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Right to Information - An Anti-Corruption Tool

Written by: Ruchita T. Jain - 3rd Year Law Student, Institute of Law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad.
Right to Information
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  • Basically, this article talks about transparency including right to information and also how it does work as an anti – corruption tool. The motive behind writing this article is to clear some of the concepts of the readers as well as of the author herself.

    No democratic government can survive without accountability and the basic postulate of accountability is that the people should have information about the functioning of government. It is only if people know how Government is functioning that they can fulfill the role which democracy assigns to them and make democracy a really effective participatory democracy.

    Thus, right to information and transparency in the Government system is as much important as air and water for surviving of human being.

    # What is Transparency?

    TRANSPARENCY is not a vague or impossible concept. We can have transparency in each and every sphere of our life. But before discussing that first of all we should understand that what does TRANSPARENCY means? Actually transparency is clarity.

    Here, it is clarity of information, which means everything should be open and disclosed to all. We the people that are the common citizens put our faith in the system expecting them to work efficiently, fairly and impartially. But today the evil of corruption has increased so much that we have forgotten about transparency in the system.

    In countries where the law is good on paper but has been introduced as part of a top-down government reform plan, international initiative or lobbying from a civil society, implementation has proved slow.

    # Object behind Transparency
    The basic object behind Transparency is to curb the evil of corruption and increase openness of the government departments. Today most of the government departments keep secrecy in the proceedings so that no one can identify their mistakes and keep a check on them. The approach of these departments is: everything is secret unless permitted to be disclosed.

    Transparency International says, access to information, 'is particularly challenging where countries have been under forms of colonial – rule systems marked by a preoccupation with secrecy, with the information of the most menial type being scrupulously guarded, and with accountability not to their peoples, but to remote metropolitan capitals. On regaining independence, these countries inherited administrative systems and officials obsessed with secrecy. '

    # What is Right to Information?

    A popular government without popular information or the means of obtaining it is but a prologue to a farce or tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives. – JAMES MEDISON
    Openness and accessibility of people to information about the functioning of the government is a vital component of Democracy. In most of the democratic countries, the right to know is now a legal right. Democracy is no longer perceived as a form of the government where people vote a government in office, at regular intervals and retire into passivity after the elections are held. Today people want to have a say in the manner they are governed in the major issues affecting their lives. And such participation can be effective only if the people have proper information about the way the government business is transacted.
    The Right to Information is a fundamental Human Right. It is the key to DEMOCRACY and DEVELOPMENT, making participatory democracy meaningful, cementing trust in government, supporting people – centered development, facilitating equitable economic growth, tackling corruption and bolstering media capacity.

    Right to Information is a part of fundamental rights under Article 19(1) of the Constitution of India. Article 19 (1) says that every citizen has freedom of speech and expression. As early as in 1976, the Supreme Court said in the case of Raj Narain v. State of UP, that people cannot speak or express themselves unless they know. Therefore, right to information is embedded in article 19. In the same case, Supreme Court further said that India is a democratic country. People are the masters. Therefore, the masters have a right to know how the governments, meant to serve them, are functioning. Further, every citizen pays taxes. Even a beggar on the street pays tax (in the form of sales tax, excise duty etc) when he buys a piece of soap from the market. The citizens therefore, have a right to know how their money was being spent.

    Right to Information Act, 2005 empowers every citizen to:

    # Ask any questions from the Government or seek any information
    # Take copies of any government documents
    # Inspect any government documents.
    # Inspect any Government works
    # Take samples of materials of any Government work.

    Thus, in simple words RIGHT TO INFORMATION is a right to know.

    # Relation between Transparency and Right to Information
    TRANSPARENCY and RIGHT TO INFORMATION has a cleansing effect on the functioning of the government and helps in keeping a check on corruption.
    The entire system has become so rotten that if all of us individually and together do not do our bit, it will never improve. Therefore, if want to change the system we have to be a part of that system.

    Transparency and Right to Information are interconnected so much that if either of them is not there than the other can also not exist. Right to Information is very essential for democracy. It is a part of our fundamental right. For people to participate in governance, the pre-requisite is that they first know what is going on.
    At the International level, Right to Information and its aspects find articulation as inalienable fundamental human right in most important basic human rights documents, namely, the UDHR , the International covenant on economic, social and cultural rights.

    # Conclusion
    # Whether Right to Information has made Transparency stronger or weaker?
    Positively, Right to Information has worked as a means to maintain transparency and clarity in the system. It has worked as an anti – corruption tool. But then also almost 50 to 60 percent of the citizens don't know about their right to information and how use it for their benefit. And as they don't know about their right so they also cannot use it and thus it is ineffective in many areas.

    The main reason for not being their transparency in the system is the corruption. Corruption is a multi-faceted and complex phenomenon. Today, in India corruption has penetrated deep into the system and receives support from the top, as a result honest and right officers who try to expose corruption are often harassed by this higher authorities. The tentacles of corruption are widespread and deep rooted and it is prevalent in every facet of society be it economic, political, administrative or social.

    Thus, responsible citizens of our society must fight against corruption through RIGHT TO INFORMATION and more and more transparency can be achieved in the system.

    # Suggestion
    Following are some of the suggestions by the author to curb the evil of corruption though Right to Information and thus transparency can be maintained.
    # C. Rajagopalachari had observed, 'National character is the keystone on which rests the fate and future of our public affairs. National character depends on, and, infact, is an individual morality'. there is a slogan from BHAGWAD GITA which states: Yadyadacarati srestgastattadevetaro janah; sa yatpramanam kurute lokastadanuvartate which means whatever a noble man does, is followed by others; whatever he sets up as a standard, is adopted by the world.

    # The core value of our democracy such as justice, liberty, equality and fraternity is rooted in moral and ethical values. We need to reinforce the values of DHARMA in the society.

    # We need to launch a powerful national movement spearheaded by our spiritual gurus, civil societies and enlightened citizens so that the political and administrative leadership is forced to sit back, takes note and initiatives actual measures to get rid of corruption.

     *S. P. Gupta v. UOI [1982 (2) SCR 365]
    *Jeremy Pope, Access to Information in Transparency International: Global Corruption Report 2003, P. 8
    *Governance Reform for Vision India, By B. P. Mathur; Pg. No. 250
    *Angela Wadia, Global Sourcebook on Eight To Information; Pg. No. 251
    *Universal Declaration of Human Rights
    *Angela Wadia, Global Sourcebook on Eight to Information; Pg. No. 258.
    *C. Rajagopalachari cited by J. S. Verma in Imperatives of Ethics in Public Life, in Fifty Years of Indian Parliament, Lok Sabha, 2002.
    *Bhagwad Gita is holy book of Hindus in India.

    Also Read:
    Corruption: A Menace In India:
    Everyone censures corruption at a societal stage but that does not mean that anyone has escaped from the flu of corruption. It is not an infection in one country.

    Is Poverty A Cause of Corruption:
    Popular belief suggests that corruption and poverty are closely related to developing country. Corruption has been a constant obstacle for countries trying to bring out the political, economic and social changes desired for their development.

    Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988:
    "If we cannot make India corruption-free, then the vision of making the nation develop by 2020 would remain as a dream." - Dr. A.P.J.Abdul Kalam
    Corruption is considered to be one of the greatest impediments on the way towards progress for developing country like India.

    Corruption in Decentralised Governance - A case study of K.G. Halli, Karnataka:
    Until the passage of the Constitution (seventy-third) and (seventy-fourth) Amendment Acts, 1992, the only reference in the Constitution to local bodies was in the Directive Principles of State Policy.

    Corruption in Governance: Human Rights Dimensions:
    Corruption threatens the rule of law, democracy and human rights; undermines good Governance, fairness and social justice; distorts competition, hinders economic development, and endangers the stability of democratic institutions and moral foundations of society.

    Corruption menace:
    In order to curb the rising monster of Corruption one should not let the seed of Need grow into a Black hole sucking up every thing, but instead limit it to the seedling, which would be beneficial to the society.

    Understanding Corruption problem in India:
    Do you really believe in our Justice system? If somebody asks me my answer will be misleading. It rather depends on the situation what the matter is

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