Are the RTI applications going beyond all limits?
Justice Kapadia has voiced his concern over the indiscriminate use of the RTI Act. “In RTI matters, since I took over as CJI, I have given answers to all questions except very few things. But the kind of questions and their number is also exceeding limit… Are these questions relevant for Press? It is all going beyond all limits. The RTI Act is a good law but there has to a limit to it,” said Justice Kapadia, while adding that the time spent on irrelevant questions could have been utilised in studying petitions and case materials. He was asked the following questions:-
- ‘Why did you attend Nani Palkhivala Lecture?’
- ‘What time did you leave?’
- ‘Did you eat lunch or had tea?’
- ‘Which lawyer invited you for the function?’
- Would the same hold good for the bureaucrats?
Such questions lead to deeply consider the issue of the misuse of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The RTI applications have been criticised on various counts.
- Some applications have a malicious intent.
- Applications seeking personal / professional information are common with intrusive questions about everything one does in official or personal capacity.
- The number of RTI applications are on a rise with no apparent end to it, at least in near future.
- Many of the applicants seem to question without any responsibility at the information seekers end.
- A recent trend has been to seek information for the generation of stories for the media.
- Bureaucrats seem to be on a defensive and are avoiding decision making.
- RTI is also becoming a tool for extortion and blackmail in the hands of thugs and people practicing yellow journalism.
- There are a number of applications seeking voluminous information which are against the basic essence of the RTI Act.
- Use of abusive language and allegations are not uncommon.
In spite of the above shortcomings, the applications under the Right to Information (RTI) Act remain a powerful instrument to uncover the truth. Given the opacity in the working of the government, Right to Information (RTI) Act has shown the ability to break the nexus which works behind the opacity. It is a boon to the common man who has no available help to fight a system which can hardly be termed accountable and often fails to deliver. Officials have also used it to ward off undue pressure during the decision making process.
With the Courts giving the frivolous RTI queries a strong dressing down, it is hoped that the misuse of the Act would reduce. A more responsible use of the powerful tool would alone give more legitimacy and authority to the RTI Act.