Information is prerequisite for humans to perform several activities. It is recognised that knowing and circulating information is very vital for ensuring transparency and accountability of government organs, which now accepted as an indispensable part of any welfare state. It provides public participation in decision making that affect their fundamental human rights. There is no denying the fact that the idea of the rule of law, freedom of expression and good governance are becoming meaningless without access to information. Properly instigated and working access to information system provides as many assistants to government organs as it ensures to the individuals they administer over.
In Bangladesh, the Right to Information (RTI) Act has been enacted in 2009, which is the significant development in the field of promoting human rights and good governance. Although in the Constitution of Bangladesh there is no direct mention about right to information, the preamble of the RTI Act stipulates that the right to information is an essential part of freedom of speech, conscience, and thought which is guaranteed as a fundamental right in Article 39 of the Constitution. As article 7(1) of the Constitution promotes supremacy of the Constitution declaring “all powers of the Republic belong to the people”, right to information is thus necessary to empower people.
The purposes of the RTI Act are to increase transparency and accountability, to decrease corruption and established good governance. Such objects cannot be fulfilled without an easy access to information by ordinary people. Section 6 of the RTI Act ensures that every authority should publish and publicise all information related to any executed or proposed activities and decisions in such a manner which can easily be accessible to the citizens. The section also ensures that authorities can not cancel any information and limit the easy access. The Act has delegated the power to make the regulation to the information commission under section 6(8) regarding the publishing, publicising and obtaining information. On 30 December 2010, the Commission adopted the Right to Information (Publication and Publicisation of Information) Regulation and fixed the time frame and ways of publishing information. According to Schedule 1 and 2 of the Regulation, the authorities should publish information on their website and internet along with the printed copy, but eight long years have been passed away and the Regulation is barely implemented.
In 2017, the Information Commission started Online RTI Application and Tracking System which received much appreciation from different stakeholders. However, the initiative is yet to see huge success due to the lack of expected promotion and public awareness. Every government authority should start to take the online application to change the overburden situation and to facilitate easy access to information. The government authorities should also publish all information on their official website subject to the RTI Act and the RTI Regulation. Without facilitating easy access to information to the common people, the purposes of RTI Act cannot be fulfilled.
Md. Lutfur Rahman
LLM Candidate, South Asian University, New Delhi, India