Where to use?

Prelims level: Constitutional and Non- Constitutional bodies//Central Information Commission.

Mains level: Paper 2- Challenges facing RTI

Governance | Mains Paper 2: Governance, Transparency & Accountability, Citizens Charters


Amidst continued crisis over its functioning across states, the Right to Information Act (RTI) is set to complete 17 years this October.

Issues with the implementation of the RTI Act

  • Backlog of appeals: Cases include a huge backlog of second appeals, prolonged wait time for hearings, hesitation in posting penalties and increasing ambiguity in the functioning of the commissions.
  • As of June 30, 2021, 2.56 lakh appeals were pending with 26 information commissions in the nation.
  • CICs downgraded rank: Any serious RTI questioning or one which involves more than one government department requires intervention by higher officials, but it is the PIOs from junior ranks who follow hearings and are frequently clueless.
  • Frequently, it mandates notice to higher authorities, in some cases, the secretary of the department, to stimulate the right answer.
  • With CICs downgraded in rank, there will be more irregular and fewer notices served to the heads of departments and senior officers to emerge and respond to queries.
  • Vacancies: The commissions have been tormented with vacancies, poor choice of commissioners, untrained staff and a non-cooperative set of public information officers (PIOs).
  • Threat to some RTI activists: Apart from the PIOs’ public inexperience and amateurism, comes the threat to some RTI activists who strive for information to expose corruption.
  • According to the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), across India, 99 RTI activists have lost their lives, 180 assaulted and 187 have been threatened since 2006.
  • Political proclivity: The perspective of a few commissioners going general with their political preferences is another cause for worry.

Way forward

  • Training of officials: The Indian information law, ranked as one of the strongest in the world, ought to be maintained by raising awareness and understanding amongst the people and organising strict exercises for government officials.
  • Code of conduct: A code of conduct must be developed for the central and state information officials.
  • It is crucial for the commissioners to maintain a strict space from government heads and officialdom.
  • A strong political system is a must for the RTI power to succeed.
  • It is compulsory to guarantee freedom of the press and democratic institutions, penalise wandering officials and sustain complete autonomy of the information commissions, for the welfare of the people and the nation considerably.

As India emerges as an international power, the enactment of legislation like the RTI Act should be under the continuous scrutiny of the association of nations for their mutual benefit.