RTI & Locus Standi
There is no doubt that RTI has played an essential role to make the government accountable for its role. However there have been certain persistent misgivings. Section 4 of the act calls of voluntary and pro-active dissemination of information, with only a few State and Central institutions publishing relevant information. The other problem is the rise in vacancies in the State and Central Information commissions. This concern has been raised in a plea to the Supreme court which has asked the Centre and States to expedite filling up of vacancies.
The Court also observed that officials sensed fear due to working of the RTI, leading to a paralysis of action and that certain kind of queries were not being asked in public spirit and were posed by people who had no ‘locus stand’ in the matter.
However, Section 6(2) of the act clearly mentions that an applicant making request for information shall not be required to given a reason for seeking the information. It is a vital clause as public authorities could choose to deny information to citizens on subjective grounds. RTI data on requests shows a yearly rejection rate has come down, but with a change in the act that seeks locus standi, the numbers could go up significantly.
Rather than focusing on locus stands, public authorities should provide voluntary dissemination on government portals. The other problem is vacancies in the CIC and state commissions which has lead to the 33000 pending cases. Taking heed of the SC’s directions, the government should try to address the shortcomings quickly.