Right to Information

Topics: Government, Freedom of information legislation, Governance Pages: 16 (5373 words) Published: August 30, 2013
Structure 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 21.4 21.5 21.6 21.7 21.8 21.9

Learning Outcome Introduction Transparency and Right to Information Right to Information: An International Perspective Right to Information: The Indian Scenario Right to Information Act 2005: Main Features Implementing Right to Information: Tasks Ahead Conclusion Key Concepts References and Further Reading

21.10 Activities

After reading this Unit, you should be able to: • • • • • Explain the relationship between transparency and right to information Examine the right to information in an international perspective Appreciate the efforts made in India towards right to information Bring out the main features of Right to Information Act 2005;and Discuss the tasks ahead in the operationalisation of right to information

You are by now familiar with the concepts of governance and good governance, which we have discussed at length in this Course as well as in Course 011 of this Programme.


Ours is an age of deepening and expansion of democracy. The role of people in the governance process is now receiving universal attention, not simply as an occasional voter, but as an active participant in the regular and day-to-day governance especially at the local and decentralised level. It is in this train of thinking that ‘accountability’ as well as ‘transparency and information’ - two of the important aspects of ‘governance’ have been identified in the 1992 World Bank document on Governance and Development. The citizen's right to information is increasingly being recognised as an important instrument to promote openness, transparency and accountability in public administration. The citizens, the stakeholders, the consumers of public services, the beneficiaries of development programmes, the civil society organisations, the business and commercial houses – all, it is being universally acknowledged, must get the information they require from the public authorities relating to their administration, operations or decisions. This is only possible, if the administration is accountable and transparent enough and provides them with information on their aims, policies and programmes. This Unit, focuses on the pertinence of the need for right to information and how things can be improved in this regard. It examines on the international and national perspectives on the issue.

The symbiotic relationship between sin and secrecy is now universally recognised. It was Max Weber, the theorist of bureaucracy, who was the first to point out that ‘secrecy’, is an ‘invention’ of the bureaucracy in the interest of ‘power’. Firstly, there is considerable evidence now to suggest that a government, which operates in greater secrecy, is more prone to corruption as compared to a government, which operates in greater openness. This is why, the right to information is considered as a significant step in empowering people to combat state corruption. Secondly, the right to information helps to strengthen the foundations of democracy. Unlike a totalitarian government, a democratic government needs to be based on the trust of the governed. It should therefore, function in public view as much as possible so that the citizens know about its aims, policies and programmes and help the government to accomplish them. Maximum secrecy in governmental functioning, on the contrary, would tend to promote corruption, oppression, nepotism and misuse or abuse of authority, and thereby, alienate the government from the governed. To reiterate the words of the Franks Committee of the United Kingdom (1972), "A government which pursues secret aims, or which operates in greater secrecy than the effective conduct of its proper functions require, or which turns information services into propaganda agencies, will lose the trust of the people. It will be countered by ill-informed...

References: • •
Specific exemptions to protect national security, personal privacy, law enforcement and the like; and Where access is refused, a right of appeal independent of government officials (Bell and Watchirs, 1988).
Bell, Robin and Helen Watchirs, 1988, “Freedom of Information: The Commonwealth Experience”, Australian Journal of Public Administration, Vol
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