Open Government and Right to Information (RTI)

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This article is written by Tanya Singh, a 1st year student of Amity University, Chhattisgarh.

An open government is guided by the principal of transparency, accountability, participation and collaboration. open government is a topic of growing importance in administrative law. The modern trend is towards more open government. Openness in government is bound to act as a powerful check on the abuse or misuse of power by the government.

One of the most neglected rights in democracies throughout the world is the Right to Information, which though, being one of the most cherished human rights has largely been disregarded by most countries throughout the world, including India. The Right to Freedom of Information is now considered to be a customary international law, which is exemplified from the enshrinement of the right in numerous state constitutions, as well as various international covenants and treaties most notably the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [hereinafter UDHR], the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [hereinafter ICCPR]and the European Commission on Human Rights [hereinafter ECHR]among others.

The right to information has both intrinsic and instrumental value. Its intrinsic value comes from the fact that citizens have a right to know. It is a crucial step towards a deeper, more meaningful democracy. More tangibly, in a country like India it can promote action for development and therefore has considerable instrumental value. Information enables people to make enlightened choices, and keep tabs on elected representatives and officials who claim to act on their collective behalf. Thus, accountability and transparency are both enhanced radically.

The legal right to request information (RTI) can lead to more open, accountable, and participatory government. OGP members are required to have laws enabling fair access to information. Through OGP, the effectiveness of these laws can be improved by removing additional barriers to information and creating platforms to report on fraud or corruption.

OGP members are also expanding the frontiers of RTI by empowering citizens to use information to participate and shape policies, services and budgets. This has been particularly effective at the local level where governments are closest to their citizens.

EVOLUTION OF RIGHT TO INFORMATION INTERNATIONALLY:

Article 19 of universal declaration of Human Rights,1948 recognizes the Right to information.

Sweden (1766) : First country to guarantee RTI to its citizens. Constitution declares that citizens shall have free access to information subject to only some restriction.

Finland(1951): Law on the right to information on publicity of document.

France(1978): Commission on access to administrative documents.

United States: Foundation of openness and RTI lay in Constitutional fundamental right of free speech.

Canada: Freedom of information Act ,1986 .

Australia, New Zealand: Freedom of Information Act ,1982.

South Africa(1996): Constitution provides RTI as a fundamental right.

Great Britain: Freedom of Information Act ,2002 provides general right of public access to all types of recorded information by public authority with some exemptions.

EVOLUTION OF RIGHT TO INFORMATION IN INDIA:

In Rajasthan the Right to Information movement was initiated by Aruna Roy in the early 1990’s. The Mazdoor Kisan Shakthi Sangathan (MKSS) succeeded Through Struggle and agitation, in accessing and using information to put an end to local corruption and exploitation. In 2005 the Parliament has enacted a new legislation – Right To Information Act 2005. This new Act replace the old Freedom of Information act, 2002, which was un notified and hence, not operational. It aims at promoting Transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. It has the widest possible reach covering central government, state governments panchayat raj Institution, Local Bodies and recipients of government grants. Right to Information Act 2005 mandates timely response to citizen requests for government information.

It is an initiative taken by Department of Personnel and Training, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions to provide a– RTI Portal Gateway to the citizens for quick search of information on the details of first Appellate Authorities, PIOs etc. amongst others, besides access to RTI related information / disclosures published on the web by various Public Authorities under the government of India as well as the State Governments.

OBJECTIVE OF RIGHT TO INFORMATION ACT:

The basic object of the Right to Information Act is to empower the citizens, promote transparency and accountability in the working of the Government, contain corruption, and make our democracy work for the people in real sense. It goes without saying that an informed citizen is better equipped to keep necessary vigil on the instruments of governance and make the government more accountable to the governed. The Act is a big step towards making the citizens informed about the activities of the Government.

REASONS FOR THE NEED OF RIGHT TO INFORMATION ACT:

  • Right to information is necessary due to the accountable to people.
  • It reduces the gap between administration and people.
  • Increases people participation in administration.
  • Makes people aware of administrative decision making.
  • Reduces the chance of abuse of authority by the public servants.

RIGHT TO INFORMATION AS A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT:

Right to information has enacted from the freedom of speech and expression enshrined in article 19(1) (a) and right to life and personal liberty contained in article 21 of the constitution. The judiciary treats it as a part of the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by article 19(1) (a). It is also of equally paramount consideration that justice should not only be done but also be publicly recognized as having been done.

In bennet coleman v. union of India, the court held that the democracy means a government of the people, it is obvious that every citizen must be entitled to participate in the democratic persons. Their effective participation can be ensured only if they have sufficient information with them.

THERE ARE SEVERAL ASPECTS OF OPEN GOVERNMENT:

1.Presentation of documents by the government in the court in the course of some litigation.

2.official secrecy.

3.Access to information.

People’s right to know has two aspects:

  1. How far government should use criminal sanction to deter free flow of information?
  2. How far government is under a positive obligation to make available, on demand, information to the people not in the prohibited category?

CONCLUSION:

The officer who is the head of all the information act is the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC). At the end of the year CIC is required to submit the reports which contains the number of requests, amount of charges collected by each public authority under the act etc. , Bhopal Gas Tragedy could have been avoided if people had been provided complete information about the hazards of the plants and the protective measures.

REFERENCES:

  • www.legalservices.com
  • rti.gov.in
  • www.opengovpartnership.org

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