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By: Manisha Chauhan, Advocate

The Right to Information Act, a landmark piece of legislation, gave Indian citizens the ability to submit requests for information to all levels of government,  including the Union, State, and Local, as entities that receive government funding. This Act provides broad access to information with few exceptions. The  RTI essentially arose as a manifestation of the desire to strengthen democracy and make it more inclusive globally while moving the political process gradually towards participatory democracy. The system went into service on October 12th,  2005. 

RTI has given Indian citizens the ability to request information from the government, making the government and its employees more responsible and accountable. India brought the Act into action within a short period of time, unlike many other nations that required years to do so after it was passed. This period of time was insufficient to alter government employees’ perspectives, construct new infrastructure and procedures, and increase the capacity for information delivery in accordance with this Act. 

The RTI Act’s trajectory has been fraught with ups and downs. It has witnessed both the successes and escalating difficulties of the democratic society. In India,  corruption has permeated all aspects of daily life, and government employees operate with impunity. There were no effective governance mechanisms in place before this act that could hold public officials responsible. The likelihood of their inefficiency and corruption being discovered and investigated was incredibly slim. The RTI’s greatest accomplishment is that even the most powerful individuals are within reach of the average person. 
Pre-RTI and post-RTI periods can be distinguished in the political history of independent India. India now has a second freedom thanks to the Right To  Information Act, where a citizen has greater power than a parliamentarian, at least when it comes to obtaining information from the government. For a written parliamentary question, a parliamentarian gets just one chance to get a reply from the government. On the other hand, if an RTI applicant is not pleased with the initial response from a public body, he or she has two additional opportunities to question the government. 
RTI Act has been a successful information provider as well as a watchdog. All individuals covered by the Act are now incredibly conscientious about their work,  rules, and regulations. The officials are now more aware of the importance of following the regulations and averting irregularities in their work. RTI petitions can accomplish far more than their stated goals if they are correctly crafted. There have been instances where people who used the RTI Act to obtain information on their applications for passports or ration cards had the paperwork delivered to their door before receiving the RTI response.
Media professionals and others who wanted judicial reforms had tremendous bravery because of the RTI Act to call attention to flaws in the system. The RTI  Act’s success has been greatly aided by the media’s involvement in frequently exposing significant decisions made by the Central Information Commission and responses provided under the RTI Act. Newspapers and press organisations have designated dedicated correspondents to cover news pertaining to the RTI Act.  The usage of the RTI Act is promoted by numerous reputable news outlets. They are achieving this by collaborating with civil society and sponsoring RTI prizes.

RTI has given people more power by allowing them to make decisions every day rather than just once every five years. The power of information lies with the bureaucracy. The Act has made it easier for the people and the government to share authority. It has improved democracy. It has contributed to the culture of public hearings and social audits, which make corrupt officials responsible for their actions. According to the Act, the CAG has begun to include social audits in audits formally. More transparency in how government policies and programmes are carried out has led to better implementation of those policies and programmes as a result. After the RTI Act was passed, overall governance improved. This results from the exposure of frauds like 2G and coal gates. 

The achievements, in comparison to the intended goal of the Act, are really a very small fraction. The government, society, and the general public should work together to make the circulation of information successful and achieve its intended aim.  
The Central Information Commission should be used to spend the RTI publicity budget. The RTI Act should be included in more detail in the school curriculum so that students are familiar with it from an early age and can use it wisely in the future. Regrettably, the majority of college-bound students are unaware that such a fantastic Act even exists. At colleges and universities, seminars and workshops should be held to close the knowledge gap between young people and RTI. 
The Act confronts a variety of difficulties from various bodies in addition to being the least known by the general public. The improper use of information obtained through RTI has been utilised to impede black authorities. Due to the central information commissioners’ lack of independence and the government’s use of delaying measures in their selection, the Act’s effectiveness has been reduced.  Due to political parties’ non-compliance with the commission, which could change to limit its authority, the import has been further reduced. The Act lacks the teeth to root out larger-scale wrongdoing in the absence of a robust whistleblower Ada public grievance statute. 
Another concern is the protection of RTI activists. They experience abuse,  assaults, and threats of death. Many people have lost their lives as a result of the  RTI Act’s exposure to powerful and dishonest people. In 2013, the Chief  Information Commissioner vehemently stated that RTI activists should be protected against intimidation, violence, and death. The Act’s popularity may be attributed to the five to eight million applications that are submitted annually on average. The deaths of more than just protestors are evidence of how seriously vested interests are threatened. In a related development, the Karnataka High  Court ordered the state government to draught protection guidelines for RTI  activists after taking note of the 2012 murders of RTI campaigners Lingaraju and  Vasudeva Adiga. 
The RTI Act also has some “Demand Side” and “Supply Side” difficulties that impede its efficient operation. Demand side dimensions are those that relate to the information seeker side and follow the problems and limitations that the information seeker encounters while submitting requests for information. On the demand side, problems include poor public awareness. According to Section 26  of the Act, the government may create and coordinate educational initiatives to improve public understanding of how to exercise their rights, particularly in disadvantaged groups. Awareness level of the categories of organisations protected by the RTI Act. It is crucial to emphasise that the general public has a  very low level of RTI awareness.
On the supply side, problems include information that isn’t provided within 30  days. Today, there aren’t enough procedures or mechanisms in place for the  Information Commission to assess how well this crucial Act provision is being followed. RTI application processing is delayed as a result of outdated records management policies, inefficient record management systems, and information gathering from field offices. RTI runs into difficulties when basic infrastructure is unavailable, and information technology tools are not used to their full potential.
The political parties and the judiciary have been excluded from the scope of RTI,  which is another flaw. Here, the judiciary’s main worry is that if the specifics are made public, its independence may be in jeopardy. There is debate over how much information should be made public because it could harm a person’s reputation. Yet, a lot of campaigners claimed that making the information public would improve public perception of the judiciary when it came to the appointment and transfer of judges. That will boost its stature and popularity. It would make the nomination process more equitable and aid in preventing any sort of political or other meddling.
However, funding or donations to political parties are outside of the purview of this discussion because they are not always voluntary, and in certain instances,  the donors are large corporations and businesses. When the parties these contributors support to win elections, they are rewarded with favours. This omission from the purview of the RTT has made clear the lengths to which the ruling class will go in order to subvert the rule of law.
Political parties have frequently tried to weaken this sunshine legislation, and its potential for abuse has been a worry. All political classes are opposed to a  proposal by the Central Information Commission (CIC) to bring political parties within the umbrella of this transparency law because politicians continue to worry that RTI might snoop into a vendetta war. 

The RTI Act has demonstrated that it is in line with good governance by continuously maintaining a check and balance on government operations. In addition to altering the structural-functional relationship between the government and the populace, the right to knowledge has also caused a change in how citizens behave. There aren’t many cases of blackmailers using information, obviously.  One of the most well-known catchphrases of the so-called eccentrics is “We will  file an RTI application.” The mere existence of these examples of misuse and abuse can be reason enough to call into doubt the virtue and grandeur of RTI.  Unquestionably, the Right to Information Act is significant and has the ability to permanently alter the balance of power in India by delegitimising governments and other strong institutions and giving the people more control over their own lives. In order for this potential to be realised, the RTI regime will need to be strengthened significantly more in the upcoming years. The onus is on both the institutions and the people to realise the true purpose of RTI.