India shockingly Slipped in Global RTI Index- Critical Analysis - Seeker's Thoughts

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Wednesday, 21 November 2018

India shockingly Slipped in Global RTI Index- Critical Analysis


Introduction: - India has slipped four positions in the last seven years.
India has slipped four position in the last seven years in Global index on right to information after making its debut at the second rank in 2011. Now India has slipped to the 6th Position. 
According to the report, India performed worst under the section “sanctions and protections”, scoring just above 60% points, whereas it failed to match up to the expectations in five of the sections including scope of the RTI Act, requesting procedures, exceptions and refusals and measures taken to promote the Act, scoring just above 80% points.

What exactly the report reveals?
Report stated that one of the biggest problems facing India’s RTI Act is the fact that it offers no protection to officials (from sanctions) who “release information that shows wrongdoing”. Thus keeping them open punitive actions for upholding the Act.
Though there’s a system in place to redress the problem of public authorities who systematically fail to disclose information or underperform (either through imposing sanctions provided in the law are against officials and not authorities). Besides, that an information commission can only recommend steps to the public authorities to promote conformity with the law - this further weakens the information commissioner, the report highlights.
What other problems India is facing?
Among other problems India’s act is blanket exceptions in schedule 2 for various security, intelligence, research and economic institutes, the report points out.
The Indian legal framework also does not allow access to information held by private entities which perform a public function, and several of the law’s exclusion, including for information received in confidence from a foreign government, cabinet papers and parliamentary privilege, are also problematic.

Right to information Amendment Bill, 2018
RTI amendment bill which empowers the union government to decide the tenure, salaries allowance and other terms of service of information commissioners at the centre and states.
1-      Currently, their salaries and tenure are statutorily protected and are at par with those of the chief election commissioners and election commissioners.
2-      RTI activists and opposition parties have been expressing their strong reservation against the proposed amendments.


How RTI worked in India?
RTI adopted in 2005, it’s been more than a decade, and it has had far reaching consequences on the governance of the country. It played a very important role in exposing various scams and has helped bring about accountability and transparency in the governance of the country.

What is the reason behind India’s low ranking?
India lags behind smaller countries mostly because of the negligent and faulty implementation of the law. According to transparency international India, which carried out the survey, the total number of RTI pleas received during 2005-16 was 2, 43, and 94,951 and during the same period, the number of second appeals filed to the CIC was 18.5 lakh.

Shortage of Staff and Digitization Issue
There are other reasons like shortage of staff and digitisation issues have been a great flaw in working process, there is an increasing vacancy in multiple state information commissions including the CIC over 30.8 % or 48 out of total 156 posts are vacant for information commissioners at the union and state level, there are only 12 states have filled all posts like state chief information commissioners and information commissioners in their commission, leading to no vacancy. No state chief information commissioners have been appointed for Andhra Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Nagaland.
No Accessibility of Online RTI
Despite a push for digitisation by the government, most states are yet to make RTI accessible online.
Problem of information sharing with citizen in India has been a tendency to decline giving information due to which, between 2005 and 2016, more than 18 lakh people had to knock on the door of the information commissions for the second appeal.

Many Institutions are not under RTI 
Many institutions including the CBI in India are still not within the purview of RTI act. Information is withheld under the gab of confidentiality and privacy, even in those matters that in no way violates national security or an individual’s privacy.

Conclusion
India ranks lower than smaller countries like Afghanistan which adopted the RTI later than India, out of the 61 indicators; there are nine indicators categories under which India’s point have been downgraded. Due to lack of political will, the RTI act is not being implemented in spirit. To empower the legislative framework is the foremost responsibility of the government, but this can only be ensured when political parties and citizens are guarded and are constantly pushing the government to not dilute such a citizen empowering law.

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