India got Independence in 1947 and proclaimed itself a Republic in 1950,with a great Constitution. However, in practice, a brown elite replaced the white masters and Swaraj did not come. Mahatma Gandhi had said, Real Swaraj will come not by the acquisition of authority by a few but by the acquisition of capacity to resist authority when abused. A few did acquirethe authority and retained it, but the capacity to resist misuse of authority eluded the average Citizen of India. Right To Information -RTI now empowers him to do that.
The Right To Information is derived from our fundamental right of expression under Article 19 of the Constitution of India. If we do not have information on how our Government and Public Institutions function, we cannot express an informed opinion on it. This has been clearly stated by various Supreme Court Judgments, since 1975. We accept that the freedom of the press is an essential element for a democracy to function. It is worthwhile to understand the underlying assumption in this well entrenched belief. Why is the freedom of the media considered as one of the essential features for a democracy ? Democracy revolves around the basic idea of Citizens being at the center of governance and rule of the people. We need to define the importance of the concept of freedom of the press from this fundamental premise. It is obvious that the main reason for a free press is to ensure that Citizens are informed. This being one of the main reasons for the primacy given to the freedom of the press, it clearly flows from this, that the Citizens Right To Know is paramount. Since the Government is run on behalf of the people, they are the rightful owners who have a right to be informed directly. Justice Mathew ruled in the Raj Narain case, “In a government of responsibility like ours, where all the agents of the public must be responsible for their conduct, there can be but few secrets. The people of this country have a right to know every public act, everything that is done in a public way by their public functionaries. They are entitled to know the particulars of every public transaction in all its bearing. Their right to know, which is derived from the concept of freedom of speech, though not absolute, is a factor which should make one wary when secrecy is claimed for transactions which can at any rate have no repercussion on public security.
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