Sunday, January 10, 2010

Right to Information

I read Times of India of January 8,2010 and there was a news which I had been waiting for at least 3 years. The title of the news was - 'After judges, babus' assets come under RTI'. I think that it is a landmark judgment which has widen the ambit of Right to Information (RTI). Let me quote the crux of the judgement - After politicians and judges of Supreme Court, now the assets of babus have been prised open to public scrutiny. In a landmark order, the Central Information Commission has said that disclosure of information such as assets of a public servant, routinely collected by the public authority, should be made available to the public under the Right to Information Act.

I believe that this judgment is going to reduce the widespread corruption in India. I think that Laws such as RTI in by themselves can't empower the public unless there are some clear consequences of the law shown to the public. With the way laws are written, there is always multiple interpretation possible if one can at all comprehend them. I am not saying that laws should be made simpler. What I am saying is that not many people understand what a law can or can not do. To make it clear what a law can do such judgments are needed. Once such judgments are made, they say clearly what people can achieve with the help of a law. It is the application, not the underlying theory, that gives us actual feel of things. It is engineering, not the underlying science, that is changing the face of the earth. It is these judgments, not the underlying law, that mark the revolution.

I have seen things changing in India due to RTI. My own uncle who is an Assistant development officer has been affected by RTI. In a week he has to go at least couple of times to the Information commision's court. He has to go to court when his department fails to provide some information to the petitioner. Although the punishments for not being able to provide the information are fairly mild (10-25k rupees), the process of appearing before a court and possibility of getting rebuked by judge are good reasons to provide information and perform duties scrupulously.

RTI is such a powerful tool that, when used properly, can lead us to the direction of rapid development. I remember Rajiv Gandhi's statement, ' If center sends 100 Rs for schemes only 15 rupees is actually used for the purposes of scheme. Our corrupt bureaucrats and politicians eat the remaining 85." I think that with proper use of RTI we can make sure that 85 rupees is actually used for the purposes of the scheme. So people come out of the closet and file applications under RTI to correct these corrupt people. Now that you have a land mark decision, you should not hesitate to peek into the private assets of government employees.

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