- Why it was in News?
- Information available on JSP
- Significance of JSP
- Need for JSP (due to Flaws in RTI Act)
- Example of transparency accompanied by accountability
- Key Challenges
- IT’s Input
- What does the RTI Act do?
JSP: A milestone in greater transparency, accountability
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Why it was in News?
- The Jan Soochna Portal (JSP), recently launched by the government of Rajasthan, is a remarkable achievement in furtherance of the right to information (RTI), especially Section 4 of the RTI Act, that deals with proactive disclosure of information.
Information available on JSP
- The portal details various schemes run by government departments by not only explaining the schemes but also providing real time information on beneficiaries, authorities in charge, progress, etc.
The portal also gives,
- the details of every farmer in every bank branch whose loans have been waived, along with the amounts.
- the list of mines in every district, provides geographical coordinates, and the area where mining has been permitted, including the land deed identifiers.
- details about pollution and environment clearances as well as details of production and royalties and taxes paid.
Significance of JSP
No need for RTI
- There is no need to take recourse to the RTI Act and await a response as all information can be accessed immediately, free of cost.
Availability of information to municipal ward/panchayat
- Since the information is available on the Internet, every citizen, right down to the municipal ward and panchayat, has access to the information. Hence, the municipal ward and panchayat can contact persons who have missed their benefits from government schemes.
- For instance, if a person had not availed any rations for several months, he/she can be contacted for availing benefits or transferring benefits to other if he/she do not want it.
Need for JSP (due to Flaws in RTI Act)
- There have been dilutions in the RTI Act pertaining to the appointments of information commissioners, therefore affecting on their autonomy.
- The response rate to RTI requests has also slowed down compared to when the act was created.
- Section 4(2) of the Act, which specifically enjoins upon public authorities to publish information pro-actively, has not been implemented holistically so far.
- The government information, given under RTI, has often been given dispersedly with difficulty to comprehend.
- Some of the central websites, having dashboard information, do not release structured information for extensive study and for the knowledge of the citizenry.
Example of transparency accompanied by accountability
- The National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG), launched in 2013-14, is a part of the e-Courts Integrated Mission Mode Project.
- Aimed at promoting transparency, the Grid gives litigants and others the consolidated figures of pending cases in the country’s District Judiciary.
- NJDG found that more than 70,000 cases were pending for over 30 years.
- Acknowledging the delay by Chief Justices and Registrars, many courts have begun to concentrate on the disposal of old cases with considerable success.
- There are huge challenges with regard to maintenance issues and ensuring that there is no pause in the availability of information.
The implementation challenges include whether below entities fulfil their role or not:
- Various departments of the government of Rajasthan have been given a set of obligations that they are expected to fulfil.
- In addition, the Department of Information Technology will serve as the nodal department for the development and maintenance of the JSP. This department has been informed of its obligations laid down by an advisory group.
- Grievance Redressal officers will be appointed so that citizens can make the State government truly accountable.
- As a one-shot portal for public information on government programmes, the JSP can advance the objective of transparency.
- However, the challenge would be to ensure that the information flow remains unhampered over time. Besides this, it is important to educate the citizenry about the use of data on the portal.
What does the RTI Act do?
- Under the RTI Act, 2005, ‘Public Authorities’ are required to make disclosures on various aspects of their structure and functioning.
- This includes: (i) disclosure on their organisation, functions, and structure, (ii) powers and duties of its officers and employees, and (iii) financial information.
- If such information is not made available, citizens have the right to request for it from the Authorities under RTI act.
- The intent of such disclosures is that the public should need minimum recourse through the Act to obtain such information and to promote transparency and accountability in the working of Public Authorities.
How is the right to information enforced under the Act?
- The Act has established a three tier structure for enforcing the right to information guaranteed under the Act.
- Public Authorities designate some of their officers as Public Information Officers. The first request for information goes to Central/State Assistant Public Information Officer and Central/State Public Information Officer, designated by the Public Authorities.
- These Officers are required to provide information to an RTI applicant within 30 days of the request.
- Appeals from their decisions go to an Appellate Authority. Appeals against the order of the Appellate Authority go to the State Information Commission or the Central Information Commission. These Information Commissions consists of a Chief Information Commissioner, and up to 10 Information Commissioners.