RTI During Pandemic
Right to Information (RTI) applications seeking information pertaining to the PM CARES Fund have been stonewalled. No information exists on the official website of the Fund regarding the amount collected, names of donors, expenditure incurred, or details of beneficiaries
- Public scrutiny of government actions is undesirable during the crisis and citizens must unquestioningly trust the state.
- This undermines the basic democratic tenet that citizens’ participation and oversight is necessary to ensure they are able to access their rights. Without information, peoples’ ability to perform that role is eviscerated and corruption thrives.
- The RTI Act, 2005, has empowered citizens to access information from public authorities and hold them accountable.
- During the COVID-19 crisis, proper implementation of the law has assumed greater significance than ever before.
- It is crucial that information related to implementation of relief measures announced by governments be widely disseminated.
- For instance, to ensure food security for the needy, Central and State governments have put in place schemes to provide subsidised rations.
- For effective delivery of foodgrains and other essential commodities, information must be made available in the public domain about the quantity and price of commodities, details of beneficiaries and the list of ration shops along with their stock position.
- Greater openness would prevent controversies of the kind exemplified by faulty testing kits and fake ventilators.
- In the current scenario the role of information commissions is crucial.
- While in the midst of a pandemic it is reasonable to expect delays in processing information requests, public authorities must not be allowed to interpret the crisis as a justification for not complying with the RTI Act.
Source: Promote people power against COVID-19 (The Hindu, June 23)
Secrecy Of Ballot
Secrecy of ballot is the cornerstone of free and fair elections. The choice of a voter should be free and the secret ballot system in a democracy ensures it, the Supreme Court has held in a judgment.
“It is the policy of law to protect the right of voters to secrecy of the ballot… Even a remote or distinct possibility that a voter can be forced to disclose for whom she has voted would act as a positive constraint and a check on the freedom to exercise of franchise,” a three-judge Bench of Justices N.V. Ramana, Sanjeev Khanna and Krishna Murari observed.
The principle of secrecy of ballots is an important postulate of constitutional democracy, the court said.
The judgment came on an appeal against the Allahabad High Court decision setting aside the voting of a no-confidence motion in the zila panchayat of the Panchayat Adhyaksha in Uttar Pradesh in 2018. The High Court found that some of the panchayat members had violated the rule of secrecy of ballot.
Source: The Hindu (Secrecy of Ballot is key to free and fair elections: SC/June 22)