Shekhar Singh Collections


Right to Information and Public Accountability


One of the basic tenets of democracy is the ability of the people to determine how they should be governed. The modalities of self-government are many, but by and large most democratic countries in the world have adopted one form or another of representative democracy. This involves the people collectively, or in different groupings or geographical segments, electing representatives who are then expected to interact with their constituencies and represent their choices at the various levels of governance.

Unfortunately, almost from the start, representative democracies have deteriorated into “party democracies” where the loyalty of the elected representatives are , at best, divided between the dictums of their political party and their electorate. In India, with the enactment of the anti-defection law and other related regulations, even the semblance of a representative democracy have been replaced by what can be best called “elected dictatorship”, where all decisions are taken by the party high command and all elected representatives have to toe the line or lose their seats.

In such a reality, which transcends any specific political party, the people of India has to find other, innovative, methods of being heard and of influencing governance. But in order to do that they need, as a minimum, access to reliable and timely information regarding the decisions taken or being taken by the government, the basis for these decisions, the options available, and the safeguards and supervision being applied. Secondly, where they do not agree, or have serious doubts, decisions and practices of the government, they must have methods by which they can vocalise these disagreements and doubts, and publicise them.

The National Right to information act, enacted in 2005, was intended to fulfil the first of these needs and give access to public about information related to governmental processes, decisions, actions and inactions. The Indian RTI act was widely hailed, and rightly so, as 1 of the strongest transparency laws in the world. It was also unique in that it was drafted by members of the public and lobbied for by various people’s organisations. The documents included here give a detailed account of the formulation of this law.

Unfortunately, its implementation has been compromised because of various problems, mainly unsympathetic information commissions and an unresponsive bureaucracy. There are at least three reports included here which document the problems with the implementation of the law.

A method developed by various people’s organisations collectively access critical information and to publicly discuss it actually preceded the enactment of the national law. The passing of the RTI act made this significantly more effective and it acquired the name of “social audits”. These social audits, as can be seen, were not only methods by which information was collected both from the government and from the affected people, especially at the local level, but also provided a forum where this collected information was publicly discussed in the presence, and with the participation, of concerned officials and others relevant functionaries.

Shekhar Singh

To be uploaded:

1. Detailed report of the 2008 assessment of the implementation of the RTI Act.
2. Report of the public hearing related to the Maheshwar Dam.


Documents under Right to Information and Public Accountability


2002 - Report of the Bhopal Public Hearing on the Maheshwar Project

2002 - Report of the Bhopal Public Hearing on the Maheshwar Project Download





2005 - Securing the Environment

Scripted in 2005. Shekhar Singh was then convenor of, and Misha Singh a researcher
with, the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information. Download





2005 - The Notion of Transparency

2005 - The Notion of Transparency Download





2006 - Administrative Reforms Commission and Right to Information

2006 - Administrative Reforms Commission and Right to Information Download





2006 - Governance, Transparency, Participation, and Environmental Impact Assessment
in the Environment and Forest Sector

Report Of The Task Force On Governance, Transparency Participation, And Environmental Impact
Assessment In The Environment And Forest Sector For The XI Five Year Plan Download



2006 - Transparency and the Natural Environment

2006 - Transparency and the Natural Environment Download





2007 - Right to Information Act 2005 - A Primer

2007 - Right to Information Act 2005 - A Primer Download





2007 - Right to Information Act 2005 - A Primer - Bengali Translation

2007 - Right to Information Act 2005 - A Primer - Bengali Translation Download





2007 - Right to Information Act - A Primer - Hindi Translation

2007 - Right to Information Act - A Primer - Hindi Translation Download





2007 - Right to Information Act - A Primer - Oriya Translation

2007 - Right to Information Act - A Primer - Oriya Translation Download





2007 - Right to Information Act - A Primer - Urdu Translation

2007 - Right to Information Act - A Primer - Urdu Translation Download





2007 - Social Audit - A Peoples Manual

2007 - Social Audit - A Peoples Manual Download





2007 - The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act - A People's Manual for Social Audit

2007 - The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act - A People's Manual for Social Audit Download





2007 - Social Mobilization and Transparency - The Indian Experience

2007 - Social Mobilization and Transparency: The Indian Experience∗ Download





2009 – Safeguarding the Right to Information – Report of the People’s RTI Assessment 2008 – Revised Executive Summary

2009 – Safeguarding the Right to Information – Report of the People’s RTI Assessment 2008 – Revised Executive Summary Download





2009 - Safeguarding the Right to Information in India

2009 - Safeguarding the Right to Information in India : Report of the People’s RTI Assessment 2009 Download





2011 - Implementing Freedom of Information Legislation in East Asia & Pacific

2011 - Implementing Freedom of Information Legislation in East Asia & Pacific Download





2011 - The Genesis and Evolution of the Right to Information Regime in India

Transparent Governance In South Asia Download





2011 - Transparent Governance in South Asia

2011 - Transparent Governance in South Asia Download





2011 - Gross National Happiness and the Right to Information

2011 - Gross National Happiness and the Right to Information Download





2013 - Open Parties to Public Scrutiny

2013 - Open Parties to Public Scrutiny Download





2013 - Lets All Come to the Party

2013 - Lets All Come to the Party Download





2014-The Lokpal Act of 2014 – An Assessment

2014-The Lokpal Act of 2014 – An Assessment Download




2014 - Peoples' Monitoring of the RTI Regime - 2011-13

2014 - Peoples' Monitoring of the RTI Regime in India 2011-13 Download





2015 - R Stands For...

2015 - R Stands For... Download





2015 - Empowerment through Information - Volume - I

2015 - Empowerment Through Information, The Evolution of Transparency Regimes in South Asia
Volume I: Essays, Status Reports, Case Studies Download




2015 - Empowerment through Information - Volume II

2015 - Empowerment Through Information, The Evolution of Transparency Regimes in South Asia
Volume II: Empirical Studies Download




2017 - Tilting the Balance of Power - Adjudicating the RTI Act

2017 - Tilting the Balance of Power - Adjudicating the RTI Act Download





Files of the Government of India (GoI), Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), relating to the Right to Information - 1997 to 2009

Files of the Government of India (GoI), Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), relating to the Right to Information - 1997 to 2009


Files of the Government of India (GoI), Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), relating to the Right to Information - 1997 to 2009


INTRODUCTION



Given below are copies of Government of India (GoI), Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) files relating to the right to information (RTI) or freedom of information, as it was earlier referred to. This collection consists of fifteen files, arranged in eight bundles, separately for each year or, where files cover more than one year, together for two or more consecutive years. The last three bundles, apart from being organised year-wise, also specifically deal with the setting up and staffing of information commissions.

In total they comprise nearly 3000 pages of correspondence and notes (or file ‘notings’, as they are popularly known). These have been accessed by various RTI activists, over the years, using the RTI Act, and I am particularly grateful to Amrita Johri, Anjali Bhardwaj, and Prashant Sharma for sharing these documents with me. I am grateful to Chandra Kaushal and Rubina Mondal for helping me organise and scan these files.

Unfortunately, these files are not well organised, as is usually the case with government files, and there are many gaps and misplaced pages. This is aggravated by the fact that it seems that some pages have been removed from the files before they were made available to the RTI applicants. Also, they have not been properly photo-copied and many pages are partly or wholly illegible.

Nevertheless, they give an interesting glimpse into how civil servants, political leaders, and even NGOs and activists have thought and acted when faced with the prospect of adopting a more open system of governance. As examples of the thinking of prominent political leaders, your attention is specifically drawn to a 2005 letter from Narender Modi, who was then Chief Minister of Gujarat, to the then Prime Minister (pages 496-498, file: 2005 DoPT) Also, you might like to see the 2005 letter from Abdul Kalam, the then President of India, to the then Prime Minister, and the response of the Prime Minister (pages 536 to 542, file: 2005 DoPT).

Another interesting fact is that in the files leading up to the enactment of the RTI Act (October 2005), almost every page in the file was marked ‘SECRET’, making it impossible for any ‘unauthorised’ person to either read it or be in possession of it, without attracting the very stringent provisions of the Official Secrets Act, till the RTI Act came into force. The frequency with which even routine correspondence was marked secret also highlighted the crying need for an RTI Act.

Three sets of files, from 2005 to 2009, deal almost exclusively with the setting up of the information commissions and the appointment of central information commissioners. These files illustrate that there was little application of mind or even the semblance of fair-play in the selection of central information commissioners. Though hundreds of applications were received for these posts, the files only contain curriculum vitae of serving or retired high-ranking government servants and letters of recommendation from political and administrative VIPs. There is no record of any process by which the other applicant’s names were considered and, inevitably, the ICs were chosen from among these high ranking officials or those recommended by a high-ranker!

Happy reading.

Shekhar Singh

2022

Documents under Right to Information - Files of the Government of India (GoI), Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), relating to the Right to Information - 1997 to 2009


Files Of The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pensions Department of Personnel and Training Government of India Pertaining to the evolution of the Right to Information Act and other related matters 1997

Files Of The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pensions Department of Personnel and Training Government of India Pertaining to the evolution of the Right to Information Act and other related matters 1997 Download



Files Of The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pensions Department of Personnel and Training Government of India Pertaining to the evolution of the Right to Information Act and other related matters 1998

Files Of The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pensions Department of Personnel and Training Government of India Pertaining to the evolution of the Right to Information Act and other related matters 1998 Download



Files Of The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pensions Department of Personnel and Training Government of India Pertaining to the evolution of the Right to Information Act and other related matters 2000

Files Of The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pensions Department of Personnel and Training Government of India Pertaining to the evolution of the Right to Information Act and other related matters 2000 Download



Files Of The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pensions Department of Personnel and Training Government of India Pertaining to the evolution of the Right to Information Act and other related matters 2001-2005

Files Of The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pensions Department of Personnel and Training Government of India Pertaining to the evolution of the Right to Information Act and other related matters 2001-2005 Download



Files Of The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pensions Department of Personnel and Training Government of India Pertaining to the Right to Information Act and Related Matters 2005-2009

Files Of The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pensions Department of Personnel and Training Government of India Pertaining to the Right to Information Act and Related Matters 2005-2009 Download



Files Of The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pensions Department of Personnel and Training Government of India Pertaining to the Right to Information Act, Specifically the Information Commissions 2005-09

Files Of The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pensions Department of Personnel and Training Government of India Pertaining to the Right to Information Act, Specifically the Information Commissions 2005-09 Download



Files Of The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pensions Department of Personnel and Training Government of India Pertaining to the Right to Information Act and the Appointment of Information Commissioners 2008-09

Files Of The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pensions Department of Personnel and Training Government of India Pertaining to the Right to Information Act and the Appointment of Information Commissioners 2008-09 Download



Files Of The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pensions Department of Personnel and Training Government of India Pertaining to the Right to Information Act and the Appointment of Information Commissioners 2009

Files Of The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pensions Department of Personnel and Training Government of India Pertaining to the Right to Information Act and the Appointment of Information Commissioners 2009 Download