It was on this day 12 years back that one of the most important laws in India fully came into force. The Right to Information Act, 2005 has helped expose some of the most infamous scams in the history of India.
The RTI Act mandates timely response to a request for information from a public authority.
Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP
The history of the RTI Act goes back to the enactment of Freedom of Information Act, 2002, whose objective was to promote transparency and accountability. Because the government wanted the act to be made more effective, it was repealed and the Right to Information Bill, 2004 was passed by the Parliament in May, 2005.
This received the presidents assent on 15 June, 2005. The RTI Act was notified in the Gazette of India on 21 June, 2005 and it became fully operational on 12 October the same year.
Since then, the RTI Act has been used to fight corruption and has exposed deep-rooted graft in India. For example, the RTI applications filed by activists Yogacharya Anandji and Simpreet Singh in 2008 exposed the infamous Adarsh Housing society scam, which eventually led to the resignation of the then Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan.
That RTI application revealed that flats in the Adarsh Housing Society, a 31-storey building, which was originally meant to provide residence for war widows and veterans, were used to house politicians, bureaucrats and their relatives.
In the 2G scam, in which the then Telecom Minister A Raja undercharged mobile phone companies for frequency allocation licenses and caused a loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the Indian government, an RTI application by Subhash Chandra Agrawal revealed that Raja had a "15-minute-long" meeting with then solicitor-general Goolam E Vahanvati in December 2007 after which a "brief note was prepared and handed over to the minister", but the minutes of the meeting were not recorded.
The RTI Act was also used to expose corruption after the Commonwealth Games scam, in which the corrupt deals by politician Suresh Kalmadi embarrassed the nation. The report said that an RTI application filed by non-profit Housing and Land Rights Network showed that the then Delhi government had diverted Rs 744 crore from social welfare projects for Dalits to the Commonwealth Games from 2005-06 to 2010-11.
In 2007, the RTI request filed by Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, an NGO, revealed irregularities in the distribution of food meant for people living below the poverty line by the public distribution system in Assam.
The RTI Act is one of the most crucial tools that we have as citizens. We should not misuse this freedom for petty jokes.