In 2005, the Indian Parliament passed the Right to Information act which was defined as an ‘Act to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority, the constitution of a Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.’
The validity of right to information is based on the fact that every citizen of India is a direct shareholder of every public authority organizing the public sector. The tax-paying citizens are the investors for the government and its policies and program and hence they have a right to know the process of working of government and to check the accountability of the public organizations controlled by government. Obviously, this is an important tool for the whistleblowers who try to expose the inherent corruption of the government agencies and the fraudulent manner in which these government agencies work.
The right to information was introduced and passed during the UPA rule and hence the senior leaders of Congress party did their best to attain good name in public by asserting that the Congress Party believes in honesty, transparency and accountability of the government. However, things became murky when some of the influential congress leaders were found guilty in major scams such as CWG and 2G spectrum scams. Soon the leaders who were claiming the RTI as the biggest gift to the common man started talking about the negative effects of RTI over the working of the government. Senior ministers started claiming that RTI is “transgressing into government functioning”.
Now the politicians are trying to give way for a possible amendment for RTI that will make it less attacking on the government. Obviously, the politicians want to immunize themselves against the possibilities of being caught while acting corrupt. The discussion about the required amendment in RTI is going on right since 2006. The Right to Information act was introduced to create an informed citizenry that was passed with good intentions yet ministers and parliamentarians didn’t know that the same Act will be used by citizens to expose the inefficiencies and corruption of the government and will often provide valid restrictions against the misdeeds of the nexus between politicians and bureaucrats. Former Chief Election Commissioner T. S. Krishnamurthy, who is also a former Secretary to government said, “There is a practice among some civil servants to informally consult Ministers to make favorable file notings. This makes a mockery of the official policy framework. Making the notings available to the public will help such civil servants get their spine back.”
While there will be only a few politicians actually supporting RTI and opposing any amendment in it, there are many individuals concerned with citizen’s interest who are in opposition to any amendment and rather they want the RTI to be more sharp and usable and hence, they are demanding for a greater scope of RTI.
Along with RTI, politicians, or better say the ruling ministers are also against the vested powers for the CAG. Both RTI and CAG are a means to expose the veracity of democratic government. CAG and RTI both can be efficiently used to expose the fallacies of a people friendly government. These can be used to expose something that has been stolen or gone wrong; these constitutional laws can be used to show how government fools common people. This is the reason why the same UPA government which is currently beleaguered in many scams and fraudulent cases is raising the voices that RTI and Comptroller and Auditor General of India is “transgressing into governmental functioning.”
However, the use of RTI is not to hamper governmental activities nor it is to be used to demean the Indian penal code. Last month, the opposing views regarding the CAG and RTI were given a higher voice when differences between current finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and the home minister P. Chidambaram were covered in the main news. An RTI was used to cast doubts about the assessment of losses to the exchequer in the 2G case while same RTI was used to claim that P. Chidambaram was somehow related with 2G case.
Until now, the government has enjoyed an insular and very secretive working system with complete control over what is going on and what they intend to do. However, with the introduction of RTI and CAG, the government now can feel that there are ways to keep an eye on governmental proceedings and if something goes wrong or dishonest, people will come to know about it.
This is certainly a major progress in Indian democracy, now people can realize that the government is exactly not something which is meant to serve and safeguard them, rather it is the power that controls, dominates and rules over them with utmost power and monopoly over initiation of force. The current agitation against corruption in India is surely a consequence of RTI and Comptroller and Auditor General of India and their reports.
While this is true that RTI and CAG is a positive power that can be used to balance the monopoly of government, however as we can see, even after so many valid information and evidences, the pace of law against the corruption is certainly amazingly slow and there hardly are chances that we can check the corruption and eradicate it. Even a new constitutional power as suggested by Anna Hajare and Arvind Kejriwal (Jan Lokpal) won’t be efficient enough to check corruption and this is because of the fact that any constitutional body with monopoly cannot remain honest because of lack of competition and incentive to remain honest. Yet, I feel that a constitutional body such as Jan Lokpal will offer a good competition for the government and will provide an incentive to work it honestly.
Citizens will certainly gain a lot of knowledge with the help of RTI and the CAG, they will learn that while we say that the democratic government is by the people for the people and of the people, no individual is government and the individual has been fooled around by the collective term “we”. Along with RTI, CAG and Ombudsman, Indians also need the Right to Reject. Until Indians attain the Right to Reject, no good is possible. However, this is not so easy. The government has shown how opposed it is to RTI and CAG and we all have seen how difficult it is to demand an efficient and effective Jan Lokapal bill. This clearly shows that it will be very difficult for Indians to actually realize the importance of Right to Reject and government will do all it can to suppress any such demand.
Yet, in true sense, citizens of any free country should have a right to reject the government which is nothing but an agency with monopoly to serve the citizens in law and protection sector. Right to reject is not entertained in any country till now and in India, people even do not have any right to property so it will take a good time for people to understand and demand the right to reject. Once we realize the importance of right to reject, we become independent as we no more feel bound to be governed by the corrupt and crooked government, we realize that whenever the government (whose only duty is to maintain law and peace while providing proper security against any attacker or initiator of force), acts corrupt, people should have a right to reject.