Saturday, December 6, 2008

Right to Information: Problems and Hindrances

Right to Information: Problems and Hindrances

Manoj Kumar Pandey/Shruti Nagvanshi 5/12/2008 5:59:06 PM(IST)

Official Secrets Act had been passed during British Period at the regime of Lord Curgeon. According to this the security and unity of the country can be maintained if the public document would be made confidential from the general public, in practical they had made every document confidential. Hence the citizens were being deprived from not only public information but also their personal information. Due to this Act the public officers were continuously terrifying the citizens by making the thing confidential. This tradition had been maintained even after the independence, but due to this practice corruption, exploitation, inactivity, inefficiency, have been rampant at large scale.

To remove these evils “right to know” had been made fundamental right under right to freedom of speech and expression provided by Article 19 (1) (a). It is said that it is the era of transparency so there is no use of making any thing confidential. It includes the right to know about the information of conduction of government except the matter relating the security of country and public interest, in which case the information can not be revealed. So right to know is the fundamental right where no restriction can be made except the ground of restrictions given in Article19 (2).

The main objectives of this Act are to secure access to information under the control of public authority, to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. The demand for this right had been insisting since last many years, and it was said that right to information is the most essential right under democratic system, so that every citizen may know how the authority perform their action. The objectives of this Act are to improve transparency and openness.

Problems and Hindrances: But after the enforcement of this Act there are many irregularities in implementation.

Though there is clear penal provision for not providing information within specified time, but it is not enough. The official deliberately does not provide information. Many times our organization members had not received required information from Education Department, Children Department and Community Development Society (CDS).
Many times our organization members received wrong information in relation to ration card and ration shop.
Where an application is made to public authority for an information which is held by another public authority, the public authority to which such application is made, shall transfer the application to that public authority and inform the applicant immediately about such transfer, but the former public authority returns the application to the applicant which charges extra postage cost and unnecessary delay and sometimes the validity of the postal order may be expired. Thus authorities are clearly violating the provisions of section 6(3).
Some organization members have been threatened by the quota holders about whom the information has been demanded.
Many times the authority refused to provide information by saying that the required information does not belong with their designation and department. Lots of money is spent in follow up procedure. So for any information he has to pay two, three or more times for postage.
Lacks of resources are the main problems. The authorities are not entertaining hand written application. Fees and postage charges are also creating hindrances to the poor people.
Many times the authority is providing indirect information or insufficient information.
The illiterate people are not able to exercise their under Right to Information as they are totally unaware about this Act.

India became free from British Rule 60 years ago. The government officials have continuously exploited the citizens in name of confidentiality. Due to this the citizens are being deprived from many scheme of the government which has been introduced time to time for welfare purposes. Confidentially causes lots of corruption in offices of government department, like about the scheme, budget of the scheme, functioning of the scheme, and so on. Many scams had taken place in budget of various schemes. The government officials do not tell the citizens about the scheme, and they misappropriated the budget and the citizens remained unaware about the scheme. It causes loss to government and citizens both. So Right to Information Act, 2005 provides the citizens right to know about the functioning of government. But making Law or Act is not enough; its implementation is foremost thing. As it is said that every law should be followed in letter and spirit both so if this Act would be implemented properly, after next 60 years the India can be assumed corruption free and there would neither any exploiter nor any body being exploited.

Suggestions: Though as per section 7(1) of the Act, information should be provided within 30 days from the date of filing of application but the public authority takes 30 days in providing information. There should be immediate action on application for information. Thirty days duration provides opportunities to authorities to delay in providing information.

Though there is penal provision for providing wrong information, yet it does not provide any relief to the applicant. The applicant should be provided required information immediately.
The quality of the paper of information is inferior, and it destroys very shortly.
Though there is penalty for noncompliance of right to information act, but there should be penal provision to make the Act more effective.
There should be review committee at district level in the presidency of DM, which reviews the application for information along with the action taken on the application. The committee should inquire the numbers of application from every department; know about the action taken by the authorities on the application. The committee should also check that how many information have been provided and how many application have been kept in pending.
There should be a review committee at state level which inquires the activities of district level review committee quarterly. It should ask DM about its monthly activities and report.
All information regarding the submitted application, action taken on such application, and information provided on such application should be published at the official website of district, so that any body can check the status of his application.
Proper advertisement of this Act should be made, like NREGA. It should be made in all mode like print/electronic media, hoardings at conspicuous place, so that people will become aware about this act, and they may use their right more efficiently and skillfully.
Misuse: there is no chance of misuse of this Act as the information which is required is provided from government officials. No body can misuse it. No any case of misuse has been come in to light from the date of enforcement of this Act.

Manoj Kumar Pandey is the Asst. Director (legal) of PVCHR and Ms Shruti Nagvanshi is the Core Group Member of PVCHR

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