RTI in India
The President, Ram Nath Kovind at the inauguration of the 13th Annual Convention of Central Information Commission (CIC), in New Delhi on October 12, 2018. The Minister of State for Development of North Eastern Region (I/C), Prime Minister’s Office, Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr. Jitendra Singh, the Chief Information Commissioner, Shri R.K. Mathur and other dignitaries are also seen.

RTI is larger narrative of strengthening Indian democracy: President Kovind @ 13th CIC Annual Convention

The President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, inaugurated the 13th Annual Convention of the Central Information Commission (CIC) on 12 October 2018. Speaking on the occasion, the President said that free flow of information is the essence of democracy. And for the people of a free and free-spirited country, information is power. They have a right to know how they are being governed, how public money is being spent, how public and national resources are being deployed, how public services are being delivered, and how public works and welfare programmes are being carried out. In a democracy, there is no such thing as too much information. Information overload is always preferable to information deficit.

The President said that RTI is not a standalone. It is part of the larger narrative of strengthening Indian democracy, of ensuring transparency across systems of governance, and of building capacities of the common citizen to enable him or her to take informed decisions and make informed choices. Above all, it is about nurturing the social contract of trust between the citizen and the state – where both must have faith in each other. A related and parallel implication is to ensure rational use of public resources to check instances of corruption or waste.

CIC annual convention 2018

Dignitaries led by President of India @ 13th Annual Convention of Central Information Commission (CIC), in New Delhi on October 12, 2018.

Speaking on the occasion, the Union Minister of State for Development of North Eastern Region (I/C), PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Department of Atomic Energy and Department of Space, Jitendra Singh said the Government is committed to strengthening the RTI Act and Institutions. He said the number of Public Authorities brought under the RTI Act have increased from 1,600 to 2,092 during the last four years. The disposal rate of RTI applications has also increased from 20,147 in March, 2014 to 29,005 this year. As regards Pendency, there are more than 40,000 cases at present as compared to 24,351 in August, 2010. The increasing number of RTI cases is a result of the transparency in Governance process ushered in by the Government under the leadership of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he added.

Stating that the CIC at present has six Information Commissioners besides the Chief Information Commissioner,  Jitendra Singh said the Government has already initiated the process of selection of CIC and ICs as vacancies are scheduled to arise soon. “We will neither hold back nor delay appointment (of CIC/ICs),” he added.among the dignitaries present.

The seminar was attended by Chief Information Commissioner, Information Commissioners, former information Commissioners, State Information Commissioners, Central Public information officer, NGOs and other stake holders. The Convention began with welcome address by Chief Information Commissioner Radha Krishan Mathur, Central Information Commission.
Radha Krishan Mathur, Central information Commission, said that two significant changes have taken place since, last Convention, Firstly CIC moved into its own building and Secondly, we have fully equipped us for e-hearing. Now registrations are also online, and the case files are digitised as in his welcome speech, he reiterated the Commission is constantly working towards improving delivery of information under the RTI Act. Status of RTI appeals has been made entirely online and can be tracked in realtime, he added.

The First Session on “Implementation of RTI Act” was chaired by Information Commissioner Amitava Bhattacharya. Bimal Julka, Information Commissioner, CIC, spoke on the Implementation of RTI Act. Suresh Chaudhary, State Chief Information Commissioner, Rajasthan, highlighted the issues on Implementation of Right to Information in letter and spirit.  Nikhil Dey, Social Activist, focused on the Institutionalising a culture of transparency. P. Janakiram, Sr. Knowledge Manager, Centre for good Governance, Hyderabad, highlighted the issues on RTI Implementation-Stakeholders and Competency based training.

The Second Session on “Amendment to the RTI Act” was chaired by Information Commissioner Divya Prakash Sinha. Prashant Sadashiv Prabhu Tendolkar, State Chief Information Commissioner, Goa, highlighted the issues on a need for effective implementation. Prof. Vijay Kumar, Law University, also focused on the Amendment to the RTI Act. Ms Anjali Bhardwaj, Social Activist, spoke on RTI Amendment bill, 2008 and attempts to amend the RTI Act. Shri Subhash Chandra Agarwal, Social Activist, focused on the RTI rules for better implementation of the sunshine Act.

The Third Session on “Data privacy and Right to Information” was chaired by Information Commissioner Sudhir Bhargava. M.S Acharyulu, Information Commissioner, CIC, spoke on the Data privacy and Right to Information.  Upendra Baxi, Former Vice-Chancellor, University of Delhi, highlighted the issues on Data privacy and Right to Information. Venkatesh Nayak, also shared his views on Data privacy and Right to Information. Deepa Deshpande, Director, Yashada, Pune, highlighted the issues on Right to privacy and Justice Shrikrishana Committee on Data Protection Framework of India.

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