Thursday, November 10, 2011


RTI is being misused blatantly!

There are innumerable cases wherein we as a nation have always found a better way to abuse a law than to put it in the right use. After about 6 long decades, the law making bodies finally gave India the most awaited tool of accessing information – the Right To Information Act (RTI). On one hand, it allowed the common man to access information which was earlier privy to the government, on the other hand, the same law is perpetually abused by many to settle down personal scores. And such is the scale of the abuse that now people have gotten to thinking whether to curb the law, to some extent. Under no circumstances, the law should be curbed but then at the same time under no circumstances the abuse of such law should be permitted which can have very severe repercussions.

RTI comes as one of the most powerful tools in the hands of our citizens – who were always at the receiving end – but now can seek answer to all their unanswered questions. This impact of the RTI act can be gauged from the series of murders of RTI activists, under suspicious conditions, and for obvious reasons. But recently, the abuse of this very law has seen a huge surge. In 2009, the Central Information Commissioner found a number of frivolous cases being filed in the veil of RTI and expressed his concern while stating that, “the cost burden of such frivolous petitions has to be borne by the society because we cannot stop them". This comment came after a case being filed by a Delhi resident who filed RTI to retrieve personal and professional details of his sister-in-law Aruna Aggarwal (a government employee) for a personal marital dispute case. Even Anna Hazare also raised similar concern and asked to amend the right as he said, "some people demand 4,000-5,000 copies and file repeated RTIs." Supreme Court also found such cases as a predicament and has come down harsh on such filings. Such filings not only cost the time of court (the opportunity cost) but also waste precious time and manpower of bureaucracy at different levels, which are already loaded with their own sets of inefficiencies.

In the same light, since the inception of the law many corporate houses were found filing cases against their business rivals to settle personal scores. What more, in 2008, an individual filed 73 cases under RTI – all for his personal business use – under different names. There are also reports of brokers who conduct such RTI in return for money and commission. In simple words, the misuse and abuse of such law has allowed mushrooming of small time brokers whose only work is to delay business competition. Moreover, the cost of filing RTI is too less compared to the charges for other corporate cases. And most of the time these cases are filed using an NGO, thus allowing the main party to escape any legislation and media criticism or counter-case!

All in all, for a corrupt democracy like India, RTI is a very powerful tool and allows citizen to seek information and most importantly keep the establishment on its toes. But then, if checks and balances are not provisioned at right places, the very essence of the law would soon get lost. For implementing heavy fine on such frivolous cases to prosecute the first party (who are primarily behind such case) has become imperative. As said, with great powers comes great responsibility and it is needless to state how responsible we have always been!


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