Right to Information Act RTI as a tool of transparency and accountability

Question – Despite the usefulness of RTI as a tool of transparency and accountability, there is a need to amend this law due to its widespread misuse. Do a critical test. – 15 Dec 2021

Answer – The Right to Information Act (RTI) enacted in the year 2005 has completed more than 15 years now. A recent report released in this regard shows that so far around 2.2 lakh cases are pending in the Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions.

The Right to Information (RTI) Act is undoubtedly the most powerful law for the citizens. The law has undertaken the important task of redistribution of power in a democratic set up. It is a law that has enhanced accountability, transparency, empowered citizens with information and acted as a deterrent to corruption.

However, there have been allegations of misuse of RTI, especially for blackmailing public functionaries. It was also argued that government servants are unable to take decisions impartially due to the fear of RTI. It is also claimed that the act is a threat to national security as anyone can question sensitive issues like missile programs and international relations without revealing their intention. For this reason, a demand has been made to amend the RTI Act.

However, these allegations do not appear to be entirely correct due to the following reasons-

  • A national study conducted by the RTI Assessment and Advocacy Group (RaaG) in collaboration with the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) found that, less than 1 per cent of RTI applications pointed to abuse of law in requesting frivolous or slanderous information.
  • Most of the applicants sought basic information about the decisions taken by the government and steps taken for action, functioning of government officials and norms relating to utilization of public resources.
  • About 70 per cent of RTI applications have sought information that should either be actively made public or communicated to the applicant without the need to file an RTI application.
  • The analysis also showed that just over 1 percent of applications were gross, demanding excessive information. Most voluntary applications asked for information that should have been actively disclosed.

Section 8 of the RTI Act mentions restrictions regarding right to information of the people. It exempts the disclosure of various categories of information, including information that may prejudicially affect India’s security and its relations with any foreign state, or personal information whose public activity or Has nothing to do with interest, is included.

Hence the claim that RTI is being widely misused to blackmail public functionaries is not supported by data or evidence. Therefore, the dominance level of government officials should be increased to ensure that the delivery of RTI conforms to the spirit of the Act.

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