Friday, March 30, 2007

RTI Act should apply to all sections of society: HC

Right to Information Act should apply to all sections of society: judge

Staff Reporter

NGOs, charitable trusts, trade unions should be as accountable as Government

CHENNAI: The Right to Information Act should be the first step towards spreading a "culture of transparency" across Indian society, Madras High Court Judge Prabha Sridevan said here on Thursday.

"Ideally, the new [Right to Information] Act should apply to all sections of society. NGOs, charitable trusts and trade unions should be just as accountable as the Government," she told students and teachers at an UGC orientation programme on the Act at Madras University.

Ms. Justice Sridevan urged the Government to make available technology citizens could use to search for information. "Advanced information technology tools will help in providing access, but for that the Government should have the will to make the shift from being niggardly in providing access to a climate of transparency... But for this all the stakeholders should make a concerted effort."

Students were the key stakeholders who could use the Act to transform society, according to Ms. Sridevan. Reminding the audience that every right had an accompanying responsibility, she encouraged students to make use of their "right to information" and take up their "responsibility to democracy."

She hoped that the Act would reduce the apathy to and public scepticism about governance.

At the same time, Ms. Sridevan cautioned that the Act should not be abused to defeat and slow down development activities.

Chief Commissioner of the State Information Commission S. Ramakrishnan said the Act was not a magic pill to rid society of all its ills.

"It does not guarantee there will be no corruption. It does not give you remedy or redress." Yet, it provided the citizens with the tools to prevent corruption and armed them with the knowledge to seek redress.

Describing the scope of the Act, he said it even covered courts and the President. He favoured widening the scope to include trade unions.

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