RTI: WEAPON IN THE HANDS OF MEDIA
When the govt of India passed the Right to Information Act little did the political elites realize that they had practically armed the people of India with an institutionalized mechanism that could hold the government with its replaceable politicians and irreplaceable bureaucracy accountable for public policy decisions. Suddenly, a system of inefficiency hiding under archaic laws and babu control was opened up for scrutiny. Social and anti corruption activists first used the Act to expose the high and mighty. The activists first scrutinized the information and followed it up with a public interest litigation to meet their objectives, for the media it was a Godsent initiative to break into the opaque but highly networked Indian bureaucracy.
When the Act was introduced it carried the provision that pinpointed who was responsible for the delay especially with regard to signatures of officers. It revealed which department and which officer was responsible for the procedural delay but within the first 8 months of the stinging Act being executed, there were several attempts at diluting it especially, the information regarding which officers signed or passed the file. The dilution came soon and the officer records on files were removed.
In spite of the dilution, the media benefited from the Act of 2005 by getting access to accounts and public policy decisions,the award of govt contracts, reports of various departments. The information scrutinized helped in unraveling a series of corruption scandals within various government departments. Just like how the media takes indirect shelter under the right to freedom of speech and expression in Article 19 1 (a), so does it shelter itself with a citizen centric governance reform. However, the danger has always been the dilution of the Act. With very few working days in the Parliament and passage of laws at record rates, the media and the citizen should be alert against the dilution of an act such as the RTI.
How can the RTI be further strengthened?
Is media using the act judiciously?
How much of the original act has been diluted ?
This is the Second post by Mr. Ajit Abraham. His next post will be on Censoring the Net