RTI-Why? What? How? When? Whom to?

Preface

Right To Information Act 2005  is the legislative support to operationalise the fundamental rights of the citizen enshrined in the Constitution of India. This legislative effort was attempted by various State Assmblies and the Parliament.

Then why there is a new upsurge among the people  to resort  to  this enactment all on a sudden by  every sector of the people through out India?

What are the important provisions in the enactment to give new power to the comman citizen?

How it was drafted and finalised?

Who are all contributed for this excellent  Parliamentary legislative architecture ?

To whom the enactment was made visualising the need and use of it?

These are the questions answered in the Book “Right To Information – Why?What?How?When?Whom to?

Morning hours of phone call received by me sprang a  pleasant surprise in Jan 2005 .  “Where are you Natchiappanji ? Why you had cancelled the Mumbai study tour of the committee. You have to see that the Right To information Bill 2005 passed in Budget session itself.” Yes Mam I will do it. The present tour was cancelled on the basis of decision of Chairmman of Rajya sabha to observe national mourning  due to loss by tsunami, I replied to Madam Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson of UPA the Governing Alliance Parties.

Immediately I worked out the road map for proceeding with hearing of experts and activists of the Right to infomation through out India. The first meeting was fixed on  1st February 2005 itself. Wide publicity in print and electronic media was arranged through out India in National and regional languages , calling the opinions of the public by electronically and hard copy formet too.

Since,the Chairman of Rajyasabha in consultation with Speaker , Lok Sabha referred the bill as introduced  in Lok Sabha  and pending  there, to the committee on 31st December,2004 for examination and report,the committee considered the Bill in five sittings on the 1st,14th and 16th February and 1st and 2nd March,2005.

The committee heard the oral evidence of the Secretary, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievancces and Pensions in its sitting held on 1st February,2005. The committee heard the views of the prominent NGOs and eminet experts numbering 20 persons and organisations ,on the Bill in its sittings  14th and 16th February,2005.The committee took clause – by clause consideration of the Bill on 1st and 2nd March 2005. In its sitting held on 16th March,2005, the committee considered the draft report on the Bill and adopted the same.

The Report of the committee was made after thourough discusion at various level of taking the evidence and perusing the documents and clause by clause consideration. These activities can be well understood if one goes through the verbatum report  of the dicussion, examination of witnesses both private and official . Hence we made the verbatim report as nnexure in this book. The reading of the verbatim report will reflect the reason for amending the official bill on various matters while there is strong protest in certain issues, acceptence in matters of public interest and lukeworm attitude in changing the preamble-qualification of Chairman and members and their powers and status  – ,from the beuraocracy . Very strong opposition came from certain Ministerial quarters for including the “human rights violations shall not be excluded under this sub section” of Section 24. This was according to him that there will not be any armed action against terrorist and there will be huge loss of civilian and uniformed forces. I could not compromise in this humanrights matter and hence we included in our report as part of the bill, which was also accepted by Group of Ministers and finally cabinet.  Both Houses of the Parliament also accepted the inclusion and  it becomes a law of the land by assent of the President of  India.

Introduction

Democracy is a political system in which all the members of the society have an equal share of formal political power, in modern representative democracy, this formal equality is embodied primarily in the right to information to get the vote for governance by such elected persons.

It is generally believed that democracy and Constitution was created in one particular place and time – identified as “Ancient Athens” about the year 508 BC. In a broad sense, may have existed in several areas of the world well before the turn of the 5th century.

The ‘primitive democracy’ , is identified in small communities or  villages when the following  take place, face to face discusion in the village council or a headman whose decisions are supported by village elders or other cooperative modes of government. British colonial governance used this basic structure by imposing their laws and beurocratic super heirarchy based on ‘official secret Act’. This was new to India and uncompatable to its eithics, heritage and culture of grass root democrcy.

Indian Governance is ancient and culture based.Villages are the heart and soul of Governance. Village level democracy allows every sitizen  to participate in decision making and the implementation of the said decision. This power is the basic strength of the ‘Gram Rajya’ In the parlance of modern governance  “Legislature-Executive-Judiciary” , all the three pillars were with the citizens in the  ‘Gram sabha’ (village Assembly) and ‘Panchayat’ (Village executive and Judiciary). They were self sufficeint and potential in rendering the justice- political,economical,social, and cultural rights.

This  way of governance was the cultural heritage of India from vedic days continued in contemprory period too. Many invasions by Mohemedans and Europians had not changed this system. But Britsh colonial rule had attempted to destabilise the village governonace by gradual interference ‘using the rule of of law’ in the place of customery law based on traditional culture ‘Dharma’Local Self Government in India and more specifically in Tamil Nadu which has a long history as is evident from the Uthiramerur  stone inscriptions in Kancheepuram district.  In a way, in those days, it was a land of village republics,    with community groups undertaking many activities for their area development. This tradition reached its peak during the 10th-11th centuries under the reign of Cholas when Village Councils used to levy   taxes, improve community life and administer justice in their limited area.  “Kuda Olai Murai” was the process of secret ballot exercised to select members to the Village Councils. These Village Councils had effective links with the Chola rulers.

Asumption  of democratic governance is that of the consent of the people in favour of  a class of people to govern on their behalf for their welfare. The knowledge of the governance is the qualification of the class of people in governance. Further more the governance should be to the knowledge of the People who are governed. There cannot be any ‘space ‘ for secrecy in between them.

Right to information  is the fundamental right of the citizen to know the happening in the state. If the state  enters into multilateral agreement with countries as the part of WTO obligation the features of it are to be known to the people. The executive feels that the citizen is not having the expertise to know such features. This  is the colonial mind of the authority. Similarly the executive down to the level of the grassroot official had the mind that he is in authority of the information till it is withheld by him from the eves of the citizen. Morover he feels that the information empowers the individual or group of such persons .Hence it carries a value which has to be paid by the beneficiary which in common parlance we call “corruption”.

It is accepted by the democrats that the people in democratic country is the master who allocate the work for different Instituions and the individual. This aallocation of job is done through electing the representatives. The elected representaives should ensure that the mandate of the people are carried out in all sincerity and thus the elected representatives   are accountable for the responsibilty bestowed on them by the people. Since India has adopted permenant secretarial or beuroucratic sysytem to do the job as per the direction of the mandate of the people they are answerable to the people. This is the ethic of democratic governance. But the genetic defect of beuracracy inherited through the British colonial system ‘Indian Civil Services’ (ICS)reborn as ‘Indian Administrative services’ (IAS)retain the ‘secrecy ‘ as part of governance which is contradictory in democratic governance based on  ‘transparancy and accountability’. This  secrecy crept into the Parliament and Judicary too. This is where   ‘Right to Information Act’ comes into play to rectifiy the genetic defect which cripled development of India for the past 60 years of democratic republic governance.

About Dr. E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan MA ML( USA) Ph D

Dr. E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan, was a Member of Parliment - Lok Sabha one term and two terms Rajya Sabha and Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industy, New Delhi Sr.Lawyer ,Supreme court of India, NewDelhi, India. President, Indian society of International Law, New Delhi Founder of 21st century International School, Sivagangai Tamil Nadu. Author of books WTO and India, RTI and others
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