Address on “RTI as a tool for Litigation and Law and Policy Reform”
by
Venkatesh Nayak
Programme Coordinator, Access to Information Programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative



The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), an independent, international NGO which seeks to further discourse on human rights in the countries of the Commonwealth, organised a session for the students on the Right to Information Act, on the 23rd of April. The event was conducted by Mr. Venkatesh Nayak, co-ordinator of CHRI's Access to Information Programme and was presided over by the organisation's Director, Mr. Sanjoy Hazarika. Mr. Nayak attempted to explain the precepts of the RTI Act. In doing so, he sought to explain its revolutionary nature. The speaker argued that the RTI act's efforts to bring about transparency was successful to the extent that Indian villagers were more likely to be aware of the act than of the constitution itself. An estimated 8 million applications have been made since the law was introduced in 2005. Mr. Nayak also addressed the challenges that are faced by RTI activists throughout the country. Karnataka features amongst the top 3 deadliest states for RTI applicants, according to statistics presented by the speaker. He stated that the act was formulated to make state information readily available to the public. By design, the act has a mechanism that ensures the transfer of applications to concerned authorities. The onus is thus not on the citizen but on state officials to find the concerned departments to address queries, argued Mr. Nayak. He also emphasised that the act had become a fundamental right and spoke about the inexpensive nature of filing applications. The law's enforcement mechanism was also explained, with various penalties incurred by governmental authorities on non-compliance also being discussed. Instances where the government could deny information requests were also examined by the speaker. Through the course of the session, CHRI's team also explained the organisation's internship policy. The session concluded with a few questions being addressed by Mr. Nayak


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