The Indian Constitution is one of the most powerful constitutions in the world, guaranteeing citizens a wide range of rights. It has been designed in such a way that the Judiciary, the country’s legal system, holds the most important power in our democracy. The Right to Information Act, also known as the RTI Act, was passed in 2005, approximately 17 years ago. It is in charge of keeping track of essential legislative information. It possesses all of the citizen’s rights and has been endowed with constitutional principles and responsibilities towards government bodies. This Act allows a person the right to submit requests to public entities, and it is the responsibility of the concerned authority to respond to the public’s request unless there are legal reasons for secrecy under the command of higher authorities. The RTI Article is composed of three parts, the first of which discusses judicial development and independence in the constitution. The Judicial administration’s loopholes are discussed in Part II. Part III discusses RTI’s response to these concerns. Still, questions about the judiciary remain unaddressed, and the Act’s utility is questioned.
WHAT IS RTI?
In 2005, the Right to Information Act (RTI) was passed. As every public entity is required to be included in this Act, the importance of this ACT is to provide information to the residents of India. It must deliver lawful data from the public authority to the citizen. RTI will apply to all government entities. Some public organizations are exempt; however, they must register under Section 24 of the Act. Because the judiciary is not subject to RTI review, it has been exempted from RTI for the time being. RTI has attempted to bind the judiciary, but it has resisted becoming a member of RTI and hence has immunity from the Act.
SHOULD THE JUDICIARY ALSO BE INCLUDED UNDER RTI ACT?
The judiciary has always been seen with suspicion and occasionally a lack of trust due to non-transparency, corruption, and in other cases, justice has been taken for granted and left in the dark. Even the check and balance mechanism circulate within the walls of the judiciary and resists entry into the public record, owing to judicial independence immunity. However, it should be noted that in a democracy where citizens own power, why is the institution that stands to deliver justice for its citizens maintained in secrecy? Due to the isolation of judicial decrees, individuals may begin to lose sense and trust if this practice persists. Judicial decision decides on strong accountability. As we progress, many changes have occurred in the changing era, the advancement of modern technologies, and new rules and regulations have been introduced before the people. Everything that changes occurs under the law, but the judicial institute that makes those amendments remains immune from public scrutiny. As a new period emerges, the trip of jurisprudence should progress as well, and the right to knowledge in judicial decrees should be made relevant. The time has come to open the ‘Mystery box,’ untangle the ‘Gordon’s Knot,’ and find answers to a plethora of questions shortly.
As participants in India’s democratic system, citizens have a right to know what, how, and why each decision, modification, or continuation in the system’s operation is made. The right to information is guaranteed as a fundamental right in Articles 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution, which was passed by the Indian Parliament in 2005. People have begun questioning the judiciary on a variety of issues as their rights have become more aware as time and laws change. There’s also a comparison to the situation in other countries, as well as the tactics other countries have used to ensure transparency and accountability in their own countries. There is also a solution to these issues that occur in modern democratic democracy, such as how to ensure that the court respects RTI legislation and is accountable, and whether or not the Supreme Court should be subject to RTI. The Indian Supreme Court may be at a watershed moment in its history, having made public information on the assets and interests of the higher judiciary’s judges, allowing the public to question the higher judiciary’s responsibility.
The Supreme Court has made it clear that it does not want the Freedom of Information Act to be applied to the higher judiciary. The Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court are already at odds, with the former attempting to subject the latter to the Right to Information Act and justifying the necessity for Supreme Court and High Court justices to divulge their positions. The Supreme Court has cited independence, confidentiality, and the possibility of a breach of fiduciary duty as reasons for not disclosing such material. RTI is a part of freedom of speech and expression and is a critical component in achieving economic, social, and political rights for individuals and the community at large; thus, the Judiciary must work with the Commissions to provide citizens with the information they require or request to achieve all of these goals and protect these rights.
According to the RTI Act, no public authority is compelled to generate information for legal purposes. When a public authority has information that is already available and is not exempted by law, the authority must release it. To promote democratically grounded judicial independence, India’s higher judiciary must proactively generate and reveal information about judges’ assets and interests under the RTI Act; the general public should be aware of how and in what proportion the money they pay to the government in the form of taxes is spent in various sectors of the country. All efforts are being taken to ensure that those responsible for mismanagement, abuse of discretion, corruption, and other administrative errors are held accountable. However, it is widely acknowledged that simply having access to information is insufficient to strengthen governance and that much more is required. As a result, the right to information has come to be seen as a critical component in the promotion of participatory democracy and people-centered governance. Downtrodden groups can be empowered by providing them with information so that they can demand their rights and implement the government’s numerous beneficial plans, which are currently only on paper owing to a lack of administrative will. In a fundamental sense, the Right to Information Act has the potential to unleash a decent governance system that is more responsive to community demands, which is the primary pillar of democracy, if it is used and executed effectively.
Author’s Name: Jay Kumar Gupta (NIMS School of Law, Bengaluru)