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This article has been written by Tarjana Susawat.

Introduction

“Corruption is a weed, whose influence on crops is of an immeasurable; they spread everywhere.”

–  Tarjana Susawat

Corruption is a universal problem which is faced by people that leads to a lack of transparency, accountability, institutional machinery, information, etc. It is the misuse of power and money by government and individuals for their personal profit for example by lobbying or diverting the funds in private sectors which are for public welfare. Corruption bribes the selfishness of the person by showing easy way to get success and luxurious life. Corruption is the problem that threatens transparency in the system of government like a weed in crops and accountability of citizens but where the problem there is also a solution that is RTI. International Right to Know Day is a red-letter day for every citizen which is celebrated on 28th September all over the world. This day realizes the value of people’s right to access the information that is held by their respective government. The three basic pillars of our constitution on which our government is depended are legislative which makes law, judiciary which interprets the laws and the executive which comprise both the political as well as bureaucracy to implement the laws.   

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The Right to Information Act, 2005 is also known as RTI. RTI Act, 2005 was passed on 15 June 2005 by Parliament and came into force on 13 October 2005.  RTI is the Right to Information that is the fundamental right given in our Indian constitution under Article 19(a) freedom of speech and expression which indirectly gives the right to know. Right to Information Act, 2005 comes to remove deficiencies of the Freedom of Information Act, 2002 and to improve the law’s effectiveness by making it more accessible and affordable to every information seeker who is the citizen of India. It gives the right to seek the information to any public authority of India. The right to information act, 2005 is not available for NRIs and foreigners. It aims to establish encourage transparency, accountability and active participation of citizens in democracy through providing the information to information seekers. It only provides information that is in public interest and held or accessible by public authority.

After the enforcement of the RTI Act, 2005 Social Activists, Civil Society Organisations, and Ordinary Citizens Organisations have effectively used the act against corruption in the interest of the public to promote transparency and accountability in the government. Accountability is one of the essential elements in the proper functioning of government. The basic solicit of accountability is that people should aware of the functioning of the government. It can be possible if people are well known how the government is functioning that they can accomplish their part which democracy handover to them and make democracy a really efficacious participatory democracy.

Thus, RTI and transparency in the government system are very essential to eradicate corruption.  RTI  is the collective effort of several non-profit organisations and Activists such as PUCL (People’s Union of Civil Liberties), MKSS ( Majdoor Kishan Shakti Sangthan), Aruna Roy, Mukesh Dubey, Venkatesh, Lalit Mehta, Satish Shetty etc. Many RTI activists, including a policeman, are harassed and murdered for seeking information to encourage transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority.

How it Impacts the Roots of Corruption?

  1. Accessibility:  Before the enactment of RTI only parliament members have the right to ask for any information to the government. It empowered the common people to seek for information to the government. RTI contains provisions that make it easy to access information to information seekers. No Public Authority can deny on any ground except those which are prohibited under section 8 or ask the reason for which information seeker wants information under this act. Any person who requires any information under this act can give his/her request in written form or via electronic mode in English or Hindi or in the official language of such an area where the applicant made the request with the fee that prescribed in this act. If any information seeker can’t make the request in written form or via any electronic mode because he/she is illiterate or mentally or physically disable then the Public Information Officer bound to give the assistance to the person making the request orally to commute the same in writing. No Public Authority can ask anything which is not required in the process of acquiring information or prohibited by this act or by any law that is in force for time being.In the recent case, Vishwas Bhamburkar v. PIO (Public Information Officer), Housing & Urban Development Corporation Ltd. (CIC, 2018)[1], It was taken up by the Chief Information Commission (CIC), Munirka, New Delhi (CIC), the CIC was confronted with two centric issues under the Right to Information Act, 2005 are:

Issues:

  1. Word Limit in RTI Application; and
  2. Denial of information on lack of producing identity proof by Applicant. 

Held: 

The CIC held that the impugned application was not contrary to any exception under the RTI Act. That the CPIO (Central Public Indian Officer) in the case raised scruple about the applicant’s citizenship without explaining any reason behind scrupling. There was no reason that justifies his scruple. 

That the CPIO failed to justify the denial of information, as he could not refer any clause of exception under Section 8 (exemption from disclosure of information) or Section 9 (Grounds for rejection to access in certain cases).

  1. Affordability: RTI made information more affordable to every citizen of India whether he is poor or rich. Under this act, no public authority can charge more than 50 RS. /- per application. in the case, Common Cause v. Allahabad High Court & Another (SC, 2018)[2] petitioner challenged the RTI Rules, 2006 of Allahabad High Court on the ground that the same was in contravention of several provisions of the RTI Act as Rule 4 of the impugned Rules enunciate a fee of Rs. 500/- per application was not in accordance with the provisions underlying the RTI Act. Supreme Court held that the fees for filing the RTI Application shall not exceed Rs.50/- and Rs. 5 for photocopying for all Government Authorities.
  2. Less time consuming:  Before this act, no general people can seek and get information because no public authority bound to provide information to every information seeker. If someone tries he/she get information in years. But after this act, no one can deny and bound by law to provide information to information seeker in thirty days or thirty-five days if RTI application is transferred to another public authority. If any person pendulous about sending his RTI application by post or doesn’t have time due to work he can go to the near post office and submit his application to the assistant PIO. Many APIOs (Assistant Public Information Officers) are appointed by the postal department in its many offices. Their duty is to receive and forward RTI applications to the PIO or concerned appellate authority. If any officer of the public authority concerned fails in providing the information to an information seeker is spanked with a monetary fine.  
  3. Transparency: Hiding the information related to the public interest from the public that leads to corruption by disturbing the transparency in government institutions.  Such information can be about the budget, regulation, survey, etc of the schemes, facilities that are in public interest that the government announced. This act imposes obligations on public authority that they have to maintain all records in a manner that should make it easy to access within a reasonable time under this act by making it computerised and provide it on the internet. All necessary information regarding public authority should be published within one hundred and twenty days from the enactment of this act.  All information that is in the interest of the public should be communicated widely and in such a manner and form that it is easily accessible to the public such as through newspapers, media broadcasts, the internet, etc.  
  4. Awareness leads to accountability: The RTI act is very helpful in promoting awareness that encourages accountability of government. It is a problem-solving tool that solves personal, social and community problems. Personal problems such as Pending Income Tax return, Delayed Passport, Property Documents like Occupancy Certificate/Completion Certificate, Delayed Aadhar Card, Status of FIR, Delay in Scholarship, Copies of Answer Sheets, etc. Social Problems such as the bad condition of roads Conduct a social audit of government projects, know-how your MP/MLA spent the fund allocated to him; know about the implementation, regulation and budget allocations of government project or scheme, etc. If the public is aware of their role and importance of their participation in the democratic system and curious to know about the manner and ideology of working by government. 

 Success Stories of RTI Act

It is proved to be helpful in uncovering several scams and anomalies one of them is Adarsh Society Scam in which a six- storey building for the widows of Kargil war heroes which turned into thirty-storey and becomes vicarage of politicians, bureaucrats, and top military officers. The nexus was exposed by RTI activists Simpreet Singh and Yogacharya Anandji. It was disclosed that the piece of land did not belong to the State of Government but to the Ministry of Defence. 

Another is Demonetisation announced without RBI nod:   On 8th November 2016, a big decision of demonetization was taken by our Prime Minister Narendra Modi and declared in the country after holding a meeting that hardly of three hours, with the parent body of Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Before the declaration of demonetization PM did not even wait for the formal approval of RBI that created trouble in the lives of thousands of people in the days to come. After filing RTI by activist Venkatesh Nayak, it was disclosed that RBI disagreed with the Centre on its propriety that this step would rein on the circulation of black money and forged money.   

23,000 loan fraud cases in the past 5 years:  In reply to an RTI, it was informed by The RBI that 23,000 cases of fraud were reported by several banks in the past five years, which included Rs. 1 lakh crore. 

Commonwealth Games Scam: A non-profit organization filed RTI and it was revealed that the Delhi Government had diverted Rs. 744 crore from funds intended for the welfare of the Dalit community to the Commonwealth Games. Housing and Land Rights Network a non-profit body also found that the most the diverted funds were spent on amenities that are only on paper to show, suggesting further corruption and money laundering.  

It is cleared from the above information that the Right to Information Act, 2005 has the ability to tackle and eradicate corruption. The essentials of a democratic country are accessibility and affordability and consciousness of its public and accountability and openness of government towards its public. We know that it is not easy to eradicate corruption but we can try through the RTI Act. There is the only problem is unawareness that makes things more complicated which is easy in real. A spark of fire can produce fire where it touched, RTI is that spark. 

In Times of India, Justice Arali Nagaraj said “only a sensitized society can build a corruption-free nation. People have to wake up from their slumber and make a collective effort to ensure transparency in the administration.”[3]

The RTI is a significant and desired right which empowers the citizens to fight corruption. The thing which requires is conscience of the ic that they should use this right to know effectively in making corruption-free India not to hinder national development and integration or to decimate the peace and consistency among its citizens. In a democratic country,the most important role is of people of that’s country who should have the city to make their government accountable to them. It will happen when everyone questions their government by filing RTI applications instead of thinking that why they answer us because it’s their right of asking. ‘If everyone is aware, then no corruption is there.’

“This piece of paper is like a weapon for the powerless to fight against the corrupt establishment,”  

– Suvarana Bhagyawant[4]

Endnotes

[1]  https://www.vakilno1.com/legal-news/recent-cases-on-rti-act-in-india.html

[2] Ibid No.

[3] Times of India,  RTI can Make India Corruption Free, August 7,2011

[4] http://vikaspedia.in/e-governance/about-rti-act-2005/rti-news-update


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