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Processes, procedures, principles and the people responsible are as much important for a system as its purpose. If any of these is not up to the mark, it will defeat the very purpose for which the system has been put in place. The Right to Information Act is one such system which enables citizens to obtain information in the custody and possession of any public authority provided the same is not otherwise barred by the Act.


It is not that the people were not getting information they required from various Government departments before the enactment of RTI. They certainly were through dubious and illegal means like bribing. However, the Act, no doubt, has helped to some extent in promoting transparency, openness and accountability in the working of the public authorities.


While the new law is invested with some empowering provisions aimed at containing rampant corruption in the corridors of power, the corruption-ridden bureaucracy has left no stone unturned to blunt RTI's effectiveness. First, the bureaucrats persuaded the Cabinet Committee to approve an Amendment to exempt file notings and Cabinet papers from disclosure under the Act. It was only due to the huge public outcry against the proposed Amendment that the malafide move was foiled.


Then came another assault that dealt a severe blow to RTI and has proved to be its undoing. Ostensibly brought about for better internal management of the affairs of the Central Information Commission so as to enable it to function effectively, the dubious Central Information Commission (Management) Regulations, 2007, has actually put RTI beyond the reach of a common man by rendering the process of seeking information under the Act an exorbitantly expensive, unduly complicated, cumbersome and lengthy affair. On top of this, the clever bureaucracy is so skilled in the art of dodging and has so many tricks up its dirty sleeves to smother inconvenient queries that it easily gets away without supplying the information requested.


RTI needs to be structured in such a manner that the role of the bureaucracy is minimal and simply restricted to supplying the requested information and/or the requested documents, and see to it that the information supplied is correct and complete. Beyond that it should have no role or influence in the RTI process. Otherwise, it can seriously damage the credibility of RTI.

 


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