India’s information watchdog has said the government is coming the way your right to know. Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said the old mindset should be changed for effective implementation of the Right to Information Act.
Habibullah has said the judiciary, barring those of the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court, has been slow in implementing the Act to provide information to ordinary people.
“In certain areas of the government, there has been hesitation to provide information. There have been instances where the officials even refused to show details of Cabinet meetings to the CIC, despite our assurances that these would not be made public,” Habibullah told HT.
Advocating a change in the mindset of government functioning, according to which official information was considered sacrosanct, he said: “All apprehensions about the government applecart being turned upside down after the implementation of the RTI Act have been proved wrong in two years’ time”.
On the implementation of the RTI Act in the judiciary, Habibullah said, “The implementation of the Act was not easy in the judiciary as it already had its own rules in this regard. The question of defining was also there to see how much of the Act could be implemented there (in the judiciary).”
“In our view, the judiciary was initially slow to respond to the Act, and the compliance speed is still below desirable levels, but the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court have shown the way to other courts in the country.”
Singling out the Delhi High Court for successful implementation of the RTI Act, Habibullah said, “All other courts in the country could follow that model.”
The country witnessed a fierce debate on whether official file notings could be made public under the RTI Act, and within 24 months all such doubts turned out to be unfounded.”
“The impact of the RTI Act was visible in many cases where the government moved courts in a bid to keep the information secret. People are feeling empowered and that is why they want to know more and more about matters affecting them.”
“The government moved the court, challenging our order to see the exchange of letters between former President KR Narayanan and then Prime Minister Vajpayee after the 2002 Gujarat riots. Similarly, appointment of the present foreign secretary by superseding senior officers has also reached the court,” he said.