No such thing as too much information in democracy, overload preferable to deficit: Prez

Friday, 12 October 2018

"There is also need to look at our declassification protocols for government and archival documents, and see how we can modernise these," President Ram Nath Kovind said.

NEW DELHI: Calling RTI a "pedestal for transparent and participatory governance", President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday said that in a democracy there is no such thing as "too much information" and "information overload" is always preferable to its deficit.

Inaugurating the 13th annual convention of the Central Information Commission, the highest appellate authority in RTI matters, the President also made a strong pitch for modernisation of declassification protocols and maintenance of archives.

"There is also need to look at our declassification protocols for government and archival documents, and see how we can modernise these," he said.

The President said India has appointed half-a-million public information officers under the RTI Act with the estimated requests for information touching as high as six million a year which are astounding numbers.

He said open government and the pursuit of legitimate public oversight are a desirable and a dynamic process.

"We can never do enough; we can never aim too high," the President said.

He said people have a right to know how they are being governed, how public money is being spent, how public and national resources are being deployed, how public services are being delivered, and how public works and welfare programmes are being carried out.

"In a democracy, there is no such thing as too much information. Information overload is always preferable to information deficit," Kovind said.

He said the Right to Information Act, that came into force on October 12, 2005, builds on these principles creating a "pedestal for transparent and participatory governance".

"Free flow of information is the essence of a democracy. And for the people of a free and free-spirited country, information is power," said Kovind, who was part of Standing Committee deliberations when the law was being framed.

He said the RTI Act is not just a stand alone legislation but is a part of the larger narrative of strengthening Indian democracy, of ensuring transparency across systems of governance, and of building capacities of the common citizen to enable him or her to take informed decisions and make informed choices.

"Above all, it is about nurturing the social contract of trust between the citizen and the State where both must have faith in each other," he said.

The President said a related and parallel implication is to ensure a rational use of public resources to check instances of corruption or waste.

He said to inform, trust and ultimately empower ordinary citizens are admirable goals but they are not ends in themselves.

"It is only when we link this process to the realisation of definite objectives that engage, enable and ensure efficiency and so serve to make life that much better for the citizen that we complete the narrative of democracy. RTI is part of such a wider theme," Kovind said.

The President also asked the gathering to maintain a fine balance between Right to Information and Right to Privacy and cautioned against "fringe cases" that try to use the RTI mechanism to settle personal scores.

"Especially in an age when privacy has become a matter of such intense debate, it is crucial to maintain this balance," he said.

Earlier speaking on the occasion, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Jitendra Singh requested the gathering of information commissioners, activists, information officers and people to find out if "unnecessary RTI applications" can be reduced as much of the information is readily available on government websites.

The Right to Information Act came into force on October 12, 2005. The first application was filed by Shahid Raza Burney before the Pune Police the same day. 

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