Information per se is an inalienable part of any civilised human being. It is through the availability of appropriate and adequate information that the very life process of human beings becomes liveable and easy. It is in this context that the Government of India (GoI) enacted the Right to Information Act (RTI), 2005, through a parliamentary legislation mandating Indian citizens the right to “demand information” whenever so desired, and which every public authority is liable to share as and when asked for, thus recognising the importance of informed citizenry and maintenance of transparency of information. Ipso facto, the pre-requisites for good governance too lie in accountability, authenticity and transparency.
Believed to be one of the most advanced RTI legislations in the world, the Act is based on the principle that all government information is the property of people. The chapter II – 4 (1-a) of RTI Act specifically states: “Every public authority shall maintain all its records duly catalogued and indexed in a manner and the form which facilitates the right to information under this Act and ensure that all records that are appropriate to be computerised are, within a reasonable time and subject to availability of resources, computerised and connected through a network all over the country on different systems so that access to such records is facilitated… It shall be a constant endeavour of every public authority to take steps in accordance with the requirements of clause (b) of sub-section (1) to provide as much information suo motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including Internet, so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information.”
Indeed, the RTI Act is an important accelerator to take the e-Governance movement forward in India. Digitisation of all government documents, which is vital to strengthen e-Governance, is quite important to address the information needs of citizens. Effective online services as such gives an average citizen instant access to Government services at a faster and convenient pace, which the RTI Act strongly and truly advocates. This would not only make the citizen e-nabled but also stamp out the scourge of middlemen and rampant corruption. Undoubtedly so, the RTI Act could surely prove to be a boon for various e-Government initiatives in the country when implemented fully. It is equally important that citizens be made aware of their inalienable ‘Right to Information’, such that they demand access to the existing provisions in the RTI Act while acknowledging the fact that information cannot be monopolised now. Hats off to prominent civil rights activists Ms. Aruna Roy, Arvind Kejriwal and Anna Hazare, who valiantly carried forward the RTI campaign and made people aware of their intrinsic right to information and to be informed.