RIGHT TO INFORMATION(RTI)IN PUBLIC ADMN.: RIGHT TO INFORMATION(RTI) IN PUBLIC ADMN. WHAT IS RTI?
Citizen’s right to obtain information from any public authority relating to its administration, operations or decisions.
a fundamental democratic right.
WHY RTI?: WHY RTI? Because it helps to:
promote openness, transparency and accountability in
reduce corruption (Sin-secrecy relationship)
prevent administrative arbitrariness
bridge the gap between provider & recipient of public services
make citizens part of decision-making
make admn. Responsive
strengthen the foundations of democracy
II. INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVES : II. INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVES Sweden: The first country to provide freedom of information (FOI) to its citizens way back in 1766.
Background – Intense struggle between two main political parties – the Hats & the Caps.
Other Scandanevian Countries:
Finland – 1951
Denmark & Norway – 1970
Slide4: USA: FoI Act – 1966 (200 years after
Sweden) Amended in 1974
to make it easier for citizens to enforce their right to access
to provide for penalties against officials who treat FoIA request in an arbitrary or capricious fashion.
France – 1978
Canada – 1982 IV. INDIAN PERSPECTIVES: IV. INDIAN PERSPECTIVES The first political promise contained in the Janata Party’s Election Manifesto for the 1977 Lok Sabha Election.
Background: Emergency of 1975-77
Outcome: - `No Change’ (of Official Secrets Act, 1923) recommendation by a working group constituted by the Janata Govt.
- The working group comprised officials from the Cabinet Sectt. & the Ministries of Home Affairs, Finance & Defence. Slide6: Renewed commitment by V.P. Singh – led National Front in its 1989 LS Election Manifesto.
Background: Rajiv Gandhi Govt.’s reluctance to part with information relating to Bofors & other deals.
Outcome: NIL due to premature fall of the NF Govt.
Without waiting for the Central legislation six States have already passed their own law on access to information. These are:
Tamil Nadu 1997
Madhya Pradesh 1998
Slide7: Karnataka 2000
Significantly, all these States are/were not-BJP and non- NDA partners ruled states when the Acts were passed.
Lessons to be learnt from the experiences of M.P. (PDS in Bilaspur) & Rajasthan (People’s movement organised by Mazdoor Kishan Shakti Sangathan):
People to recognise the need for RTI.
They should have commitment to using this right.
Bureaucracy to be sympathetic & willing to accommodate & even encourage the provision & exercise of such a right.
In nutshell, need for combined action by the people & the govt.
Slide8: The RTI ACT 2005 is a landmark legislation
It received President’s assent on 15th June 2005.
It makes obligatory for every public authority:
To publish by 15 October 2005 (120 days) detailed information about the organisation, and its important policies, decisions, etc. (Sec.4).
To designate within 15 September 2005 (100 days) officers as Central Public Information Officers (CPIOs) or State Public Information Officers (SPIOs) in all administration units or officers under it to provide information to persons requesting for information under this Act [Sec.5(1)].
Slide9: It provides for penalities against CPIOs or SPIOs for refusal to receive an application for information without any reasonable cause malafide denial of request for information and other lapses mentioned in Sec.20.
The Act provides for constitution of Central and State Information Commissions.
It lays down the powers and functions of these Commissions as the appellate authorities.
Slide10: SECRECY: Most common feature of bureaucratic cultural
As Max Weber observed:
Insofar as it can, bureaucratic admn. “hides its knowledge and actions from criticism… The concept of the official secret is the specific invention of bureaucracy…”.
The Indian bureaucracy has inherited administrative culture of secrecy as colonial as well as feudal legacies.
Kautilya’s Arthasastra laid down:
Deliberations in a council “shall be so carried that even birds cannot see them; for it is said that the secrecy of counsels was divulged by parrots, mainas, dogs & other low creatures of mean birth”.
“Whoever discloses counsels shall be torn to pieces”.
Towards a New Culture of Administrative Openness: Towards a New Culture of Administrative Openness Legislative Measures
Inclusion of Right to FoI under Art.19 subject to some such safeguards as provided under the same Articles, viz.,
- sovereignty & integrity of India
- security of the State
- Friendly relations with foreign countries
- public order Slide12: Review & Revision of some existing, legislations to provide for specirfic provisions encouraging RTI & limiting the extent of withholding of information, viz.
- The Official Secrets Act, 1923 (Sec.5, f.I)
- The Commission of Enquiry Act, 1952
Slide13: Efficient Information Management System
A multi-faceted process involving:
- transmission &
- use of information
Consequently, a costly process too.
Who to bear the costs?
How to ensure weaker groups’accessibility to information?
Slide14: IT Policy to encourage optimal use of IT for providing information required by the citizens. Slide15: Administrative Measures:
Amending the Conduct Rules for public servants, esp., the inhospitable/negative provisions such as:
Rule 11 of the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964.
Introducing a new system of rewards & punishments.
Changing the existing practice of classification of govt. documents to end indiscriminate, unnecessary & irrelevant classification.
Need-based orientation training for public servants at various levels. II. TRANSPARENCY & INFORMATION: II. TRANSPARENCY & INFORMATION Sin & Secrecy: Need for Openness
FoI Act 2002 providing for citizen’s `freedom of information’ but not his `right to information’.
The Act has evoked fierce controversy on issue of inclusion & exclusion, viz.,
Slide17: Very imp. Notion of a right not acknowledged.
What types of information to be excluded from the purview of the Bill.
It exempts from disclosure any information exchanged in confidence between the Central & State Govts. Or any of their authorities or agencies – too wide a clause to cover a lot of information which should be available to public.
Provision for appeal only within the system – No independence authority.