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Use And Misuse Of RTI: A Salutary Tool For Good Governance Or A Tool Being Misused

The research points out use and misuse of RTI. RTI has been used by people to get information, as it is their right to get the same. RTI in a democratic society is an instrumental tool to add weight to voice of people for good governance whereas the same has been misused for people with their ulterior motive.

Here are both good and has instances regarding the same. Majority of people still are unknown about the act, Judiciary has been key in pointing out use of RTI and providing people with solutions or discarding unreasonable ask of people through use of RTI. After amendment of RTI there has been significant reduction in number of cases being filed on a daily bases. For proper implementation of RTI, in-dependability should be maintained else there will always be someone who prefers to point out flaws rather than appreciating the goodness the act has brought.

The research is based on secondary data from various sources.

Right to information Act, 2005(herein referred to as RTI) is an act, which was passed by the parliament of India in 2005 during the phase when 73rd and 74th amendment to constitution of India was passed. RTI came into picture in India replacing Freedom of information Act, 2002. RTI sets out procedures and rules with respect to citizen's rights in India.

The RTI with context to Article 19 of Indian constitution enables Indian citizens to exercise their fundamental right of speech and expression. "Where a society has chosen to accept democracy as its creedal faith, it is elementary that the citizens ought to know what their government is doing. Lets take Current example of Russia-Ukraine war, where people are scared for their life and constantly thinking what the government is doing for the same. This is where RTI comes into picture. Through transparency with steps of government and their plans people can be assured and get a clarity as to what government is doing for their welfare.

Before enactment of RTI, the citizens of India had minimal access to information, which were dealt by public authority. Matters about public interest was not easy for a common person to get access. Now it is obligatory upon the authority to provide information and to maintain records, which includes its operational needs.

It is notable to mention that with all good things, bad things follows soon. People for good have used RTI whereas it is being misuse too. In name of RTI, people have been trying to misuse the right provided to them under the act. This paper aims to deliver both aspects of RTI in Indian context.

Objective And Importance Of The Act
There is a famous joke by a comic wherein he says, " people say that they cannot live without love, but I think oxygen is more important". Like how oxygen is for human body, RTI is equivalent of that for Democracy. Four elements of good governance in democratic society are namely, transparency, predictability, accountability and participation.

The basic objective of RTI is to:
  1. Empower the citizen
  2. Promote transparency and accountability with respect to works of the public authorities
  3. Seize corruption from society

In short, RTI has been enacted with a vision of democracy being there for people in real sense rather than just on paper. This law is there to empower people to ask information, be it related to central, state or governments including non-governmental organization, which are being funded by the government substantially.

How RTI Helps In Good Governance
There is no need to think twice that RTI is closely linked to good governance, as transparence and accountability are pillars of good governance. The true goal of representative government is welfare of people as it is arguably an effective tool for obtaining good governance in Democratic society.

How RTI is important from people's point of view

From people's point of view (being a commoner), we can establish certain perspectives of citizens:
  1. People pay taxes to the government and contribute to the income of the government.
  2. The same tax is taken and contributed to the development of society.
  3. People, in a society where there is no development, always wonder what has happened to the taxes they paid.
  4. For them, it is justifiable to be concerned about access to the whereabouts of the plans and schemes of the government, which is ignited after people pay their taxes.
RTI is a tool via which people are provided with access to the information with certain boundaries. In addition, they can opt to take legal action in case they discover some misconduct in the information provided.

Empowerment of common people via RTI

If we look into what was people's stand before the introduction of RTI, we can see that people did not have a say in the socio-political decisions made by the government. Following which, people started to feel that they were being ignored and excluded, and a sense of indifference towards the policies of the government. There was always a sort of secrecy from the government's side with respect to the policies of the government. People's perspective was that they had the right to know what was going on and that their opinion and voices should be taken into account as they were the ones who were in direct consequences of those policies. The introduction of the act in 3005 made an environment for citizens. It provided the citizens with access to information. It equipped them with a voice in political and economic decisions taken by the government.

Accomplishment by RTI: Examples

The RTI has provided citizens with a module of optimistic transparency and accountability. Some examples of the same can be seen as:
  1. Adarsh Scam: wherein, in place where a 6-storeyed building was supposed to be made for widows and war heroes of the Kargil war, therein a 31-storey building was erected. Two activists presented an application in the court, following which a revelation was made that the land did not belong to the Government of Maharashtra but to the Ministry of Defense.
  2. 3G Scam: the fraud was led by Adimuthu Raja, which involved the telecom ministry. The same revealed the rot of corruption in the congress party. The same fraud was a revelation of RTI, wherein some officials took the bribery worth more than 150,000Cr was brought in front of the public.
  3. Indian Red Cross Society Scam: After the enactment of RTI, the public were able to question public authority and ask for information about the same. The Red Cross society had diluted the funds which were supposed to be for Relief and Rehabilitation for people who suffered from natural disasters during the Kargil war. After people asked for the documentation of the same, it was revealed that the said fund was used to buy luxurious goods by a certain IAS officer.

Amendment of 3019: Criticism by people

After the 3019 amendment of the Act, Article 13 of the same has entrusted that the salary of the information commissioner is to be decided by the Central Government. The people have heavily criticized the same. The Amendment has taken power from the people and empowered the government. Before the amendment came into picture, more than 6000 cases were being filed on a daily basis. It is believed among the mass that the amendments have challenged the independence of the act.

Findings from (6)

From above, I am of the opinion that RTI can be a very powerful tool if used in the correct way. RTI is not just an information provider, it is something more, it is a tool that empowers the common people to be involved in the decision-making process. RTI in a developing country like India can be seen as a true essence of good governance whose effective implementation is needed as abuse of authority can be controlled by the act. RTI and transparency act as a bridge for trust between people and the government. By valid implementation of this act, people can sleep safely knowing they can rely on their government.

Misuse Of RTI
It is arguable that in the process of implementation of laws there will always be some people who will misuse the same. Like how police seems to misuse, their powers sometimes to suppress law, and like how some clever criminals misuse judicial system by prolonging the trial process. There is misuse of laws is always dependent on the society as it comprises of different kind of people in the society and other factor is based on judiciary's power to punish the wrongdoers. Can it be said with 100% confidence that only goo people will use RTI for benefit of society and not the other way around?
  • Blackmailing

    People when they find out a small mistake on behalf of someone, which can cost them their job, will directly, go on to blackmail them regarding the same for monetary benefits. To be able to blackmail someone who has been indulged in some illegal activity, there are some illegal actions. The blackmailer can threaten an illegal action saying that they will expose their act and subsequently extort money for the same. This does not mean that everyone will do the same, but there is no denying that someone will be doing this.
  • Election Agenda

    RTI is a powerful means to turn something up and down. People can be influenced quickly. Like the proverb," everything is fair in love and war", people go out of their way to claim a seat in the election, be it internal or external elections. There have been instances wherein people have provoked someone about some insights and made them file a case regarding the same under RTI. This leads to their image being bad for the time being and hence led to misuse of the same. This can be taken in a good way as well as bad. He can file a case himself but provoking others to file on his behalf for some ulterior motives is bad. There are some instances that such filed cases are based on lies fed to them by politicians only to make their opposition's image bad during the elections.
  • Social media Influence

    Social media has provided people with a platform to express their views and thoughts about things. We know that 75% of things on social media are manipulative or manipulated media/things. RTI has proven its worth in a democratic society as people began to question authority and the concerned authority had to answer the same. RTI helps to see what we want to protect when it comes to the use of platforms for receiving and imparting information without any interference from the government or a third party. People have a tendency to post with little knowledge and it is circulated to a mass, and hence sometimes wrong news can affect people. Little knowledge is dangerous, and not all things we see on social media are true.

Judicial Standing WRT RTI
The information law in India has its scope in almost every field be it legal or environmental or business and public. The government along with other public authorities' related information can be accessed online. Following which there have been numerous cases and appeals in courts of India.
  1. UPSC V. Angesh Kumar:
    Some unsuccessful candidates in the 2010 Civil Services exam approached court for directions regarding UPSC to disclose details of marks awarded to them, including the cut-off marks for every subject, scaling methodology, model answers, and complete list of results of all candidates. The court directed to disclose raw marks as well as the model answers of the questions of the examination under section 3 and 6 of the act.
  2. UOI V CIC:
    The petitioner in the case challenged a certain order of CIC whereby CIC declared, "The ministers in the union government and all states governments as public authorities under section 2(h) of RTI." The court was of the opinion that the order of CIC is to be set aside and the directions issued by the CIC in the case were beyond the scope of CIC. Moreover, the question is not to be raised at the first glimpse at all.
  3. Harinder Dhingra V Bar association:
    The appellant sought information related to the number of complaints against advocates, cases which were disposed of, and violations of the Advocate Act. The court was of the opinion that the Bar Council is a statutory body constituted as per the advocates act to protect the ethical standards of advocates and punish members for misconduct. The court held that Bar councils are liable to provide information as per the RTI.
  4. Shri Vijay Kamble V Custom Department, Mumbai:
    The appellant asked for copies which were subject to cause notices and other documents during the proceedings by DRI and currently under adjudication by the CPIO and the authority. The authority had declined to disclose the information of the same under section 8 of the Act. The court was of the opinion that RTI cannot be invoked to access information related to those proceedings. If intervention for disclosure of information related to an ongoing adjudication process is allowed, the same will lead to questions being asked about proceedings before courts. The same would be in contravention of the Separation of powers under the Constitution of India.
  5. Chandrakant Vrajlal Fichadiya V State of Gujarat:
    The petitioner filed an application seeking a copy of a map under RTI, which was third-party information that can only be revealed after getting consent from the third party. The court held that the same can only be disclosed if it falls under public interest and only if the map doesn't cause any kind of harm or injury to such third party.
  6. People's Union Of Civil Liberties vs. Union Of India: The court was of the opinion that "The ask of the petitioner in this case is unconstitutional. The ask of the petitioner is subjected to nullifying the effect of any order or judgment which requires the disclosure of information. The Act should be allowed to bloom and grow."
  7. R.K Jain V UOI: The court was of the opinion that the information with regards to charges and penalties imposed on employees and the records of the same are matters of the relationship between employer and employee, and the disclosure has no relationship to any public activity. This case is an example of media manipulation that caused unwanted attention towards people started by their rival groups.

RTI has been an effective instrument to promote transparency and accountability in administration. There has been lack of awareness among majority of people which is required for effective use of the act. Following which government programs and other related services has not reached to all public as a result of this people from backward class are disadvantage on the receiving end of corrupt practices prevailing in root level and nepotism by the government.

For the past 11 years, the RTI Act has been in existence. RTI applications disclosed significant frauds such as CWG, 2G, and Adarsh society. Political parties have not been covered under RTI, which is an oddity. It goes without saying that in a democracy; political parties must be democratic and have internal party democracy.

However, all parties are attempting to avoid the RTI. Antisocial forces who have been inspired by those who have been exposed by RTI are attacking RTI advocates. Several RTI activists have been attacked in various states. Despite this, I believe RTI is a necessary and strong tool. The government must protect RTI advocates.
  1. There are inconsistencies in the Public Distribution system.
  2. There has been improvement in accountability and performance of the government.
  3. There has been a reduction in corruption in the government department.
  4. Before RTI, the staff and officers were very sluggish in their work and now they have become active in their duty.
  5. The government staff were not conscious before, whereas now they have been doing their work consciously.
  6. Before the enactment of the RTI, proper action with respect to public grievances and complaints were not being taken, whereas now all concerned officials have been serious with respect to all complaints of the same.
  7. Lack of awareness among people has made its application limited to fewer people.
  8. People have been using RTI to obtain their ulterior motives.
  9. RTI has been misused to some extent.
  10. Sometimes RTI makes people feel like a mad person shouting in front of a deaf wall.
  11. It is an effective tool for prisoners who seek information under RTI.
  12. The motive of RTI is not to disclose any information that will cause loss or harm to any third person directly.
  13. RTI activists have been attacked and threatened to keep them silent.
  14. RTI doesn't let people intervene in matters that are not of their use or subject to their knowledge (like the dialogue 'none of your business').
  15. RTI has been introduced keeping in mind the constant grievances of the public (lack of transparency, accountability, lack of institutional machinery and information).

Suggestions Wrt To Challenges
The core problem for effective implementation of RTI lies in its grass root. The RTI has emerged as an effective tool for people but people who are ware for the same are very less. There are people in India, who are below poverty line whose only worry is what to eat next. They eat their food in the morning and their struggle is what to eat next and how to fill their family's stomach for next meal.

Those people do not have proper awareness about the same, which should be provided. There are government schemes and funds for such people, which they aren't aware of and such funds are being used by government officials to fill their pockets. With access to the same, these people can have a voice and get reliefs and answers for the same.

Social media manipulation should be controlled, as people who get fake information seem to transfer the same to others like the Chinese whisper game. RTI should be used by well off people without any ulterior motive and for public benefit only. People should not provoke others to file the petition for ulterior motive or to slow down some government process. Guidelines to condemn the same for proper utilization should be passed to stop such opportunistic persons.

The nest challenge for government should be proper implementation of the act and maintain in dependability of the act while making the same accessible to public at large. People have been suffering deprived of answers, the same needs to be minimalized by the same.

The Right to Information Act of 2005 is a significant step in ensuring the country's participatory development process. However, the Act's effectiveness is contingent on government officials taking the Act seriously and effectively implementing it. It should be used as a tool to promote openness and accountability on the part of public authorities. The government should take measures to disseminate this Act in order to educate the village's uneducated and uninformed populace.

The state should make more use of information technology, and public records in government agencies should be digitized for quick retrieval. This sort of setup will undoubtedly aid in the development of a stronger state-citizen relationship. It would also result in more openness in government operations, as the RTI Act gives citizens the right to request information about government operations.

Lastly, I am of the opinion from the above research that, RTI has been a helping hand of good governance as well as a third wheel due to misuse of the same to some extent. The objective of the Act has been met which shows its improvement with reference to good governance. The ones directly affected from the misuse are people and their sentiments and the same should be controlled.

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