Information as a term has been derived from the Latin words ‘Formation’ and ‘Forma’ which means giving shape to something and forming a pattern respectively.
Information adds something new to our awareness and removes the vagueness of our ideas. Information is Power, and as Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee stated, “The Government wants to share power with the humblest; it wants to empower the weakest. It is precise because of this reason that the Right to Information has to be ensured for all.”
The Freedom of Information Bill 2000 was introduced in the parliament on 25th July 2000, there have been earlier instances where a proposition of a similar subject has been moved into the house, and this traces back to as early as in 1966 when the Press Council of India prepared the draft bill in order to secure the right to information then again in 1997 The Institute of Rural Development, Hyderabad also prepared a bill, both this bill had initiated a debate on the national level and a working group was constituted which was to look into the validity and the constitutionality of the bill. The report of this working group recommended that the right to information is not only feasible but also vital. The Working Group recommended that the bill should be named as Freedom of Information Bill as the Right to Information has already been judicially recognized as a part of the fundamental right to free speech and expression.
Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution guarantees the fundamental rights to free speech and expression. The prerequisite for enjoying this right is knowledge and information. The absence of authentic information on matters of public interest will only encourage wild rumors and speculations and avoidable allegations against individuals and institutions. Therefore, the Right to Information becomes a constitutional right, being an aspect of the right to free speech and expression which includes the right to receive and collect information. This will also help the citizens perform their fundamental duties as set out in Article 51A of the Constitution. A fully informed citizen will certainly be better equipped for the performance of these duties. Thus, access to information would assist citizens in fulfilling these obligations.
The Freedom of Information Bill 2000, stated mainly of access to the information by the public in almost all the governmental proceedings, it was proposed mainly in order to secure transparency in the government. In the democracy the best form of government or the good government is possible with the utmost level of transparency. National Stability is achieved when the public has full faith in their representatives because in the past 55 years of democracy in India, it has witnessed certain major ups and downs and one of the major cause of this was due to lack of transparency.
Another essential aspect that is been eating up our country politically, socially and economically is the increasing level of corruption, now-a-days even a peon is corrupt, this however does not imply that due to passing of the bill of the right to information would reduce the quantum of corruption at all levels but it definitely reduce the quantum of corruption at the higher levels because though corruption at all level is harmful but then the magnitude of corruption differs at different levels and the magnitude is much higher at the high levels. Of recent the Taj corridor scam including the Chief Minister, the Cabinet Minister (of the state), and high officials of the state government of a particular state were involved in the misappropriation of amount running into hundreds of crores. All this took place due to lack of transparency and the general public and the other concerned authorities were devoid of any information and nor that this has been the only scam in the history of our country, there have been various scams and most of them have been tried and have not seen the light of the day.
The Right to Information has already received judicial recognition as a part of the fundamental right to free speech and expression. An Act is needed to provide a statutory frame work for this right. This law will lay down the procedure for translating this right into reality.
Information is indispensable for the functioning of a true democracy. People have to be kept informed about current affairs and broad issues – political, social and economic. Free exchange of ideas and free debate are essentially desirable for the Government of a free country. In this Age of Information, its value as a critical factor in socio-cultural, economic and political development is being increasingly felt. In a fast developing country like India, availability of information needs to be assured in the fastest and simplest form possible. This is important because every developmental process depends on the availability of information.
Right to know is also closely linked with other basic rights such as freedom of speech and expression and right to education. Its independent existence as an attribute of liberty cannot be disputed. Viewed from this angle, information or knowledge becomes an important resource. An equitable access to this resource must be guaranteed.
A Supreme Court judgement delivered by Mr. Justice Mathew is considered a landmark. In his judgement in the state of UP vs. Raj Narain (1975) case, Justice Mathew rules-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. But the legislative wing of the State did not respond to it by enacting suitable legislation for protecting the right of the people
The Supreme Court of India has emphasized in the SP Gupta case (1982) that open Government is the new democratic culture of an open society towards which every liberal democracy is moving and our country should be no exception. In a country like India which is committed to socialistic pattern of society, right to know becomes a necessity for the poor, ignorant and illiterate masses
Thus all that can be said about this right of securing the right to information is that it is a very necessary legislation and the government must enact this legislation in order to secure the high levels of transparency in the affairs of the government and realize and give the true meaning of the word democracy.