November 15 2019
GS Paper II
Open, all the same
The recent Supreme Court verdict in bringing the office of Chief Justice of India under the scanner of RTI Act. The case stems from an RTI request/application made by an activist in the SC for the complete correspondence between the Collegium and the government on certain judicial appointments also in case of allegations of corruptions.
What’s in the news?
A five-judge bench led by the Chief Justice of India pronounced the judgment in the case for bringing to the public for the declaration of the personal assets of the judge, in the words of the verdict, as a voluntary act towards increasing the transparency from the apex body of the judiciary.
The case reflects back to the 2009 standing of Justice S Ravindra Bhat, a single-judge bench of the Delhi High Court that had declared the CJI’s office as having a duty to disclose the details of the personal assets of other apex courts. He had then observed that “All power-judicial power being no exception is held accountable in the modern Constitution”. The decision of a judge could have a direct impact on people’s lives, properties, liberties and individual freedoms, and he/ she being a person who interprets duties and limitations placed upon State and non-State agencies, has an obligation to disclose his or her personal assets to someone or an authority.
7 out of the 34 Supreme Court judges are now made available in the public domain.
- According to the RTI activists, it will prove to be a milestone in the journey to transparency and shall be a precedent to help usher in more transparency and accountability, especially on the part of institutions that had hitherto been reluctant to comply with the Act in the past.
- According to the author, the SC ruling into embodying the office of Chief Justice of India under the RTI Act as much as the apex court itself and enables the ideology the “disclosure of the assets” is a facet of public interest. However the bench panellist Justice Ramana also argued that there needs to be an efficient calibration of transparency in light of the importance of judicial independence, without harming the nuances of the privacy of the judge’s personal belongings.
- It was indeed another unanimous judgement by the panel and the Bench argued that the right to know under the RTI Act was not absolute and this had to be balanced with the right of privacy of the judges, but still serves that the declaration would not demean the right to their privacy.
- RTI cannot be used as a tool of surveillance and that judicial independence has to be kept in mind while dealing with transparency.
- The main opinion also argued that the information related to issues of certain judicial appointments will also be subject to the test of public interest and procedures mandated in the RTI Act that specifies that the views of the 3rd parties (in this case, the judges must be sought).
- Apart from upholding the Delhi High Court verdict in 2009, is an explicit exhortation to the other institutions such as the registered political parties and political leaders to impinge upon issues such as disclosure under the RTI Act. This is vital as the political party financing is an obscure area that is marked by opacity and exacerbated by the issue of electoral bonds, interdicting the citizens from being fully informed about the whereabouts of the sources of party incomes.
Right to Information Act, 2005 is an act of the Parliament to practically set out the regime for the citizens to the right to information by replacing the erstwhile Freedom of Information Act, 2002. Under this Act, the provisions state that any citizen of India may request information from a public authority that is required to reply expeditiously with or within 30 days.
It also must ensure that all records that are appropriate to be computerized are, within a reasonable time and subject to availability of resources, computerized and connected through a network all over the country on different systems so that access to such records is facilitated.
It includes the right to information to-
- inspect works, documents, records
- take notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records.
- take certified samples of material
- obtain information in form of printouts, diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts.
What is “public authority”?
A “public authority” means any authority or body or institution of self- government established or constituted—
- by or under the Constitution;
- by any other law made by Parliament;
- by any other law made by State Legislature;
- by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government, and includes any—
- Body owned, controlled or substantially financed;
- Non-Government organization substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government.
- Covers all bodies in the Centre, State and Local levels
- Covers executive, judiciary and legislature
It includes information relating to private body which can be accessed by under any other law for the time being in force.
Agenda of the RTI:
- Transparency & Accountability in the working of every public authority is an essential right to seek information about.
- The right of any citizen of India to request access to information and the corresponding duty of Govt. to meet the request.
- The duty of Govt. to pro-actively make available key information to the public.
Objectives of the Act:
- To empower the citizens
- To promote transparency and accountability
- To contain corruption and
- To enhance people’s participation in the democratic process.
Importance of RTI Act
- It did not create a new bureaucracy for implementing the law, but instead, it mandated the government, private or public authority officials to change their mind and voluntarily disclose their assets or information regarding public interest.
- The Information Commission is mandated to be the highest authority in the country to order any office in the country to provide information as per the provisions of the Act ad empowered the CIC to penalize any official who disregarded the mandate.
- It has, ever since its conception been a key to strengthen participatory democracy and usher in people-centred and public-oriented governance.
- Enables the poor and the weaker sections of the society to demand to get information about the public policies or actions that affect their welfare.
- Improves decision making by the public authority by removing unnecessary secrecy.
NOTE: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is out of the purview of the RTI Act. It was granted exemption in 2011.
GS Paper II
- The theme of BRICS summit this year is ‘Economic Growth for an Innovative Future’
- This 11th BRICS Summit will be the 6th time our Prime Minister will be participating in the BRICS Summit, his first being in Fortaelza, also in Brazil in 2014. India is looking forward to wider cooperation in a range of areas.
- The BRICS Summit 2019 is the 11th edition of the annual summit. Brazil’s capital city, Brasilia is the host of the 11th BRICS summit.
- The BRICS 2019 is expected to focus on strengthening cooperation in the fields of science, technology, innovation and the digital economy.
- The annual summit also aims to advance cooperation in the fight against transnational crime, especially organized crime, money laundering and drug trafficking.
Highlights of BRICS:
- BRICS brings together the 5 major emerging economic comprising 40% of the 40% of the world’s proportion with 23% of the global GDP and around 17% of the share n world trade.
- All BRICS nations are members of the G20 group.
- These 5 nations account for 50% of the world economic growth and 13.24% of the World Bank voting power.
- This year’s Summit is significant for India as the bloc is focused on increasing the working of the joint progression on sub-groups of counter-terrorism in areas like terror financing, counter-radicalization, capacity building, use of the internet, etc.
India’s bilateral talks on the sidelines of BRICS Summit:
India and Brazil- 2019 talks:
To enhance the strategic partnership between the 2 nations, the PM outlined the areas for potential investment from Brazil including areas such as agricultural equipment, biofuels, post-harvest technologies and animal husbandry.
India and China- 2019 talks:
The two leaders further agreed on the importance of maintaining close dialogue on matters such as trade and investment.
The leaders further reviewed the ongoing preparations for the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and China in 2020.
They also exchanged mutual interests and co-operations in maintaining peace and security in the border areas and interacted on issues around RCEP, WTO and BRICS.
India and Russia- 2019 talks:
The 2 countries are meeting for the 4th time in 2019 and this has reiterated their interests in the success of the bilateral agreements.
They further decided to hold the 1st bilateral regional forum between Russian Provinces and the Indian States in 2020 to do away with the trade barriers at the regional level.
The 2 nations also noted the progress made in the oil and natural gas sectors; Russia has invited India to explore and invest in the resource-rich Arctic region in natural gas wielding potential.
They reviewed the progress made in the infrastructure sector especially in railways including the raising of the speed of the Nagpur-Secunderabad sector railway line. They keynoted the cooperation between the 2 nations in Defence and Civil Nuclear Energy sectors.
- BRICS is an acronym for the grouping of the world’s leading emerging economies, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
- The first BRIC Summit took place in 2009 in the Russian Federation and focused on issues such as reform of the global financial architecture.
- The BRICS Leaders’ Summit is convened annually.
- The bloc is an emerging investment pool and a global trade-power bloc.
- The Chairmanship of the forum is rotated annually among the members in accordance with the acronym- B-R-I-C-S.
- It does not function as an organisation or body, but as an annual commitment between 5 supreme leaders.
- The name was coined initially in 2001 by an economist in Goldman Sachs in a report on growth prospects for the economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China that together represented a significant holding in world’s production and population.
- 2006: The 4 countries initiated informal diplomatic coordination with annual meetings of Foreign Ministers at the margins of the UN General Assembly to carry out at the levels of Heads of State and Government in Annual Summits.
2010: South Africa was invited to join BRIC in December 2010 and joined in the 3rd BRICS Summit in 2011.
- The BRICS seeks to deepen, broaden and intensify cooperation within the grouping and among the individual countries for more sustainable, equitable and mutually beneficial development.
- BRICS takes into consideration each member’s growth, development and poverty objectives and building relations on the respective country’s economic strengths.
- Starting with the mutual interests of economic arrangements, BRICS has now expanded to cover major global issues like Finance, Trade, Agriculture, Science and Technology, Communication, Climate Change, Labour, Health, etc.
- The New Development Bank (NDB) and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) are the financial mechanisms under BRICS.
- BRICS Credit Rating Agency may come in the near future to take on the monopoly of the West.
- BRICS is emerging as a new and promising political-diplomatic entity with diverse objectives, far beyond the original objective of reforming global financial institutions.
Areas of Cooperation: The work on the cornerstones of co-operation in economic and trade flows, people-to-people exchange and political and security co-operations.