This article has been written by Mohammed Raihan during his internship.
Right to information is needed for a democratic country as it helps the country to grow and have a debate and discussion regarding the function of the government. Every elected representative is accountable, and the basic postulate of accountability is that people should have information with regard to the operation of the government. The right to information act was passed to make government administration more transparent and accountable, which would curb corruption. Information is basically known as the currency of democracy. The right to information in a democracy acts as a powerful tool for a common man who fights for corruption and injustice. It has become the voice of the people and acts as an enforcer of good governance.
Freedom of information is a must for a society to develop into a developed democracy. Today, we are living in an information-based society. Access to information has become a basic right of fellow citizens. The enactment of the right to information act, 2005, has made a new era towards development in democracy. The right to information is a part fundamental right guaranteed by the constitution. It’s discussed under article 19 freedom of speech and expression.
Access to information of public authority was not possible until 2005 because of colonial legislation, which existed in India known as the official secret Act, 1923. According to this legislation, the citizen did not have a legal right to know about the public policies and expenditure. It was quite inconvenient for the people who have elected their representatives to assembly did not have the right to know how their taxes and revenues were used by their government for policies. This Act resulted in a large number of corruptions, abuse of power, and unscrupulous diversion of public money. Under such conditions, the public at large and various NGOs came together demanded access to the information of public authority. The govt accepted their demand via the legislation of RTI act, 2005.
The incorporation of the right to information as a fundamental right was made based on the internationally recognized charter of human rights and also from the doctrine of natural law and natural rights, which was promised by the freedom fighters to the people of India that they’ll keep natural rights as the fundamental rights through ‘Suprema lex,’ which is the constitution of the people of India. The RTI act of 2005 ensure citizens of the country’s transparency in governance which is recognized and protected by the law. Information has a pivotal role in strengthening the public by making them knowledgeable. It’s not easy to violate this fundamental right to information except by the procedure established by the law, which must be in consonance with the spirit of the constitution.
RIGHT TO INFORMATION AND GOOD GOVERNANCE
The progress of the nation depends upon the free flow of information within the government and citizens. The RTI is a unique human right and a potent weapon in the hands of the public. They can use it to keep a check on the bodies that govern them. Information is power. Armed with the information, the citizens are capable of participating in the process of government decision-making and policy formulating, which adhere to the true meaning of democracy.
The supreme court of India began the journey of open, transparent governance through its judgment by interpreting Article 19(1)(a), which includes freedom for information, and the SC gave access to information as a fundamental right in the case of the State of Uttar Pradesh V. Ram Narain. The court held in this case that “The people of this country have the right to know everything that is done in public by the public functionaries. The public is entitled to know every public transaction in all its bearing. The right to know is derived from the freedom of speech, which would not vary when secrecy is claimed for a transaction on public security.” The court further ordered the state government to disclose the record of the blue book and security guidelines regarding the prime minister of India’s travel. It’s the responsibility of the officials to explain and justify their acts to safeguard against oppression and corruption.
The right to know and easy access to government information helps the people to understand the limitation of government at different levels. The information may foster in the development process, and it’s a symptom of a true and mature democracy. Transparency is the milestone of good governance. The RTI provides people with the mechanism to access information, which they can use to hold the government accountable or to seek an explanation as to why decisions have been taken, by whom, and with what consequences or outcomes. However, accountability cannot be achieved without transparency and the rule of law.
The right to information act is empowering people by removing unnecessary secrecy in the decision-making process of the government. The RTI act doesn’t discriminate between rich and poor, and it covers all the citizens of India. It always comes forward to fight against injustice and inequality. Right to information will always be working to bring more efficient and effective record management techniques to facilitate the response of public interest.
RIGHT TO PRIVACY V. RIGHT TO INFORMATION
The right to privacy and the right to information is both debatable topics. According to section 8(1)(j) of the right to information, there is certain information that is exempted from disclosure which includes information that associated with any public pastime or interest or which might reason an unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the man or woman unless the legit satisfies that the data is for a vaster public interest must justify disclosure of such statistics. The above provision prevents humans from misusing the RTI and lays down non-public information respecting a man or woman lying with the government cannot be sought using the third birthday party without disclosure or a proper purpose. However, it protects the person’s right to privacy.
The most crucial obligation of the general public authority is to receive statistics regarding individuals to maintain an excessive degree of confidentiality and not expose such data until such disclosure is warranted below first-rate circumstances because of the more excellent substantial public hobby. Private information no longer loses its privacy and confidentiality simply because it has been shared with the public government. Although, it becomes a matter of subject for if the general public authorities percentage personal info of a person with a third birthday celebration while such details have no affordable nexus with the general public hobby. There may be every chance of such facts being treated through unscrupulous factors resulting in mischief, harassment, reputational risk of the owner of such facts.
Some legislation promoted secrecy, but after enacting the right to information, some of them had an overriding effect, such as the official secrecy act, atomic energy act, commission of inquiry activities, and Section 123 and 124 of Indian evidence act 1872.
The right to privacy and the right to information are fundamental human rights in modern society. In both cases, the government is accountable to individuals. The right to privacy is undoubtedly essential for an individual satisfying the sense of freedom that creates a conducive atmosphere of one’s personal life, but when the public interest becomes a crying need, private interest must yield to the demand of public interest. The right to privacy and right to information are irreconcilable, but the privacy laws and the information laws are like two sides of the same coin that acts as a complimentary right that encourages individuals’ right to protect them and promote government accountability. The conflict between these two rights needs to be reconciled and harmonized. The challenge lies between demarcating the extent or limits up to which private information may be disclosed.
Data is the oxygen of democracy. It invigorates whenever it percolates. Effective governance requires something less than general transparency, and it ought to be considered an essential concession within the realities of the governance. Though RTI is a terrific piece of legislation, it has troubles and demanding situations in its execution and implementation, mainly within the downtrodden area.
In July 2019, parliament surpassed a change to the right to information act, 2005, that reduces its effectiveness. The modification adds to the long list of erosions the Act has weathered by preceding governments.
No democracy may be significant wherein their residents cannot audit the overall performance of the authorities’ business, bureaucrats, and the alternative functionaries who act on behalf of the state. The latest amendment Act proposed in parliament intends to make the RTI Act a “Toothless Monster” because officials’ autonomy is hampered, and there is a considerable risk that the critical government may additionally manage the functioning of the frame. The RTI act of 2005 was the most proper solid to records Act globally. However, the latest change makes it weaker and hampers the unfastened go with the flow of facts from a public authority. So, we could without difficulty understand the motive why the government proposed this change Act.
This article has been accomplished with the help of various doctrinal and non-doctrinal research done. The sources are as follows:
- Right to Information and Its Significance to Ensure Good Governance in India by Caesar roy University of Burdwan
- Journal of the Indian Law Institute Vol. 54, No. 4 (OCTOBER-DECEMBER 2012), pp. 506-519 (14 pages)