Right to Information – Master key to good governance

RTI What is this campaign?

Posted by rtiact2005 on July 1, 2006

What is this campaign?
People have to pay bribes in their daily interaction with Government Departments – be it getting a passport or a ration card or a license or an income tax refund etc. Everyone has to either pay a bribe or face harassment. Sometimes, even if a bribe is not directly asked, still your work is not done because of laziness or simple bureaucratic delay. What does one do in such a situation? So far people were helpless. They could only curse the system and could do nothing. Now they do not need to pay a bribe in such a situation. Right to Information Act gets your work done. A large number of people have already used RTI to get their work done in the Government. However, this number is insignificant. This is because there is little awareness amongst people about it. It is felt that if a large section of people started using RTI and gave up bribery, it could be a major step in cleaning up public life.

During 1st to 15th July, the people would be exhorted to desist from paying bribes. Rather they should use Right to Information, which is very effective in getting grievances resolved.

Several media houses including NDTV, HT, Deshonnati, Prabhat Khabar, Doritri, Andhra Jyoti, Raj Express, Loksatta and Hindu would create awareness through advertisements and stories that the people need not pay bribes anymore.

During the campaign period, in 43 cities spread across 15 states, volunteers from hundreds of NGOs will assist people in filing RTI applications. Presently more than 1200 volunteers are being trained to man assistance counters in these cities.

What are the types of issues, which would be dealt during the campaign?

Wherever anyone has a legitimate work pending, one has filed all the documents, completed all formalities, and has a genuine case, which the official ought to do in his normal course of duty but is not doing either for expectation of bribe or merely laziness. You could call it extortionist bribery. For instance,

* Issue of passport,
* Any type of license,
* Various certificates like marriage certificate, death certificate, birth certificate, SC/ST certificate, OBC certificate etc,

* Inclusion of name in voters’ list,
* Issue of voter ID card,
* Correction of water, electricity, telephone bills,
* Any legitimate problem with a department like change of faulty meter,
* Providing new water or electricity connection, etc,
* Filing of FIR,
* Claiming various kinds of refunds or payments etc like tax refund, medical reimbursement, provident fund etc
* Any other pending work or grievance in a Government Departmen.

What is Right to Information?
Right to Information is a part of fundamental rights under Article 19(1) of the Constitution. Article 19 (1) says that every citizen has freedom of speech and expression. As early as in 1976, the Supreme Court said in the case of Raj Narain vs State of UP, that people cannot speak or express themselves unless they know. Therefore, right to information is embedded in article 19. In the same case, Supreme Court further said that India is a democracy. People are the masters. Therefore, the masters have a right to know how the governments, meant to serve them, are functioning. Further, every citizen pays taxes. Even a beggar on the street pays tax (in the form of sales tax, excise duty etc) when he buys a piece of soap from the market. The citizens therefore, have a right to know how their money was being spent. These three principles were laid down by the Supreme Court while saying that RTI is a part of our fundamental rights.)If RTI is a fundamental right, then why do we need an Act to give us this right? This is because if you went to any Government Department and told the officer there, “RTI is my fundamental right, and that I am the master of this country. Therefore, please show me all your files”, he would not do that. In all probability, he would throw you out of his room. Therefore, we need a machinery or a process through which we can exercise this fundamental right. Right to Information Act 2005, which became effective on 13th October 2005, provides that machinery. However, before that 9 state Governments had passed state Acts. These were J & K, Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Assam & Goa. Some of these state Acts have bee in existence for the last 5 years and have been working very well. Therefore, Right to Information Act does not give us any new right. It simply lays down the process on how to apply for information, where to apply, how much fees etc.
Right to Information Act 2005 empowers every citizen to

* Ask any questions from the Government or seek any information
* Take copies of any government documents
* Inspect any government documents.
* Inspect any Government works
* Take samples of materials of any Government work.

Who is covered under RTI? The Central RTI Act extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir. All bodies, which are constituted under the Constitution or under any law or under any Government notification or all bodies, including NGOs, which are owned, controlled or substantially financed by the Government are covered.
How does RTI work? Processes.

The Government has designated one or more officers in every Department as Public Information Officers (PIOs). These officers act as nodal officers. If you want any information from that Department, you should file an RTI application to that officer. There are no forms for RTI applications. You could write it on a blank sheet of paper. However, some state Governments have prescribed some formats. You need to deposit an application fee while submitting your application. This is Rs 10 for all Central Government Departments. It is different for different states. You would get all the details on http://www.righttoinformation.org You can deposit your application fee by going in person to the office of PIO and depositing in cash or you could deposit it by post through a DD or a Banker’s cheque or a postal order drawn in favour of that Department.

Once you submit your application to a PIO, he collects and compiles that information from various wings of that Department. He is supposed to provide that information to you within 30 days. If he does not provide it in 30 days or the information that he provides is not satisfactory, you could file an appeal to his senior officer. This appeal also has to be written on a plain paper. This senior officer is required to act on your appeal within 30 days. Again, if you do not receive any response or a satisfactory response within the next 30 days, you could file second appeal to the Information Commission. Information Commission has the powers to impose penalties against officials. For every day of delay in providing information, an officer could be penalized at the rate of Rs 250 per day upto a maximum of Rs 25,000 for each application. If wrong or incomplete or irrelevant information were provided, then the official could be penalized upto a maximum of Rs 25,000. In addition, if an officer repeatedly violates RTI Act, the Commission could order disciplinary enquiry against that office, which could even lead to his dismissal.



Are you a victim of corruption
Share your experience with us

What is this campaign
Between July 1 and 15, people would be exhorted to desist from paying bribes. More »
Right to Information is an effective tool in getting grievances resolved.
What is Right to Information
RTI ACT 2005
How to use this right
Why RTI works
What if no proper answer
How does it help
What after getting reply
Chances of victimisation?
Bureaucracy’s fears?

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