In this age transparency is the new best form of governance, democracy couldn’t exist without the people in power being answerable to the citizens. It is a right given to all the citizens of India under the right to information act 2005. Under this act a citizen can avail his right to collect any public information about whatever he pleases. This act was forged into existence to ensure a transparent and honest governance of the society in India, so that nothing would stay hidden from the public eye and a way where the citizens can ask questions about dealings of the government by right.
The Right to Information Act, simply known as RTI, is a revolutionary Act that aims to promote transparency in government institutions in India. The Act came into existence in 2005, after sustained efforts of anti-corruption activists. It is termed revolutionary because it opens government organisations up for scrutiny. Equipped with knowledge about RTI, a common man can demand any government agency to furnish information. The organisation is bound to provide the information, that too within 30 days, failing which the officer concerned is slapped with a monetary fine.
RTI Act has been made by legislation of Parliament of India on 15 June 2005. The Act came into effect on 12 October 2005 and has been implemented ever since to provide information to crores of Indian citizens. All the constitutional authorities come under this Act, making it one of the most powerful laws of the country.
All government agencies, whether they are under a state government or the Centre, come under the purview of the Act. For example, Municipal Corporations, PSUs (Public Sector Units), Government departments, Ministries at the State as well as Central level, Judiciary, Government owned Companies, Government Universities, Government Schools, Works Departments, Road Authorities, Provident Fund department etc. The list is quite an exhaustive one.
You can ask a government how much money is being spent on renovation of its ministers’ bungalows, what their telephone bill or fuel expenditure is. Or you can ask what amount was spent on MLAs’/MPs’ foreign trips. You can ask how much of allocated money your elected representatives have utilised on improving their constituency; you are entitled to ask for even a break-up of the amount spent, project-wise. This RTI information is available because it is the taxpayers’ money that is being spent here. Few ministries and departments make online rti replies available to the public. You can see them on the respective websites. Not only governments and their departments, but also smaller units such as your city corporation or gram panchayat fall under the ambit of RTI. Be it police, passport office, your electricity/water supply company or even the IRCTC, all are required to furnish RTI information.
When it comes to RTI, there are watchdogs on multiple levels to ensure the Act is followed in letter and spirit. The Act has employed a ‘perform or perish’ approach, besides setting up a mechanism to dispense information. Every government organisation is needed to appoint one employee as a public information officer (PIO). Once a department gets an RTI request, it is the responsibility of the PIO to furnish the information to the applicant within 30 days. Failing to do so means, a monetary fine can be imposed on the PIO. The longer a PIO makes an applicant wait, the more the penalty levied on him/her. There have been instances where PIOs have been asked to cough up amount in thousands of rupees as fine.