The Supreme Court has said that while the right to information (RTI) is a formidable tool to fight corruption in governance, it “should not be allowed to be misused or abused” to obstruct national development.
“The (Right to Information) Act should not be allowed to be misused or abused, to become a tool to obstruct the national development and integration, or to destroy the peace, tranquility and harmony among its citizens. Nor should it be converted into a tool of oppression or intimidation of honest officials striving to do their duty,” said the apex court bench of Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice A.K. Patnaik in a judgment delivered earlier this week but made available Thursday.
The judgment that upheld the right of students to inspect and photocopy their answer sheets after their evaluation in examinations said: “The provisions of RTI Act should be enforced strictly and all efforts should be made to bring to light the necessary information…which relates to securing transparency and accountability in the working of public authorities and in discouraging corruption.”
The court cautioned against the indiscriminate and impractical demands and directions under the RTI.
“Indiscriminate and impractical demands or directions under the RTI Act for disclosure of all and sundry information (unrelated to transparency and accountability in the functioning of public authorities and eradication of corruption) would be counter-productive as it will adversely affect the efficiency of the administration and result in the executive (government) getting bogged down with the non-productive work of collecting and furnishing information,” the judgment said.
The judgment delivered Tuesday said: “The nation does not want a scenario where 75 percent of the staff of public authorities spends 75 percent of their time in collecting and furnishing information to applicants instead of discharging their regular duties.”
“The threat of penalties under the RTI Act and the pressure of the authorities under the RTI Act should not lead to employees of public authorities prioritising information furnishing at the cost of their normal and regular duties,” the court said.