14th Anniversary of Right To Information

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Context: An important instrument of participatory democracy-Right To Information (RTI) has marked its 14th anniversary on 12th October 2019.

 
  • To mark the occasion, the ‘Report Card on the Performance of Information Commissions in India’ has been released by the NGOs, Satark Nagrik Sangathan and the Centre for Equity Studies.

Relevance: 

GS-2 Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.

GS-4 Probity in Governance: Concept of public service; Philosophical basis of governance and probity; Information sharing and transparency in government, Right to Information 

Key Findings of the Report Card on the Performance of Information Commissions in India

  • Achievements

    • RTI is one of the landmark acts which has led to a significant boost in accountability of the govt towards the people.

      • It has given ordinary citizens the confidence and the right to ask questions to the government authorities.

    • RTI ensured the maintenance and publication of public records.

      • Section 4 of the RTI Act makes it a duty of public authorities to maintain records for easy access

    • It also ensured transparency as well as accountability between citizens and public authorities.

      • Recently, the government of Rajasthan has launched Jan Soochna Portal (JSP), on the lines of Right to Information Act (RTI).

    • RTI emphasizes citizen centric approach.

    • It assured information accessibility at every level of public governance.

    • According to estimates, nearly 60 lakh applications are being filed every year.

  • Challenges

    • Government officials face hardly any punishment for violating the law by denying applicants legitimate information.

      • It destroys the basic framework of incentives and disincentives built into the RTI Act.

    • State and Central Information Commissions, which are the courts of appeal under the RTI Act, failed to impose penalties in about 97% of the cases where violations took place.

      • The State Commissions of Tamil Nadu, Sikkim, Mizoram and Tripura did not impose penalties in any cases at all.

    • The commissions also have the power to recommend disciplinary action against officials for persistent violations of the RTI Act.

      • Only 10 states invoked these powers.

    • Many Information Commissions are non-functional or are functioning at reduced capacity as the posts of commissioners, including that of the chief information commissioner are vacant.

      • The State Information Commission(SIC) of the state of Andhra Pradesh is yet to become functional.

      • The State Information Commission of West Bengal is currently functioning with just two commissioners.

      • The Chief Information Commissioner of Maharashtra retired in April 2017 and the government is yet to appoint a new Chief

    • The central, as well as state commissions, have an increasing workload, which is leading to huge pendency of cases.

      • Any new appeal to the Central Information Commission (CIC) would have to wait more than one-and-a-half years for resolution.

Central Information Commission (CIC)

  • CIC was established in 2005 by the Central Government under the provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.

  • The Chief Information Commissioner heads the Central Information Commission.

  • It hears appeals from information-seekers who have not been satisfied by the public authority and also addresses major issues concerning the RTI Act.

  • CIC submits an annual report to the Union government on the implementation of the provisions of RTI Act.

State Information Commission

  • The Right to Information Act of 2005 provides for the creation of a State Information Commission at the state level.

  • The State Information Commission is a high powered independent body which inter-alia looks into the complaints made to it and decide the appeals.

  • It entertains complaints and appeals pertaining to offices, financial institutions, public sector undertakings, etc.under the concerned state government.

  • The Commission consists of a State Chief Information Commissioner and not more than ten State Information Commissioners appointed by the Governor.



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