Syllabus: General Studies Paper 2 (Indian Polity)
Though secrecy is essential to avoid unnecessary delays and unwanted interruptions but transparency is paramount. In light of the statement examine whether Judiciary and Political Parties be brought under the ambit of RTI ? Also discuss other suitable measures to enhance transparency and accountability in working of Judicial System and Political Parties.
The Right to Information (RTI) Act, operationalised in October 2005, was seen as a powerful tool for citizen empowerment. As per the RTI Act 2005, every citizen has the right to receive a timely response from the government for any information that is sought by them with respect to the functioning of the government. Democracy requires an informed citizenry and transparency of information which are vital to its functioning and also to contain corruption and to hold governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed. It showed an early promise by exposing wrongdoings at high places and bringing to limelight various scams. The act now faces multiple challenges.
Why transparency is a paramount.
- Transparency allows stakeholders to collect information that may be critical to uncovering abuses and defending their interests.
- Transparent systems have flawless procedures for public decision-making and open channels of communication between stakeholders and officials.
- Transparency represents that decisions taken and their enforcement are done in a way that follows rules and regulations. It also entails that information is easily available and directly accessible to those who will be affected by such decisions and their enforcement.
RTI Act is immensely vital for the functioning of any democracy as it sanctions its citizen the right to inspect the work of the government and ask for certified copies to know the status of the work of different government projects. The RTI Act mandates timely response to a request for information from a public authority.
RTI activists have unveiled some of the most horrific scams like adarsh housing society scam, 2G scam, commonwealth scam, Red Cross Society Scam, Pratibha Patil land controversy.
Objectives of RTI
The basic object of the Right to Information Act is to empower the citizens, promote transparency and accountability in the working of the Government, contain corruption, and make our democracy work for the people in real sense. An informed citizenry will be better equipped to keep necessary vigil on the instruments of government and make the government more accountable to the governed.
Significance of RTI
- Fight corruption: Its ability to fight corruption has significantly increased its hold in India.
- Ensure Transparency: The enactment of this act ensured transparency in the bureaucratic systems.
- Fight for Rights: It has increased its position as a major in charge for the fight of rights of the people. It aims to bring an end to the culture of governmental secrecy
- The right to information laws, alongside expanding the citizen’s rights, should be systematically employed to transform governance.
- These laws could be a powerful magnet for mobilizing the people and enthusing them to use these laws to enhance and expand their choices for their own betterment.
- RTI laws directly contribute to improvement in governance by breaking down the barriers between the government and the people by enhancing trust.
- RTI is the most powerful assault on developing countries endemic corruption.
Why political parties are not under RTI ?
- Political parties were not established by the constitution or an act of parliament and therefore should not be under the RTI.
- Political parties are not public authorities as they are not set up under the Constitution or any law enacted by Parliament – they can’t be treated as an institution or establishment.
- If political parties come under the RTI it will affect their smooth internal functioning.
- Political rivals will start using RTI tool with malicious intent.
Political parties must be brought under the ambit of RTI for following reasons:
- If political parties are kept out, it sets a precedent whereby other institutions can argue that they too be kept out of its purview because there are too many frivolous claims, too much paperwork, too many NGOs with suspect motivations and so on and so forth.
- Political parties in our country occupy a very central space in democracy.
- People don’t vote so much for individuals as they do for parties. Parties come out with great statements before elections. People vote on the basis of which party says what.
- Parties finally form the government and the government’s policies are decided based on the ideologies of the political parties.
- In India, it is widely accepted notion that fountain head of the corruption is political funding. Almost all political parties have got very valuable plots allotted by the Government at prime places in New Delhi and in their respective capital cities. It is therefore, necessary to introduce internal democracy, financial transparency and accountability in the working of the political parties.
- To ensure less influence of industrial houses on policy making:
- Most of the parties have almost 75% of their income from unknown sources. Generally corporate and industrial houses give them funds to change policies, give illegal clearance and to hamper their competitor’s interest.
- It may also hamper people and national interest. Political parties enjoy a “stronghold” over their elected MPs and MLAs under Schedule 10 of the Constitution. The Schedule makes it compulsory for MPs and MLAs to abide by the directions of their parent parties.
- It would be within the average voter’s fundamental right to information to know the financial details of political parties.
- Under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 all political parties must affirm their allegiance to the Constitution of India and such allegiance is made compulsory for the purpose of registration under sub-section (7) of Section 29A.
- Therefore, political parties so registered must furnish information to the public under the right of information under Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution of India, since right of information has been held to be a part of freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a).
- The Law Commission of India in its 170th Report on ‘Reform of the Electoral Laws’ in May 1999 had recommended transparency in the functioning of political parties.
Why judiciary is not under RTI?
- It will compromise independence of judiciary as specified by constitution.
- Being under RTI act, SC have to compromise secrecy & security involved in certain cases. This may prove detrimental for our country.
- Judiciary will become puppet in the hands of people rather than being the sole justice provider of the country.
- It will increase the political involvement in judiciary.
Judiciary must be brought under the ambit of RTI for following reasons:
- Accountability and transparency of judiciary is now in question.
- It will give less power to people to get their answers easily without any delay & informal paperwork.
- With RTI option available to public, Corruption will be checked with increasing lucidity.
- Courts have always been questioned for pending cases. RTI can place yardstick among judiciary for timely disposal of justice. So resistance to be under RTI a barrier to decrease pending cases.
- It will decrease the faith of people if they could also know about judicial working.
Though secrecy is essential to avoid unnecessary delays and unwanted interruptions but transparency is paramount. It boosts the confidence of a citizen and illustrates the belief our founding fathers had in judiciary when they declared Supreme court as guardian of our supreme constitution. RTI Act has transparency, accountability and participation as its mandate and is considered equally important legal document after the Constitution. There is a necessity to undertake the measures to strengthen this powerful tool that can deliver significant social benefits. It can provide a strong support to democracy and promote good governance by empowering citizen’s ability to participate effectively and hold government officials accountable rather than just an information provider.
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