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RTI ACT 15 years Anniversary - Journey and its Stakeholders

by K.Vamsi, RTI Awareness Campaigner, Vizag

RTI ACT has been celebrating its 15 years of existence today the 12 October 2020. It came into force on 12 October 2005 as a Right to all Indian Citizens. Under the provisions of the Act, any citizen of India may request information from a "public authority" (a body of Government or "instrumentality of State") which is required to reply expeditiously or within thirty days. In case of matter involving a petitioners life and liberty, the information has to be provided within 48 hours. The Act also requires every public authority to computerize their records for wide dissemination and to proactively publish certain categories of information so that the citizens need minimum recourse to request for information formally. The authorities under RTI Act 2005 are called quasi-judicial authorities.

Since then the ACT has been used vigorously by the Citizens. Till date around 3.5crores of RTIs are filed accross the country making it a large success. RTI is also implemented in about 128 countries accross the globe under different acts and names. India being a large democratic country the people are opting the ACT to bring out the flaws and corruption involved in the Governments. ACT had become an increasing role in the interaction between the people and the government and its agencies. It has introduced a new awareness about the rights of citizens and highlighted openness and transparency as essential features of governance. It imparted a sense of accountability in official conduct and helped to make public servants responsible for their decisions and actions.

RTI Act has been amended few times, latest, being the RTI Rules Amendments 2019. As part of this amendment Information commissioners of RTI Commission are brought under the ambits of Governemnt. On account of this the Service periods and Salaries of these commissioners are determined by the Governments raising eye-brows about their Individualities. Lot of Activists and Organisations cried fowl about these amendments buit Government shown a deaf ear and passed the amendments in parliament and Got the Gazette released in August 2019. Activists and Organisations termeed this as a The Toothless Monster, RTI Amendment Bill, 2019.

Role Played by Key Stakeholders: RTI Act stakeholders are Common Citizens, Civil Society Organisations, Media, Central and State Government Officials. Most of the Common Citizens are still not aware about the ACT and its usage. Here Civuil Society Organisations are playing a great role in protecting the ACT and by empowering the Citizens about the ACT. They along with social activists are enhancing the reach and awareness of RTI among the masses. It is mostly with the support of the social activists and Civil Society Organizations that a person in a village is able to use the RTI Act for ensuring his basic rights. However given the geographical size & population, the reach of Civil Society Organizations and social activists is limited. During this several activists have been harrassed and even killed. Even then the zeal to file RTIs did not end.

Media has played an important role in generating awareness at a mass scale. The awareness on the Act has been generated through news articles based on RTI investigation. In the context of RTI implementation, journalists at times have played a dual role: as the users of the RTI Act and as watchdogs, monitoring and scrutinising the implementation of the ACT. Various media entities have contributed to the mass awareness and bringing in transparency through their websites.

Department of Personnel & Training has been made the Nodal Department for the RTI implementation at the Central level. Basic institutional structure/processes has been set up as per the RTI act requirement (like appointment of Information Commissioners, PIOs, section 4(1) (b) etc.)

Conclusion: RTI Act has the potential to bring in a socio-economic revolution, provided that various agencies take up their responsibilities as per the spirit of the Act.

Read More On: rti | act | transparency | journey | stakeholders | right to information | vizag |

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