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Which is the Worst Performing State in RTI Responsiveness?

Jan 12, 2023

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Today we will discuss the Worst Performing State in RTI Responsiveness in our today's edition of Current Affairs. Read further to upgrade your UPSC CSE knowledge and also understand the topic’s relevance to the UPSC syllabus.  

For Prelims: Indian Polity and Governance  

About Right to Information Act, Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, State’s performance of RTI responsiveness  

For Mains: General Studies Paper II - Important Aspects of Governance, Transparency and Accountability, E-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential.  

About RTI Act and its features, , Right to Information (Amendment) Act, 2019, Benefits of RTI, Issues and Challenges with the implementation of the RTI Act  

Context

According to a report card on the performance of Information Commissions (ICs) in India for 2021-22 by the Satark Nagrik Sangathan, the State Information Commission of Tamil Nadu has been the worst performing as far as responsiveness under the RTI Act is concerned, furnishing only 14% of the information sought for 2021-22.  

Practice Question

“Information is the currency of democracy” and critical to the emergence and development of a vibrant civil society. Discuss. (10 Marks, 150 Words)  

State’s Responses to RTI

  • Maharashtra was ranked second-worst, sharing 23% of the information asked for.
  • Only 10 Information Commissions, which includes states of Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Sikkim, Nagaland and Tripura, provided full information in response to the RTI applications filed as part of this assessment.
  • The State Information Commission (SIC) of Bihar significantly improved its performance in 2022, furnishing 67% of the information sought.
  • Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh returned around 40% of the appeals or complaints received by them.
State’s responses to RTI

About the Right to Information (RTI) Act

  • The Right to Information (RTI) Act was enacted by the Parliament in 2005 to empower citizens, promote accountability and transparency in the working of the government and contain corruption.
  • Under the Act, public Authorities need to make disclosures on various aspects of their structure and functioning.
  • “Public authority” means any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted:
  1. by or under the Constitution;
  2. by any other law made by Parliament;
  3. by any other law made by State Legislature;
  4. by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government, and includes any:
    1. body owned, controlled or substantially financed;
    2. non‑Government Organisation substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government.

Constitutional Backing of the RTI

  • The Right to Information (RTI) is an implied Fundamental Right under the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression (Article 19 of the Indian Constitution).
Constitutional Backing of the RTI

Features of the RTI Act

  • Proactive disclosure of information to the public.
  • Maintenance of duly cataloged and indeed records by the authorities.
  • Publication of records within 120 days of the enactment of the law and annual updation.
  • The application under RTI can be submitted in writing or electronically with the prescribed fee.
  • Designation of PIOs in all administrative units.
  • A time frame is set for obtaining information (30 days in general, 48 hours in cases concerning the life and liberty of a person, and 35 days when the request is submitted to APIO).
  • The Act mentions the information that has been exempted from the provisions of the Act.
  • The Act is retrospective in nature.
  • Three-tier structure for enforcing the right to information:
  1. Public Information Officers: These Officers must provide information to an RTI applicant within 30 days of the request.
  2. Appellate Authority: For appeals against decisions of the Public Information Officer.
  3. State Information Commission or the Central Information Commission (CIC): To listen to appeals against the order of the Appellate Authority.

Also Read: Freedom of Religion and Attire  

Right to Information (Amendment) Act, 2019

  • The Right to Information (Amendment) Act, 2019 amended Section 13 and Section 16 of the RTI Act, 2005.
  • The Union government now notifies the term of office for the CIC and ICs (previously it was 5 years).
  • The salaries, allowances and other terms and conditions of services of the Central and State CIC and ICs will be determined by the Central government.
  • Power of appointment of CIC and ICs delegated to the Central Government (previously a 3-member committee made the recommendations).

Benefits of RTI

  • Strengthens participative democracy in the country.
  • Empowers the poor and the weaker sections of society.
  • Makes Government accountable.
  • Improves decision-making by public authority.
  • Changing the culture of secrecy to one of sharing and openness.
  • Keeps a check on corruption.
  • Corrects power symmetry between the Government and the citizens.
  • Builds public trust in the Government.

Issues and Challenges with the implementation of the RTI Act

  • Bureaucratic resistance.
  • No specific budgetary allocation for RTI implementation
  • Lack of political will to implement the  RTI provisions.
  • Lack of awareness among the public.
  • Increase in the number of frivolous RTI applications.
  • Information commission dominated by retired officials.
  • Rare application of penal provisions
  • Overburdening PIOs with responsibilities without incentives.
  • Poor record-keeping practices by the ICs.
  • Pendency of cases.
  • No power of contempt with the IC.
  • The RTI is not an absolute right, as it falls under Article 19(1)(a) and it can be regulated, restricted, and curtailed in the larger public interest.
  • The Act provides access to limited information: only those available in the records of the public authorities.
  • Information regarding commercial confidence, trade secrets, or intellectual property cannot be disclosed.

Way Forward

  • There is a need for speedy disposal of cases by ensuring that the commissions are functioning at full capacity.
  • The cases need to be prioritized and disposed of accordingly.
  • Mechanisms for the online filing of RTI applications need to be put in place.
  • There is a need for simplification of procedures needed for filing RTI applications as the country’s literacy rate is quite low.
  • Protection of the whistleblowers must be ensured.

News Source: The Hindu  

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu-information-commission-worst-performing-in-rti-responsiveness-says-study/article66317846.ece  

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