History of Right to Information movement in India The movement for the right to information was started in early 1990s by Mazdoor Kisaan Shakti Sangathan (which literally means ‘organisation for the empowerment of workers and peasants’) in remote village Devdungri (Rajsamand district, Rajasthan). It was a movement to expose corruption in the famine relief work by demanding information related to copies of bills, vouchers and muster rolls for workers recorded in government files. Following a period of struggle, MKSS succeeded in acquiring photocopies of the relevant documents in which the siphoning of funds was clearly evident. The successful experiments of exposing corruption through access to information was good learning experience for civil society, led to the demand of enactment of RTI law in Rajasthan. Government of Rajasthan yielded to pressure of movement and enacted the law in 2000. Success of struggle of MKSS led to the genesis of a broader discourse on the right to information in India and RTI laws were enacted in some states of India. The demand for national law started under the leadership of National Campaign on People’s Right to Information (NCPRI). In 1996, the Press Council of India headed by Justice P B Sawant presented a draft model law on right to information to the Government of India. A working group (Shourie Committee) under the chairmanship of Mr. H D Shourie was set up by the Central Government and given the mandate to prepare draft legislation on freedom of information. The Shourie Committee's Report and draft law were published in 1997. Eventually, the Shourie Committee draft law was reworked into the Freedom of Information Bill (FOI) 2000, which was passed in the Parliament in 2002 but it was not notified. However, civil society raised several objections to FOI bill and suggested amendments to National Advisory Council. As a result of long drawn struggle of civil society; the RTI was enacted in 2005 in India. But the key question is, can RTI be an effective tool for ensuring accountability in governance institutions? It makes the analysis of relationship between accountability and RTI pertinent here. Right to Information: main features Right to Information Act, which came into force on 12th of October 2005,is one of the most significant legislations enacted by the Parliament of India. The Right to Information Act 2005 (RTI Act) recognizes that in a democracy like India, all information held by the government ultimately belongs to people. Making information available to citizens is simply a part of normal government functioning because the public has a right to know what public officials do with their money. The Act seeks to establish that transparency is the norm and secrecy is an exception in the working of governance institutions. Facilities for accessing information The Right to Information Act gives the right to all the Indian citizens to access information from public institutions. The application procedure for seeking information is very simple and citizen friendly. The application can be written in English or Hindi or the official language of the state. Application should be accompanied by necessary application fees as prescribed under state rules. The application must be submitted to the
Public Information Officer (PIO) in the public institution from where the information is sought. Section 4 of the RTI Act mandates every public institution to voluntarily disclose all their activities in a manual, so that citizens can get information about important functions of public institutions without filing application. Role and responsibilities of Public Information Officers PIOs are the designated officer in all administrative units or offices of Public Institutions who have been given responsibility of providing information to persons requesting for information under this Act. The PIO must provide information to the citizens within 30 days of receipt of application. How to file application:...
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