The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, inaugurated the 13th Convention of the Central Information Commission in New Delhi today (October 12, 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.
The President said that RTI is part of a theme that makes for greater efficiency in both delivering services to a citizen as well as using public resources and finances. This improves transparency and removes doubts that may arise about favouritism and misappropriation. The Internet and the digital economy have been used to advance e-auctions of mining blocks. They have helped create the Government e-Market or GeM portal for public procurement of goods and services. And the JAM trinity – Jandhan accounts, Aadhar-based unique identities and mobile phones – has helped with direct bank transfers to beneficiaries of schemes.
The President said that all these are promoting efficiency and checking wastage. They act as a bulwark against corruption. They are part of the same architecture of citizen empowerment, citizen enabling and public efficiency that has inspired the Right to Information.
The President also emphasized on the fine balance between the Right to Information and the Right to Privacy. He commended the CIC for upholding the RTI’s basic charter that public records, with some exceptions for subjects such as national security, are open to public scrutiny – but private records of individual citizens are protected from intrusive third-party curiosity. He said that we must be cautious against fringe cases that try to use the RTI mechanism to settle personal scores. Especially in an age when privacy has become a matter of such intense debate, it is crucial to maintain this balance.