(Sample Material) Gist of IIPA Journal: Opening Government for Public Scrutiny: A Critique of Recent Efforts to Make Governance in India more Transparent and Accountable R.B. Jain

(Sample Material) Gist of Important Articles from IIPA Journal

Topic: Opening Government for Public Scrutiny: A Critique of Recent Efforts to Make Governance in India more Transparent and Accountable R.B. Jain


Although India has made some rapid strides and taken concrete actions in the last one decade to secure transparency and accountability in public administration, and positive results have already begun to appear in an as much as the public sector is now immensely more transparent and accountable than it has been any time in the first four decades of India’s Independence, but it still has to go a long way in making it more open and less secretive. Although in recent years a good deal has been accomplished in even making the funding of elections and election expenditure more transparent by initialing number of electoral reforms, but some of the existing statues like the Official Secrets Act the Civil Services Conduct Rules, the Indian Evidence Act etc. need to be suitably amended in order to RTI becoming a truly operational and being easily invoked by the common man without any hindrances and bottlenecks. At the same time there is a need to enact Whistle Blowers’ Act (on the lines similar to what has been recommended by the Law Commission of India in respect of the judiciary mentioned below) in order to protect the person(s) who dare to come out in open with critical information vital to upholding the public interest and alert the government and the public with regard to misadministration, misuse of power or corrupt practices. It is a good beginning in the matter of Whistle- blowing against the conduct of Judges in India, the Law Commission of India, in its 195th Report has recently suggested a whistle blower clause to protect those who complain about judges and ensure full confidentially of complaint proceedings.

The Central Information Commission set ups in October 2005 as an independent appellate body for citizen to approach for redress in case a department or an agency fails to give the citizens the information sought for, has to, set some model guidelines to be, Observed by the government departments and agencies and to see that the information is frivolous grounds. Also there is need for evolving appropriate procedures, condition, parameters of exceptions for denial of information, and requirements for the release of information by each department of the government and their proper notification to the public. There are also a number of problems in the implementation of the RTI Act which need to be given due attention and need to be resolved early, e.g. preparation and arrangements for record keeping, generation of the awareness of its implementation, monitoring, coordination and sharing of information and experiences of its implementation between the Union and the State/UT governments. Incidentally, the Second Administrative Reforms Commission under the Chairmanship of Veerapa Moily is seized of these concerns and is working to find solution to such problems. The Commission’s tenure has recently been extended by another one year until August 2007. The high powered Commission has been given a large mandate to overhaul government structure, put an end to British legacy and refurbish the public administration that has largely lost its relevance after economic reforms were initiated. It will also have to make PRIs and local bodies “workable lean, mean units” at the lowest level. Let us hope that some concrete solutions emerge on these critical issues.

In must also be remembered that the RTI is to be viewed in the context of the total reform process. An Act is just a legal measure, it can only mediate between the bureaucracy and the public. Political agencies and the civil society groups need to maintain pressure on governmental bodies to make them abide by the provisions of the Act. The bureaucracy should view the Act as an agent of social change rather than as challenge to its role in governance. The state’s watch dog like the Chief Vigilance Commissioner and the Central Bureau of Investigation should take the lead in affecting this change.

However, notwithstanding the establishment of an appellate authority (Central Information Commission), and its interventions, the spirit behind the RTI, and other instruments of securing accountability and transparency would largely depend upon the change of attitude on the part of the government functionaries to shed their deeply rooted old colonial-mindset of the system of secrecy. How quickly the bureaucracy gets over its old values and attitudes and adopts to the new values of responsiveness and accountability will eventually determine the success of all these measures to make the system of governance transparent leading to the realisation of the concept of “good governance”.

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