Right to Information – Master key to good governance


Posted by rtiact2005 on October 17, 2006


Sunday, October 15, 2006

Expressing the Government's firm commitment to the effective
implementation of the Right to Information Act in letter and spirit, the Prime
Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, has assured all stakeholders that the
Government would make a sincere endeavour to strengthen the implementation
of the Act in favour of genuine information seekers and people.

Delivering the valedictory address at the National Convention on First
Year of Right to Information, here today, the Prime Minister said that
the right to information was not a substitute for good governance and
that it could only support and aid the process.

Striking a note of caution, Dr. Singh called for a need to guard
against the growth of professional middlemen in the use of the Act. The Prime
Minister hoped that a time would come when a citizen would not have to
make an application for seeking information under the Act. 

Emphasizing the word "public interest", the Prime Minister underlined
the need for a computerized network throughout the country, down to the
village level, to ensure public participation in the process of

Shri Suresh Pachouri, Minister of State for Personnel, Central
Information Commissioners – Smt. Padma Balasubramanian, Prof. M.M Ansari, Dr.
O.PKejriwal and Shri A.N. Tiwari were among those present on the

The following is the text of the Prime Minister's valedictory address:

"I am very happy that we have gathered here today to celebrate the
first anniversary of the Right to Information Act. This is indeed a
milestone of great importance in the evolution of Indianr democracy and I am
delighted that we are meeting today to mark one year of implementation
of this historic Act.

Presenting the case in support of the Bill in Parliament, I had
expressed the hope that the passage of the Bill will see the dawn of a new era
in our processes of governance, an era of performance and greater
efficiency, an era which will ensure that the benefits of growth flow to all
sections of our people, an era which will help to eliminate the scourge
of corruption, an era which will bring the common man's concerns to the
heart of all processes of governance, an era which will truly fulfill
the hopes of the founding fathers of our Republic.

Indeed, it is with such high hopes that we enacted this law. In this
process, we received tremendous support and guidance from the
Chairperson of UPA; Shrimati Sonia Gandhi and her colleagues in the National
Advisory Council. We owe them a deep debt of gratitude.

Mahatma Gandhi had once observed, "real Swaraj will come not by the
acquisition of authority by a few but by the acquisition of capacity by
all to resist authority when abused." In many ways, I would like to
think that the Right to Information Act, taken together with the 73rd and
74th Amendments to the Constitution and the National Rural Employment
Guarantee Act, enable us to fulfill to a considerable degree, Bapu's
dream. Today we are all gathered to assess what use have we made of that
instrument and what more needs to be done to make it a more effective
instrument of public purpose.

I have heard with interest what has been said about your conclusions at
the end of this 1st Annual Convention. What is of particular
satisfaction is that it has become clear that the citizens of our country have
owned this Act with their arms wide open. This has become, if anything, a
"Peoples' Law."

Whatever may be the differences on the finer points of the Act, we
must all be aware of the course that we are setting for the future of
democratic governance. It can be said that the right to know is the most
fundamental of all those rights, which are critical for upholding human
dignity. We live in an age of information, in which the free flow of
information and ideas determines the pace of development and well being of
the people. The implementation of RTI Act is, therefore, an important
milestone in our quest for building an enlightened and at the same time,
a prosperous society.

Therefore, the exercise of the Right to Information cannot be the
privilege of only a few.

This Act is the consummation of a process initiated with the adoption
of our Constitution. We gave ourselves a Sovereign Socialist, Secular
Democratic Republic accountable to all our citizens. Accountability is
based on the premise that citizens have access to information on the
basis of which they can determine the justness, or otherwise, of actions of
the State. Hence, the criticality of the right to information and this
Act is but the means
for accessing it.

We have kept these means simple, with overriding importance given to
"public interest", sweeping aside much of the legacy of colonialism. In
many ways, this Act is the logical culmination of the dreams of our
founding fathers. I would, however, emphasise the word "public interest".
The true determinant of success must be how many people have actually
used this Act, and their level of satisfaction with the information so

We must guard against the growth of professional middlemen in the use
of this Act as seen in some other countries. And since it is an Act for
our common benefit in relation to Public Authority, we are all
stakeholders in the Act and must guard against allowing it to become a tool for
promotion of an adversarial relationship between different
stakeholders. This can only serve to weaken the Act.

Given the diverse and complex nature of our society, the information
revolution underway has the potential to make the Act an effective tool
of social change. Public authorities are shouldering the responsibility
of implementing this Act without any additional staff and are creating
electronic databases to meet the demands placed on them by our citizens
and the Civil Society too has played no mean role in spreading
awareness among citizens regarding their rights and preventing arbitrariness in
processes of decision-making. 

However, a great deal more needs to be done. All public
authorities must ensure that all records that can be computerized are,
within a reasonable time and subject to availability of resources,
computerized and connected through a network all over the country.

Networking through the country through the institutionalized framework
of panchayats, community service centres and knowledge centres down to
the village level will ensure public participation in the development

The Central Information Commission has been playing the role of
information provider of the last resort to civil society. This convention has
given an opportunity to interested citizens, eminent personalities from
civil society, Government and Information Commissions at all levels, to
deliberate on substantive issues of common concern and enrich us with
their suggestions. I am sure the recommendations of the Convention will
help Government in addressing measures required to improve the
effectiveness of this revolutionary Act.

I am sure that there will always be various opinions about the
interpretation and implementation of some provisions of the Act. This
is true of any legislation – particularly those that usher in far
reaching changes. In a democratic society, sometimes, it takes time for new
ideas to take firm root. This is part of the learning curve any
legislation has to undergo.

e need to evolve a consensus to facilitate the effective exercise of
the right to information by the needy, by those who are directly affected
by the information. We need to balance the need for information with
the limited time, material and human resources available with public
authorities. Vexatious demands should not be allowed to deprive genuine
information seekers of their legitimate claims on limited public

We must also realize that laws, over a period of time, adapt themselves
to changing realities as societal perceptions change and most
importantly, right to information is not a substitute for good governance. It
has to support and aid the process of good governance.

The positive manner, in which all stakeholders have responded to the
challenges posed by this Act, encourages me to imagine that a time may
come when a citizen may not have to make an application for seeking
information under this Act. Public authorities could place on their own,
more and more information in the public domain, with easy access as
mandated by the Act. 

On behalf of the Government, I assure all stakeholders that it shall be
our endeavour to strengthen the implementation of the Act in favour of
genuine information seekers and the people. The Act has been a matter
of pride for the UPA Government. It was a commitment we made to our
people. Therefore, we are - as, if not more, interested in its abiding

We will continue to pursue the goal of ensuring the fullest and freest
flow of information under this Act. We shall work with all stakeholders
for promoting effective usage of the rights granted under this Act. I
assure you the complete support of our government in achieving fully the
aims and objectives of this Act. We remain firmly committed to its
effective implementation in letter and spirit".


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