RTI Act effective against graft: U.N. report

By Special Correspondent in Hindu on Friday, Jun 13, 2008

"India has implemented key options"

NEW DELHI: The Right to Information Act 2005 was "one of the most
progressive legislations" in the developing world for tackling
corruption, according to a United Nations report released on Thursday.

India was one of the eight countries in Asia and the Pacific to enact
such a legislation, the United Nations Development Report on "Tackling
Corruption, Transforming Lives Accelerating Human Development in Asia and the Pacific" said, adding it was perhaps too soon to judge
whether the legislation had worked throughout the region.

The process through which the Act was drafted and came into force in
India illustrated the power of sustained pressure: when the government
proposed to amend the law to exclude some administrative files and
Cabinet papers from it, intense pressure from civil society
organisations forced it to drop the plan, the report said.

India's law was particularly effective, the report said, because it
specified information that must be disclosed on a proactive basis,
including some that would help expose corruption.
Precise information

The Act also allowed individuals and organisations investigating
corruption to ask for precise information.
For example, while generally excluding information from the
intelligence agencies, it specifically allowed for the disclosure of
information "pertaining to allegations of corruption or human rights

According to the report, India had implemented a number of key options
to combat corruption.

They included the progressive Right to Information Act, using
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and e-governance to
make the administration more transparent, encouraging media and
citizen initiatives and becoming a signatory to the United Nations
Convention Against Corruption.

The report found that where democracy was most effective at checking
corruption, it did not necessarily do so through the system-level
"hardware" such as elections, but through the deeper ability to voice
demands that were taken seriously by the government that of the
civil society organisation.

At the same time, there were many other ways individuals could act to
combat corruption: asking questions, resisting demands for bribes,
reporting the activities of corrupt officials and refusing to deal
with corrupt businesses.

Role of media hailed

The report also appreciated the role of the media and investigative
journalists against high-profile offenders leading to their
resignations and prosecutions.

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