4-year-old right to info has miles to go
Four years after India legislated a landmark Right to Information act, two independent studies have argued that the central and state governments still have significant work to do in creating a system that empowers the act, and by extension, citizens.delhi Updated: Oct 12, 2009 01:22 IST
Four years after India legislated a landmark Right to Information act, two independent studies have argued that the central and state governments still have significant work to do in creating a system that empowers the act, and by extension, citizens.
The studies — one by a committee formed by the watchdog Central Information Commission, and another by a network of civil society groups—will be presented on October 12 at a two-day national convention in the capital to mark the sunshine law turning 4.
The report by the CIC looked at the status of implementation of commissions’ recommendations by various governments and concluded, “…there isn’t even basic compliance. There is lack of seriousness or commitment among departments towards implementing the act.”
This is seconded by the other study, ‘Report of People’s RTI Assessment’, which found that just four of the 13 responding commissions — in Andhra Pradesh, Meghalaya, Tripura and Uttarakhand — were satisfied with the manner in which state governments were following their orders on RTI.
Further, the government has still not devised a system to make commissions financially and administratively independent, instead of extensions of the government. Most commissioner appointments tend to be from the ranks of retired civil servants, police officers and judges. The report recommends that these selections should be made transparent. The Parliament and state assemblies should directly vote the budgets of commissions.
The study also indicates that the government can still be a hurdle instead of an enabler for the act. Over a third of respondents reported being discouraged by government officials themselves from filing applications.
The report found, “Applicants, especially from the weaker segments of society, are often intimidated, threatened and even physically attacked when they go to submit an RTI application, or as a consequence of their submitting such an application.”