Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan has proposed that the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) be brought under the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act to make its proceedings transparent.
Many a controversy can be avoided if the government is prepared to do this, he said while delivering the presidential address at the valedictory of a national seminar on “RTI Act — the way forward” organised by the State Information Commission here on Saturday.
“It is not enough to affix the label of transparency on official documents. Transparency in administration has to be experienced by citizens to make sense,” he said.
Referring to the controversy over the CCTV footage of the CMO on the solar scam, Mr. Achuthanandan said it was a barometer of transparency.
“Despite the High Court observations on the examination of the CCTV footage, the public is yet to be convinced of the transparency of the Chief Minister’s Office. Do not citizens have the right to be informed of the activities at the office that is under a security blanket round the clock?,” he asked.
Mr. Achuthanandan said the State was yet to utilise the potential of the RTI Act fully. “Even if citizens get the required information by invoking the Act, they are forced to rely on legal measures to get things implemented. It is time to address this issue,” he said.
Pointing out that transparency in administration held the key to democratic governance, he urged the government for steps to increase awareness of the right to information and to curb its misuse.
Inaugurating the session, Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor supported the view that all political parties should be brought under the purview of the RTI Act to rebuild the trust of voters. He warned that democracy in India would be endangered if the political class was discredited.
Mr. Tharoor said much of the information sought under the RTI provisions could be posted on the Internet by government departments to make it more accessible to citizens. “Public authorities have either not provided this facility or implemented it in a manner unfriendly for users,” he said.
He, however, said information commissioners in India were more liberal in interpreting the right to information than their counterparts in other parts of the world, putting India in a league of its own.
Additional Chief Secretary Nivedita P. Haran and State Information Commissioner C.S. Sasikumar spoke.