A petition filed by Supreme Court lawyer, Rajeev Agrawal demands a comprehensive website that upholds the spirit of RTI Act, wherein citizens can file RTI applications and appeals online in all the States, Union Territories, State Information Commission’s. It also demands a Voice based facilitation centre for registration and processing of RTI Applications, complaints, Appeals etc. through call centres, which would also serve the rural and less educated or illiterate population.
Elaborating on the objective of the petition, the petition, Supreme Court lawyer Rajeev Agrawal notes, “Most of the State Governments, Union Territories and State Information Commissions lack the facilities for entertaining RTI Applications/Appeals though electronic means. Concept of Online Portals (Websites) and utilizing a Call Centre as facilitation Centre for filing RTI applications and appeal Such kind of systems using the Information Communication and Technology (ICT) is a possible and plausible solution for making this tool of checks and balances in functioning of public authorities available in the hands of common man and extending the benefits of RTI to masses, including illiterates.”
He adds, “The implementation of provisions of RTI Act through ICT Technologies has innumerable benefits over and above the present format of bulk of paperwork and running from pillar to post for the applicant to seek information… This Public interest litigation (PIL) can play a vital role in the civil justice system in that it could achieve those objectives which could offer a ladder to justice to disadvantaged sections of society, provides an avenue to enforce diffused or collective rights, and enables civil society to participate in government decision making and further contribute to good governance by keeping the government accountable in a more meaningful manner.” The PIL will come up before the apex Court on November 3rd.
According to him, the major impediments in State Governments and Union Territories restricting proper implementation of Right to Information Act are issues like lack of accessibility of Designated Officials, inconvenient Submission Channels for RTI Application, absence of PIOs/PIOs on leave, PIOs Refusing to Accept Applications, inconvenient Options for Collection of Fees Payment Channels, limited Use of Communication & Information Technology and the like.
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. Since its enactment in 2005, the Right to Information (RTI) Act has raised expectations amongst the citizens while evoking fear amongst the corrupt.
However, the working of the transparency law has raised serious questions about the future of the Act. The Act is facing challenges from multiple fronts. A lot needs to be done to make it citizen-friendly, so that the citizens do not face difficulty in to filing applications for the information.
Talking about the petition, the petitioner told Live Law, “RTI has taken root among citizens, they are desperate to get information; but officials seem to be making attempts to offset the momentum. In India, the implementation of the RTI Act has been quite uneven across the states. In some states, information is being provided to citizens on time; while in several other states, the information is denied or delayed in a large number of cases.”
The petitioner, Rajeev Agrawal is a graduate from Campus Law Center, University of Delhi and a Member of the Supreme Court Bar Association. He has filed number of RTI’s in various Government Departments on a variety of subjects.