India’s Right to Information Act has been ranked second in a survey of information laws in 95 countries, in which developed countries, such as the US and UK, ranked far behind developing nations.
Serbia topped the RTI rankings in the survey, which measured the law’s legal framework and not the quality of its implementation in 95 countries. The survey was conducted by two human rights organisations — Access Info Europe (AIE) and the Canada-based Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD). The survey’s results were published in a report, RTI Rating Data Analysis Series: Overview of Results and Trends. Countries were ranked based on points given on seven parameters right to access, scope, requesting procedures, exceptions and refusals, appeals, sanctions and protections, and promotional measures.
Serbia, which introduced the information law in 2004, scored 135 points while India, with 130 points, shared the second spot with Slovenia. The Indian law scored high on right to access, requesting procedure, appeals, exceptions and refusals, but came up short on the scope of the Act framed, sanctions and protections and promotional measures.
Commenting on the rankings, Bhaskar Prabhu of the Mahiti Adhikar Manch, which conducts regular RTI workshops in the city, said that the RTI Act needs better implementation. “While the world is saying legal framework here is the best, people say there is misuse. People are suffering because of non-transparency and lack of information. Empowerment is not happening because information is not being provided,” he said.
The RTI rankings threw up surprising results for developed countries, which fared poorly compared to developing ones. Explaining this, the report stated that developing countries have better legal framework because they have taken views of the experts and law makers as the Act has evolved.
“We can observe that developed countries do poorly in terms of right of access and scope and better in terms of appeals. This probably reflects the absence of constitutional protection for RTI in many developed countries, the limited scope of their laws in terms of the legislature and judicial branches of government, and their stronger belief in independent oversight,” it said.
“Eastern and Central Europe, on the other hand, does poorly on appeals, perhaps reflecting their lack of experience with independent administrative bodies, and exceptionally well on scope, perhaps a reflection of their belief in the need to bring all public bodies under the ambit of the law to avoid the abuses of the past.”