How effective has RTI been?

Shiv Kumar

Right to information has been in operation in India since oct. 2005. Any concerned citizen after depositing requisite nominal fees can seek information from government bodies etc. Rules of business have been clearly laid out in the RTI act defining the scope of its operation.  Certain organizations and spheres related to national security and intelligence etc. have been kept out of its ambit. The results have been mixed in the last 11 years of it’s operation.

The RTI act has definitely empowered the common man by endowing him with a safe instrument which can be used to seek information from government agencies etc. The information thus obtained can prove handy in enforcing citizen’s rights. In fact the information which comes in public domain with its help makes people more aware about government and its policies. Corrupt politicians and corrupt officials in India have been at a receiving end ever since its implementation.  Many scams and scandals have come to light because of RTI. Examples abound which need not be elaborated here. Media has been the biggest gainer as a great deal of authentic information from government which was kept under wraps for years has now become easily accessible.

RTI has become such a powerful tool that corrupt officials have been prompted to skip important positions fearing RTI activist’s wrath. Investigative journalism has in fact been reincarnated with RTI’s aid. Such is the power of RTI that at times officials resort to cover ups to save their colleagues. However appeals in RTI commissions have overruled such corrupt officials and allowed better public scrutiny of government decisions.

The act has given birth to a new activist called RTI activist who has carved out a niche for himself in civil society. The NGO walas, mediamen and RTI activists have been working hand in hand to strengthen our democracy. Many RTI activists today have become part of the mainstream politics.

There is a darker side to RTI too. The instrument has been misused to blackmail people and extort money. Some activists have made it a business to file frivolous RTI pleas. It’s like; file an RTI, seek information and with the help of lawyers file cases in court on one pretext or another to sabotage decisions, policies and programmes. Some honest bureaucrats too have been reported to become victims of overzealous activists. Political scores are openly settled using this mechanism. At times, even personal information is at risk of being divulged. Frivolous RTIs are filed just to harass.   Even revenge is sought to be exacted using such tools. Some file RTIs to terrorize and silent their opponents. Even secondary information which seems normal and is revealed can be damaging from various perspectives.

While the law has been made to achieve public good, its implementation has opened several sour points. If national security is important, right to privacy is no less important.


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