PROPER IMPLEMENTATION OF RIGHT TO INFORMATION: A PATHWAY TOWARDS REALIZATION OF COUNTRY’S DEVELOPMENT
It is widely recognized that there is no country that can develop successfully without information flow. This is because an informed nation usually makes informed decisions if information is flowing freely from the sources to the media and from the media to the general public. The free flow of information is necessary for people to know about what is happening around them and a lot more other vital events taking place worldwide. There is no doubt therefore that sharing information helps a state to build a strong cadre of informed citizenry who can participate meaningfully in the democratic process and fulfill their responsibilities efficiently.
Consequently, access to information held by government and relevant private bodies is globally recognized as a fundamental human right under various international and regional instruments. At the international level, the right to access information was derived from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Universal Declaration) adopted in 1948, which in article 19 guarantees the right to freedom of expression and opinion as well as the right to seek, receive and impart information through any form of media. This was followed in 1966 by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which also recognize in article 19 the right to access information.
At the regional level, the American Convention on Human Rights, 1969 (ACHR), the European Convention on Human Rights, 1950 (ECHR) and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, 1981 (African Charter), also guarantee the right of access to information to every individual in almost similar terms as the UDHR and ICCPR.
Apart from that, it is interesting to note that in the past decades, the globe witnessed a surge in the number of countries adapting right to information laws, India inclusive. The global emergence of right to information laws over the past few decades constitutes a progressive signal on the essential right of people towards public information as well as governments’ goodwill to foster greater accountability, governance and strengthen democracy through enhanced participation and increase development. In other words, the purpose of these laws is to make a government more open and accountable to its people. In transitional democracies, laws that give effect to the right to information are part of the process of transforming a country from one with a closed and authoritarian government to one governed by and for the people. In view of this, any Government needs to demonstrate its commitment to a people-oriented democratic programs and legislations by adopting a Right of Information Law that is strong and effective.
In 2005, the Indian Parliament enacted the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) to govern the right to information in India. Objective of the RTI Act is to establish the practice regime of right of information for citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority, the constitution of a central information commission and for the matter connected therewith and incidental there to. Thus, through the RTI Act, the citizen of India has been empowered like never before. This means that, the citizen of India can now question, audit, review, examine, and assess government acts and decisions to ensure that these are consistent with the principles of public interests, good governance and justice. However, in order for right to access information be able to promotes inclusive development, reinforces democratic governance and facilitates delivery of socio-economic services, government (supply side) need to be able and willing to share information that pertains to people’s wellbeing and also the governed (demand side) must have free access to the same information and should understand how to make use of that information.
This Paper examines importance of right to access information and its inextricable link in supporting the country’s development and the wellbeing of the people.
Relationship between right to information and development
Access to information is fundamental in a society that is governed by the rule of law. In the modern democratic system, efficient flow, access to, and the use of information have become crucial factors in determining the economic strength of nations. For the reason that governments hold information in trust on behalf of citizens, it follows that citizens have the right of access to the information held by the State. Where right to access information is recognized and respected, citizens are in a position not only to demand for information, but also to use it to create social change and to bring to end undesirable situations in their communities. Importantly, democracy depends on knowledgeable citizens whose access to a broad range of information enables them to participate fully in public life, help determine priorities for public spending, receive equal access to justice, and hold their public officials accountable.
Therefore, it is imperative to note that, the higher degree of access of citizens to the governmental affairs is directly related to the level of responsiveness of the government in power. Alternatively, the more restricted the public access to such facts and information, the higher is the chance of an opaque system and a concomitant sense of disempowerment and alienation of the common man from the democratic process.
Right to Information and its Impact on Major Indicators of Development
As pointed out earlier, right to access information is crucial to economic development of any country. Economic policy that is formulated on the basis of fair access to government records has greater chances of success than economic policy formulated in the absence of citizen participation. This means that development goals may be more effectively achieved when coupled with strengthening mass participation and improving the quality of governance for both developed and developing countries. In essence, proper implementation of access to and freedom of information, transparency and accountability is the cornerstone to development, as they should contribute to the realization of better living conditions and growth of national development. People who have access to information and who understand how to make use of the acquired information become empowered, which, in turn, enable them to participate effectively to the nation-building agenda. Sharing of information such as in new initiatives as agriculture, public health, and access to water, education and other services can make significant contributions to the alleviation of poverty. Suffice it to point out that every individual or section of the society, whether working in farm, industrial or services sectors, requires a wide range of information to be able to effectively function in the knowledge and technology driven economy. Hence, it is in the interest of any democratic government to inform its people of programmers taking place and equally, it is in the interest of citizens to know how beneficial those programs are or to what extent they can contribute to their implementation.
In view of this, it requires no stretch of imagination to realize that the RTI Act provides a framework for promotion of citizen government partnership in carrying out the programmers for welfare of the people. The partnership is derived from the fact that people are not only the ultimate beneficiaries of development but also the agents of development. In fact, the stakeholder’s participation leads to better projects and more dynamic development. Under the RTI Act citizen’s participation has been promoted due to the fact that the RTI Act set up the facilitation process for free flow of information, which forms the basis for a healthy debate on issues of vital importance to every section of the society. For example, recognizing the significance of right to know for ensuring free flow of information and good governance, the RTI Act exempts the poor from payment of fees for seeking information. Therefore, it is evident that, through the RTI Act, Indian citizens particularly poor persons armed with information through the exercise of right to know, are getting increasingly involved in designing and implementation of different poverty alleviation programmed.
It is equally important to underscore the fact that, RTI Act has armed the citizen with a right to demand information regarding development of basic infrastructure like roads, drinking water, electricity, sanitation etc. This means that, all the information regarding to the issues of these enterprises pertaining to costs and pricing policies, use of resources, choice of technologies, competition strategy, fairness and objectivity in finalization of tenders, is made available to people. Hence, democratization of information and knowledge, by way of creating conditions for sharing among the people, who are partners in development, has put considerable pressure on the Government for effective implementation of flagship programs like Bharat Norman(Rural Infrastructure, mainly road, electricity, drinking water, sanitation etc.), Sarwa Shiksha Abhiyan (Education for all) etc. All these programs and several other similar schemes enable citizens to build their strengths and abilities to realize their socio-economic objectives.
One noteworthy aspect, however, is that mere enactment of the RTI Act in itself is hardly sufficient to enable citizens to enjoy the right to access information. It requires proper implementation which is a co-responsibility of those with rights and those with a duty towards them to understand and play their role in order for the right to information be able to promotes inclusive development, reinforces democratic governance and facilitates delivery of socio-economic services. Thus, effective implementation of right to information creates an environment of vigilance and helps promote democratic government for better living conditions and growth of national development.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
This paper has examined the importance of right to access information and its inextricable link in supporting the country’s development and the wellbeing of the people. The aim of such examination was to examine on how proper implementation of the right to information are the cornerstone to development, reinforces democratic governance and facilitates delivery of socio-economic services. The paper has revealed that people who have access to information and who understand how to make use of the acquired information in the processes of exercising their political, economic and legal rights become empowered, which, in turn, enable them to build their strengths and assets, so as to improve the quality of life. The paper also revealed that through the RTI Act, Indian citizens particularly poor persons armed with information through the exercise of right to know, are getting increasingly involved in designing and implementation of different poverty alleviation programmed.
On the context of what is stated above, the paper recommends some measures that will enable proper implementation of right to information for purposes of improving the quality of life and contribute to the country’s development. These are:
- Increase public awareness about the right to information law. The RTI Act empowers every citizen to seek information and to gain ideas and acquire new knowledge to improve quality of life. Hence, awareness campaigns about the importance of RTI Act will help to create demand for information by members of the public, hence boost its implementation.
- Training of officials of all departments and representatives of public authorities is essentially required so that they are made aware of their duties and obligations under the RTI Act.
- The government shall ensure and encourage proactive disclosure of information into the public domain without a request from the public. This means that, all Government departments needs to put up information on their websites so that people may access it without a request from the public.
 Research Scholar, School of Legal Studies and Research, APG Shimla University, Himachal Pradesh, India
 Edwin Abuya, Realizing the Right of Access to Information in Kenya: What Should Stakeholders Be on the Lookout For? in Access to Information in Africa: Law, Culture and Practice 215, 216 (Fatima Diallo & Richard Calland eds. 2013).
See, A.B. Srivastava, Right to Information Laws in India 11 (2006)
 The term access to information, also referred to as ‘freedom of information’ or ‘right to information’ in different countries. Hence, the term ‘access to information’ in this study connotes similar expressions as ‘freedom of information’ or ‘right to information’ and both terms are used interchangeably in the study.
See Article 13 of the inter-American Convention on Human Rights,1978
See Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms,1950
See Article 9 (1) of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, 1981.
 See, Collin Darch and Underwood G. Peter, Freedom of Information in the Developing World: The Citizen, the State and Models of Openness (2010).
 The Preamble to the Indian Right to Information Act, 2005.
See S.P. Gupta vs. Union of India (AIR 1982 SC 149)
See Lalit Dadwal, Right to Information Act, 2005, 43-44 (2nd ed. 2014).
 Edrine Wanyama, Freedom of Information as a Tool for Access to Justice, 42 East Africa Law. Rev.189, 209(2015).
 Deepa Narayan, Empowerment and Poverty Reduction: A Sourcebook, 25(2002)
 Wanyama, supra note 10, at 237.
 Ronald B. Mitchell, Sources of Transparency: Information Systems in International Regimes, 42 International Studies Quarterly109, 112-113(1998).
 Aditya Tomer, Right to Information Act, 2005, 11(2019).
See, sections 6(1), 7 (1) and 7(5) of the Indian Right to Information Act, 2005. See also Jyoti Rattan, Right to Information Act, 2005, 3(4th ed. 2019).