The Supreme Court has directed the Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions to ensure that provisions of the Right to Information Act on proactive disclosure by public authorities are implemented properly.
The court issued the directive in response to a petition by a man named Kishan Chand Jain seeking the effective implementation of Section 4 of the Right to Information Act that deals with the obligations of public authorities. The provision requires authorities to maintain proper records and to disclose several kinds of information proactively.
Jain, in his petition, referred to Central Information Commission reports that reflect poor compliance with Section 4 of the Act, PTI reported. The petitioner contended that the provision is the soul of the Right to Information Act without which it would only be an ornamental law.
On August 17, a bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala said that public accountability is a “crucial feature” that governs the relationship between duty-bearers and right-holders.
The bench said that while citizens have the right to information under Section 3 of the Act, Section 4 puts in place a “co-relative duty” in the form of obligations of public authorities.
The court took note of the petitioner’s submission that only 33% of public authorities had received transparency audits conducted in the last four years. It said that provisions in the Act pertaining to monitoring and reporting constitute an important feature of accountability of statutory authorities.
“From the information made available to us, one thing is evident,” the bench said. “The system needs the concerned authority’s complete attention, followed by strict and continuous monitoring.”
The court said: “We direct that the Central Information Commission and the State Information Commissions shall continuously monitor the implementation of the mandate of Section 4 of the Act as also prescribed by the Department of Personnel and Training in its Guidelines and Memorandums issued from time to time.”