Information is the currency of democracy- Thomas Jesserson
The sole of any democracy lies in the right of citizens to question those in power. It is a pattern that joins their links with information, historically the democratic system of governance in India was started from the Vedic period. The information has always been interlinked with curiosity in a positive path and curiosity creates conflicts if arises against the ones who possess real information’s occasionally there are conflicts between two ideas due to differences in the mindsets of people which is result different information’s disclosed in the minds. Rig Veda has made democratic principles and its ideals as a deity called ‘Samjnana’ this means collective consciousness of people which is not true in its whole sense as each member cannot have the same consciousness which in the present era gave birth to the theory asking questions and seeking information.
Without transparency, democracy dies in the darkness of secrets. Democracy has been reduced to a label because, in the absence of transparency, people cannot rule effectively. It is well examined that- if you don’t know most of the things happening around you, your thinking is limited to things shown to you. Freedom of information is a fundamental human right and the touchstones of all the freedom to which the UN is created (In 1946, during First Session UN adopted resolution 59(1)), Freedom of speech and expression to preserve the democratic way of life people must have the freedom to express their feelings and make their views known to people at large. (Article 19 (1) (a) of Constitution of India), Everyone is granted a right to freedom of opinions or expressions, this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers. (Article 19 Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1949), The right to know and to possess all the information for the public benefit and to know the mechanism is a right that aroused an immediate need for an act.
A base of Right to Information in India. It enshrines the right to sought information as per Fundamental Right under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. India is a democracy and its real sense lies in the subjects that also put the limelight on the statement that subjects are the masters therefore the masters have the right to know the functioning of government which is created to serve them. But this right is not absolute and can be restricted in name of public order, (Raj Narain V. State of U.P.). It will also be contrary when in name of public order there are information’s not being shared with the subjects that will be a breach of trust and arbitrary use of power which makes its crystal clear that “power corrupts but excess power corrupts absolutely”.
The Right to Information Act, 2005:
The law can also be known as “transparency law” which was its basic feature behind the idea of bringing the act into force. Under this act, a person can seek information in expectation of transparency by seeking information where there can be government copies available to the seeker under a considerable form of information with inspection over any government and its document. The basic requirement of the act was to allow subjects to enquire about the government and its work towards the citizens and also to keep a check and balance of any government work. RTI encourages individuals to be a part of the governing process as the role of people in a democracy is essential for the functioning of a vigorous democracy.
Who is covered under the act? The answer to this question lies in the act itself which specifically mentions that bodies which are constituted under the Constitution or any law, also anybody under government notification or all bodies which also includes NGO’s as well (which are owned, controlled or substantially financed by the Government but not defined under the Constitution of India) but still are covered under RTI. Private bodies where some are covered through direct means and others are covered but indirectly.
It is said when there is power there are responsibilities as well, on one hand, RTI claims as a transparent glass between citizens and government but on other hand, the government keeps secret from its subject under the excuse of public benefit where Official Secrets Act, 1923 acts as a Hurdle to RTI but as under Section-22 of the RTI Act it mentions that the particular act will override all existing acts including official secrets act. RTI can provide information but with terms and conditions apply where all the T&Cs are made by Government and not by subjects which also violates the essence of democracy, this shows a person fighting a battle with a blunt sword. There are several grounds on which information can be refused- seeking information was the priority of the act as “accountability ensures fairness” but when secrets were to be kept secrets all subjects under Section 8 of the Act i.e. Confidential information from foreign governments, information prejudicial to security strategic/economic interest of country and breach of privileges of the legislature and also a list of 18 agencies in II schedule of act exempted from the Act.
The Apex Court- CJI Office under RTI Act:
The question asked by RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agarwal and his lawyer Prashant Bhushan was submitted addressing that in the top court though SC should not be judging its cause as it is hearing appeals due to the “doctrine of necessity.” Apex Court by its name stands in favor of transparency while a check over the functions of other organs of State, but surprisingly develops cold feet when its issues require attention. In a layman language, this can also be acknowledged as double standards over the same check and balance scheme. By this behavior, the question comes out that do judges inhabit a different universe? If the answer is a big no then why NJAC (National Judicial Appointment Commission) is stroked down to prevent any interference of the executive in the judiciary. Also, Judiciary stands as an example of faith in justice and loyalty with transparency therefore judicial independence is not free from public scrutiny and no freedom from accountability. On January 10, 2010, it was clear that office of CJI comes within the ambit of RTI law mentioning judicial, "independence was not a judge’s privilege, but a responsibility cast upon them, (Delhi High Court Order)”
The decision was soon taken as a personal setback to the CJI of that era KG Balakrishnan who was opposed to disclosure of information under the RTI Act. Supreme Court in a unanimous verdict led by 5 judge benches (Sanjiv Khanna, N.V. Ramana, D.Y. Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta) under the able guidance of CJI Ranjan Gogoi gave the view that: independence and accountability should go hand in hand and that independence cannot be ensured by denying information. There should be a balance between RTI and privacy and that information seeking should be calibrated. Principal consideration should be public interest and judges are not above the law. Transparency doesn’t mine judicial independence and RTI cannot be used as a tool of surveillance. CJI while wrapping up the hearing said that nobody wants the system of opaqueness but the judiciary cannot be destroyed in the name of transparency the question here is about drawing a line. The countries like India under scams and public protests, the US as a privacy issue, and the Middle East under the demand for the right to rule here in each case the government has responded with the attack on one tool i.e. Information. The only truth you know is what the government wants to tell you. Then why the question aroused? it was as the act said that any public authority constituted under the article of the constitution and the CJI office is Under the Constitution of India Article 124(2).
Total transparency risks the country’s stability. - Toba Beta
As everything comes with a cost and so does transparency which means a ship needs a captain, mere labor cannot sail the ship likewise some information is to be known to those who have an eligibility to know it. There must be a clear line between the information that should be made available on a limited basis and information that should be kept private. Supreme Court is an institution which is known as Guardian of Indian Constitution with features that strengthen it and gives the power to interrupt with the Constitution. Independence of the judiciary is one of those basic features but we have to understand independence from whom? It should be from the other government organs or its subjects, as independency from its subjects is the feature of dictatorship and India is a Democratic country.
"The liberties of people never were nor will be secure when the transaction of their rulers may be concealed from them"-Pattrick Henry