[Answered] Do you think that the system around the Right to Information Act is being made less and less effective, shutting off a crucial means to hold public officials accountable? Give arguments in favour of your opinion.

Introduction: Describe RTI Act briefly.

Body: Arguments which explain how RTI has been made less effective over the years.

Conclusion: Way forward.

The Right to Information (RTI) Act was passed by Parliament in 2005 to enable the citizens to exercise their freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution. The RTI Act provides for the timely disclosure of information to citizens by Union and State Public Authorities. It seeks to empower citizens and promote accountability and transparency. However, there are several arguments in favour of the opinion that the system around the RTI Act is being made less effective, thereby diminishing its ability to hold public officials accountable.

Some of these arguments are:

  • Exemptions: Governments may introduce amendments or exemptions to the RTI Act, which can limit the scope of information that can be accessed. These changes often favour the interests of public officials and reduce the effectiveness of the act. E.g., issues related to national security and sovereignty reasons.
  • A blanket ban on disclosing personal data: The Digital Personal Data Protection Act, of 2023 prohibits the personal data disclosure of citizens by the government which would make “social audits” impossible to carry out which would affect the implementation of welfare schemes.
  • New amendments: The Right to Information (Amendment) Act, 2019, granted the Union Government sole discretion in determining the terms of appointment and compensation for information commissioners who consider appeals against absent or unsatisfactory RTI responses.
  • Cumbersome process: RTI Act implementation is hindered by the subordinate rules made by the Union Government and State Governments. For eg, some states like Tamil Nadu do not accept Indian Postal Orders (IPOs), as a payment option.
  • Vacant Posts: There is a large number of vacant posts of information commissions in CIC for the Union Government and various State Information Commissions. This has undermined the confidence of the public in the effective implementation of the RTI Act.
  • Slow transition to online system: While the RTI portal is a welcoming step in enhancing transparency and accountability there is concern as some states have been reluctant to join the RTI portal or the number of government departments are too few to allow citizens to file complaints.

Conclusion:

The RTI Act is a landmark act that allows any citizen to make requests for access to data, documents, and other information in the government’s possession. India’s RTI Act has been commonly cited as among the most comprehensive public records access legislations in the world. There is a need to remove the loopholes in RTI to further the objectives of transparency and accountability.

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