The world’s most vast democratic country, India, has a government by the people, of the people and for the people. Since the Indian Constitution is very complex and intricate, we are unmindful of many of our basic rights. Also, the article 21 of the Constitution acts as a huge umbrella and under its canopy of “Protection of life and personal liberty”, a bundle of rights is provided to the citizens.
The article 21 inextricably links food security, shelter, employment, clean environment and other survival needs. The National Campaign for People's Right to Information from the late 1990's became a platform with broad base for action. The ‘Freedom of Information Act, 2002’ was promulgated for imparting freedom to each citizen for accessing official information. It was enacted to promote transparency and accountability in administration and in relation to matters connected therewith and incidental thereto. In 2005 the act saw an amendment made for expanding its reach to center/state governments, panchayats, and local bodies.
The preamble to the act provides for setting up a practical regime of the right to information under the control of public authority in order to furnish transparency and accountability in the functioning of
The amended act:
• Helps individuals in attaining self fulfillment.
• Renders assistance in discovering the truth.
• Invigorates the capacity of individuals in participating in decision making.
• Provides a mechanism for establishment of a reasonably balanced stability and social change.
The ‘Right to Information Act, 2005’ is a very utilitarian tool in the hands of the common people. The significance of the act was discussed in detail by the Supreme Courtin the landmark judgment of Raj Narain v. Indira Nehru Gandhi in 1974, when the court rejected the government’s claim of
privilege over the disclosure of the security instructions for the Prime Minister. It was stated that, “in a government of responsibility like ours, all the agents of the public must be responsible for their conduct. The people of this country have a right to know every public act, everything that is done in public way, by their public functionaries. They are entitled to know the particulars of every public transaction in all its bearing”.
The right to information in the Indian jurisprudence has primarily emerged from the article 19(1)(a) of the Indian
Constitution that guarantees freedom of speech and expression. To quote Justice Bhagwati, “The concept of open government is the direct emanation from the right to know which seems to be implicit in the right of freedom of speech and expression”.
According to records of 2017, 2.44 crore application were catered to and several instances exist where the media and activists collected crucial information to reveal scams. The condition is definitely a tad bit better but a critical presumption is that unless the citizens ask for information, it won’t be shared. Glossy leaflets on government programmes may be good for public relations but talking about helping, guiding and informing citizens, they do not create an underlying difference in empowering the public or recognizing their right to know. It is time we go beyond the Right to Information. Wha
t is needed is the right to know as right to know laws serve fundamental liberty and autonomy interest. They provide individuals with knowledge of the risk involved in their choices and allow them to decide whether or not to run these risks.
Thus, it is not incorrect to say that the Right to Information Act, 2005, renders considerable utility to the masses and empowers them with the right to keep the government authorities in check and make them accountable for their deeds.
a student of law at CNLU, Patna.