Governance was no more an arbitrary privilege of select few. RTI act
lent voice to the aspirations of ordinary citizens in issues of governance.
journey of RTI has not been a smooth sailing. It faced challenges and
resistance from various
quarters. First one came from the
very creators of the act. For many it was like Frankenstein’s monster
which started haunting and hounding its creator. Bureaucrats and babus put stiff resistance and showed grudging reluctance while
parting away with information sought under RTI. The obvious reason for their
discomfort was that their activities were made open to public scrutiny.
Therefore, government officials often
indulge in dilatory tactics by
putting forth some lame excuses. In such cases Information Commissioners have significant role to play.
limit the power given under RTI, government made numerous attempts to amend the
act. It was successful in keeping CBI out of its purview. In 2006, government
proposed an amendment to deny public access to official file noting.
amendments had sought to restrict disclosure of file noting only to social and
developmental issues. But under the pressure from civil right activists and criticism
of common people, then government had recently dropped the proposed amendment.
The common people must be always alert to oppose any move to dilute their right
played the role of whistleblower in many cases of corruption involving powerful
people which exposed the crusader of transparency to considerable risks. Recently many RTI activists were attacked
and killed for seeking information. Such incidents discouraged people from
seeking information. Measures must be taken to maintain confidentiality of
identity of information seekers and ensure their security.
the common people need to exercise considerable restrain while using RTI. Many a
times the information sought, breached the privacy of public figures. Such practices will give the government reasons good enough to limit
the act in the name of safeguarding privacy. Apart from this, the act is
often used or misused to settle personal grudges and vendetta. Doing this will
only reduce this act of empowerment into a tool of blackmailing.
best way to deal with all these challenges while promoting good governance is
by making the act redundant. The governments, instead of waiting for the common
people to seek information, must voluntarily make all the information available
to the people. It will not only promote good governance but also increase the
trust between government and the people it governs.
Q Nirupam Hazra The author is a PG Scholar, Department of Social Work,
University of Delhi.