RTI replies should be timely, transparent and trouble-free: PM

RTI replies should be timely, transparent and trouble-free PMNEW DELHI: Asserting that secrecy has no place in this time and age, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said RTI process should follow ‘3-T’ mantra of timely, transparent and trouble-free access to information to people.

Speaking at the 10th annual Convention of Central Information Commission, Modi noted that Right to Information Act has given the common man the right to question those in power and stressed on bringing transparency “proactively”, saying the faster “we move towards transparency”, the stronger will be the faith of people in democracy.

“The process of accessing information should be transparent, timely and trouble-free. Delayed information does not help to solve the problem but increases it. Timely information can halt a wrong decision. We will emphasize this,” he said.

Highlighting ambitious Digital India, the Prime Minister said the scheme is complementary to the spirit of RTI as the more things become online, the more transparency comes in.

He also stressed that RTI should be used to bring improvement in governance.

“If a question is asked by a citizen there must be some issue in government that the need for question arose. A small RTI question can force you to change policy,” he said.

Modi said the Right To Information Act is a tool through which the common man has got not just the right to know, but also the right to question those in power. He said there should be trust between the Government and people and it comes through transparency.

The Prime Minister said effort should be to introduce transparency in a proactive manner.

“Why can’t we bring transparency proactively? Why should anyone make effort to get information? The effort of the government should be that citizen should get information easily,” he said.

Talking about introduction of self-attestation of documents, the Prime Minister said “we have to trust people”.

“Secrecy could have been the norm during some old times but I don’t think there is need of such secrecy now.

Transparency brings in simplicity and speed in the working of the government,” he said.

“The awareness of people gives strength to government and not only government, an aware society becomes an asset to the nation…. The process of evolution of RTI Act will continue which will strengthen it,” he said. . A group of activists has boycotted the inaugural session claiming that large number of them were barred from entry in the convention as authorities cited security reasons.

The Prime Minister said through RTI people can get information about process but not the product like it can give details about tendering etc of an under construction bridge, it cannot give details of its quality.

Modi said detailed analysis of questions asked by people can underline shortcomings in governance which can be rectified by those in government.

“Only responding to RTI questions cannot bring change in governance. When we will perfectly analyze questions and find shortcomings in governance…the questions of citizens can highlight these shortcomings of the system and we can find a way to correct them. RTI should be used as medium for good governance,” he said.

Underlining that people are paramount in a democracy, Modi said, “Government must pay importance to every concern raised by a people’s representative, whichever party he or she may belong to because he raises an issue of his constituency only because of public interest involved in this.”

The Prime Minister rued that during proceedings in legislatures, answers remain media centric and to settle scores. “What to do as it has become a compulsion,” he said.

“RTI is a medium to achieve transparency and is also a learning system to bring transparency in systems.

Government runs by public money and public is paramount in democracy,” he said, adding that aim of the RTI should be to bring positive change in government. Earlier, speaking on the occasion Finance Minister Arun Jaitley termed the RTI Act as an “exemplary law” which has been “a very successful experience” as far as the Indian society is concerned.

“It has transformed us during the last few decades and particularly in the last decade, from a society that relished in secrecy,” he said.

The Finance Minister said the administrators of the RTI Act will have to use their discretion whether the Act is being used for empowerment, to avoid harassment, for the benefit of the common man or is it being used by busy bodies for collateral purpose.

Jaitley said the administrators will have to do a balancing act between “strengthening the exercise of this Right and preventing possible abuse in the implementation of this particular legislation.”

“…whatever be the evolution which takes place either by the virtue of case law being developed by superior courts or further improvements by legislative intervention, I think our wisdom will certainly prevail and this Act will certainly continue to grow and mature,” he said.

The Finance Minister said every time a decision is now taken, one of the constraints in the mind of the decision-maker is that there is a possibility that this decision would eventually become public. There is further possibility that this decision then would be questioned and therefore the decision must speak out for its own case.

Jaitley also said the role of technology in furnishing information can make it cost effective and “less time consuming”.

He said the experience has taught us virtues of restrain and caution and “where can a line be drawn in public conduct and privacy”.–PTI

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