Supreme Court Highlights Importance & Accountability of RTI Act, Instructs CIC and SIC for Ongoing Oversight of Information Disclosure

Aug 19, 2023 #CIC #RTI #SIC #SUPREME COURT

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Published on: 19 August 2023 at 18:00 IST

The Supreme Court, addressing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that sought proactive web-based disclosure of information as mandated by Section 4 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, has emphasized the importance of accountability in achieving the Act’s objectives.

The Court, composed of Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice P.S. Narasimha, and Justice J.B. Pardiwala, asserted that accountability is vital in governing the relationship between “right holders” and “duty bearers.”

In the PIL filed by RTI Activist, Advocate, and Environmentalist Kishan Chand Jain, it was argued that the aim of suo motu (on one’s own motion) disclosures under Section 4 of the RTI Act is to enhance transparency by proactively placing a substantial amount of information in the public domain. This approach intends to reduce the need for individual RTI applications.

The PIL drew from the 12th Convention of the Central Information Commission, where it was asserted that “Suo motu disclosures of information are the heart and soul of the RTI Act.”

Jain further contended that the implementation of Section 4(1)(a) of the Act should be executed with determined timelines for all Public Authorities.

The PIL also referred to the case of Anjali Bhardwaj v. Union of India & Ors., (2019) , citing its dictum that “Section 4 puts an obligation on every public authority to provide information. In order to facilitate the right to information, various obligations are cast upon the public authorities under this Section.”

The Supreme Court highlighted the need for the “concerned authority’s complete attention” and continuous monitoring of the system. It emphasized that the functioning and responsibilities of the Central and State Information Commissions (CIC and SIC) play a pivotal role in ensuring effective implementation.

In light of this, the Supreme Court directed both the CIC and SIC to continuously oversee the implementation of Section 4 of the Act, following the Guidelines and Memorandums issued by the Department of Personnel and Training.

The Commissioners have the authority to issue recommendations to public authorities under sub-section (5) of Section 25 to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Act.

This ruling reinforces the notion that accountability is fundamental to the successful realization of the RTI Act’s objectives and underscores the pivotal role of the CIC and SIC in ensuring continuous monitoring and enforcement.

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