Sunshine in the Courts- Ranking the High Courts on Their Compliance With the RTI Act

A two-volume study on High Court compliance with RTI Act and ranking of High Court on determined parameters

Summary: The report identifies the gap between the judicial pronouncement on RTI and the way the High Court administration complies with the RTI Act in practice.

The Right to Information Act, 2005 is the first of its kind sunshine law in India which aims at ushering in a transparency revolution. Not only does it provide a convenient mechanism for obtaining information from public authorities, the Act also creates a positive obligation upon authorities such as the High Courts and District Courts to proactively publish information about their functioning. The successful implementation of the Act has been made possible only by the aid of the judiciary which has led to the strengthening of the accountability of public institutions in India. Unfortunately, however, the judiciary has itself not been abiding by the letter and spirit of the RTI Act. Section 28 of the Act provides competent authorities, such as the High Courts, to devise their own set of Right to Information Rules, which the High Courts have used to circumvent the Act. The High Courts have also underperformed while complying with the disclosure requirements under Section 4 of the Act.

After undertaking an extensive analysis on various parameters, the report ranks all the High Courts on their compliance with the RTI Act by devising four indices – Legality Index (which assesses the legality of the High Court RTI Rules vis-á-vis the RTI Act), Convenience Index (which assesses the extent to which the RTI Rules framed by the High Courts make it inconvenient for citizens to file RTI applications), Practice Index (which assesses the practices used by the Public Information Officers of the High Courts to respond to RTI applications) and the Disclosures Index (which assesses the quality of disclosures made by the High Courts under the RTI Act). Additionally, we also evaluate the quality of the disclosures made by the District Courts under the RTI Act.

The report is in two volumes. Volume I is the main report which assesses the compliance of the High Courts with the RTI Act and explains the indices along with the findings. Volume II creates individual scorecards for individual high Courts and makes detailed recommendations to ensure their compliance with the Act.

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