1.1 What is information?
Information is a term with many meanings depending on context, but is as a rule closely related to such concepts as meaning, knowledge, instruction, communication, representation, and mental stimulus.
So simply we can say that the information is-
- a) A message received and understood.
- b) Knowledge acquired through study or experience or instruction.
- c) Formal accusation of a crime.
- d) A collection of facts from which conclusions may be drawn; “statistical data”
Information means any material in any form including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, sample, models, data, material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be access by a public authority under any law for the time being in force.
Information is a message, something to be communicated from the sender to the receiver, as opposed to noise, which is something that inhibits the flow of communication or creates misunderstanding. If information is viewed merely as a message, it does not have to be accurate. It may be a lie, or just a sound. This model assumes a sender and a receiver, and does not attach any significance to the idea that information is something that can be extracted from an environment, e.g., through observation or measurement. Information in this sense is simply any message the sender chooses to create.
1.2 What is right to information and empowerment of people?
- A) Definition of right to information:
The “right to information” is defined in sec. 2(j) of Right to information Act 2009 as a right to information accessible under the Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes a right to (i) inspection of work, documents, records, (ii) taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records, (iii) taking separate samples of material, (iv) obtaining information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts where such information is stored in a computer or in any other device .
Recently Bombay High Court (Goa Banch) has delivered a judgment under the right to information Act 2005, wherein after interpreting the definition of “Information” the high
has ruled as under.
Right to information means the right to inspection of work, documents, records taking notes extracts or certified copies of documents or records taking certified samples of material ; obtaining information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts where such information is stored in a computer or in other device subject to relevant provisions.
- B) Definition of Empowerment:
Empowerment is the process of obtaining these basic opportunities for marginalized people, either directly by those people, or through the help of non-marginalized others who share their own access to these opportunities. It also includes actively thwarting attempts to deny those opportunities. Empowerment also includes encouraging, and developing the skills for, self-sufficiency, with a focus on eliminating the future need for charity or welfare in the individuals of the group. This process can be difficult to start and to implement effectively, but there are many examples of empowerment projects, which have succeeded.
Empowerment includes the following, or similar, capabilities:-
- The ability to make decisions about personal/collective circumstances
- The ability to access information and resources for decision-making
- Ability to consider a range of options.
- Ability to exercise assertiveness in collective decision-making.
- Having positive thinking about the ability to make change.
- Ability to learn and access skills for improving personal/collective circumstance.
- Ability to inform others’ perceptions though exchanges, education and engagement.
- Involving in the growth process and changes that is never ending and self-initiated
- Increasing one’s positive self-image and overcoming stigma.
- Increasing one’s ability in discreet thinking to sort out right and wrong.
1.3 Historical background and origin of Right to information:
The history of the recognition of the right to information is much older. Thought, the first country to have the RTI law was Finland and Sweden in 1766 when the former was a territory governed by Sweden. The joint Parliament of the Finland and Sweden adopted the first RTI law of the world titled Access to Public Record Act, 1766. Nearly seventy countries have since enacted RTI law or Act, of which over 40 have done so during the decade of nineties and thereafter.
Over 70 countries around the world have implemented some form of the legislation. Sweden’s Freedom of the Press Act of 1766 is thought to be the oldest. Other countries are working towards introducing such laws, and many regions of countries with national legislation have local laws. For example, all states of the united state have laws governing
access to public document of state and local taxing entities, in addition to that country’s possession of the federal government.The relevant legal bases for the right to information are available in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) defines right to information as a fundamental ingredient of the right to freedom of expression in the following terms:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the right to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers. Article 19 of The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) guarantees the right to freedom of opinion and expression, in terms very similar to the UDHR. Read with Article 2 of the ICCPR, Article 19 requires States to facilitate the development of a diverse, vigorous and independent media, and provide effective guarantees for freedom of information.
Right to information includes right to understand the importance of information. The law on freedom of information should therefore make provisions for relevant public education and the dissemination of information regarding the right to information.
Comparing to the aforesaid legal contents, the Bangladesh Constitution speaks very little about the right to information. Article 39 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of expression. As freedom of expression presupposes a right to have information, Article 39 can be said to have provided the necessary impetus to frame a Right to Information Act. This has yet not been done in the last three decades. Furthermore, preserving a number of domestic secrecy laws including the Official Secrecy Act and the Conduct of Civil Servants Rules as well as some provisions of the Evidence Act dilutes the relevant constitutional and international guarantees.
1.4 Objectives of this research and research mythology
The primary objective is to extend the right of the community to have access to information held by State Government departments and local and public authorities with a view to achieving more open, accountable and responsible government.
Objects of this research subject matter:
To achieve this objective
- Give community members a legal right to obtain access to documents held by the University, including those relating to their personal affairs, subject only to a limited number of exemptions specified in the legislation; and
- Set out the Government’s intention that information should be released administratively as a matter of course, unless there is good reason not to release it; and
- Require agencies to publish a publication scheme setting out the classes of information the agency has available and the terms on which it will make the information available, including any charges.
- Set out the practical regime of right to information for citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority;
- Provide for the constitution of a Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
The course Research Method lies at the core of our Talent Program. Alongside the other courses of the Talent Program, this course aims to provide the theoretical understanding and training in the skills and aptitudes necessary for pursuing (Hon’s.) level research in the discipline of law. The course provides:
- An introduction in the (meta-) theoretical aspects of research(Primary);
- A training in ‘research in action’ (secondary).
The best way to learn about research is to engage in research. Although scholarly work is sometimes solitary, it is nevertheless closely linked with the research, past and present, of others. Therefore, students will set up a collaborative project. They will be required to develop a research program together (via Wiki) and then individually write up a final research proposal based on the earlier group assignment. This means that students not only have to develop an effective research question and design a research plan during the course, they also have to account for the meta-theoretical aspects of the proposed research and the intended methods of research. This year, the theme of the research program will be ‘responsibility’.
This course, together with the other courses of the Talent Program, provides both the theoretical framework and training skills and aptitudes necessary for students intending to pursue (Hon’s.) level research in the discipline of law. Students are familiarized with different traditions and methods of research, as well as with different sorts of research questions and research objectives. Students will come to understand the connection between research question and the method(s) of research. They become aware of the pre-scientific assumptions of their own and other’s research, and will become conscious of the position of their own research in the context of other research. They will learn how to develop an effective research question and to draw up a research plan. They will become able to adapt the presentation of research to the mode of publication.
secondary methods have been applied in the present research(Right to information).For being successful in primary method, a number of relevant books, articles, encyclopedias etc have been collected. And in secondary method, specialist commentary services with research questions have been taken.
Empowerment of people by the Right to Information?
2.1 Ensuring right to information, ensured good governance.
2.2 Right to information need for legal, social, political, economical and human Rights.
2.3 For finding job according to the merit.
2.4 In economic and business sectors.
2.5 In agriculture sectors.
2.1 Ensuring right to information, ensured good governance.
2.1.1 Good governance:
Government is the center point of a country. All activities of people are related with government directly or indirectly. So government is the supreme authority who can empower people thought in various ways.
Good governance” means the efficient and effective administration in a democratic framework. It involves high level organizational efficiency and effectiveness corresponding in a responsive way in order to attain the predetermined desirable goals of society. According to the World Bank document entitled ‘Governance and Development (1992)’, the parameters of good governance are as follows:
- Legitimacy of the political system. This implies limited and democratic government.
- Freedom of association and participation by various social, economic, religious, cultural and professional groups in the process of governance.
- An established legal framework based on the rule of law and independence of judiciary to protect human rights, secure social justice and guard against exploitation and abuse of power.
- Bureaucratic accountability including transparency in administration.
- Freedom of information and expression required for formulation of public policies, decision-making, monitoring and evaluation of government performance.
- A sound administrative system leading to efficiency and effectiveness.
- Co-operation between government and civil society organizations.
In light of the above, if one were to venture a list of parameters that go into determination of the quality of governance, the major factors would include limited Government, legitimacy of the Government, political and bureaucratic accountability, freedom of information and expression, transparency and cost effective administration, established legal framework based on rule of law for protecting the human life, securing social justice and checking abuse of power.
2.1.2 Relation between Right to information and good governance:
Good Governance since 1978, due to un‑international standardized management, ie especially of some countries in Latin America and Africa, the super state, World Bank has then proposed a political term called good governance. In general sense good governance means an ideal governing system that is inevitable for political, economic, social and cultural development of a country. Ideal governing system means the ideal orientation of a state that works best to achieve self‑reliance, sustainable development and social justice and the ideal functioning of government that operate most efficiently.
According to V.K. Chopra, we define good governance as “a system of governance that is able to unambiguously identify the basic values of the society where values are economic, political and socio-cultural issues including human rights, and pursue these values through an accountable and honest administration.’
The basic premise behind the right to information is that, since Government is ‘for the people’; it should be open and accountable and should have nothing to conceal from the people it purports to represent. In a responsible Government like ours where all the agents of the public must be responsible for their conduct, there could be no secrets. The right to know, though not absolute, makes citizens wary when secrecy is claimed for common routine business of administration. Such secrecy is hardly desirable. Information is an antidote to corruption, it limits abuse of discretion, protects civil liberties, it provides consumer information, it provides people’s participation and brings awareness of laws and policies and is the elixir of the media.
Currently, the words “governance” and “good governance” are being increasingly used in development literature. “Bad governance” is being increasingly regarded as one of the root causes of all evil within our societies. Major donors and international financial institutions are increasingly basing their aid and loans on condition that schemes to ensure “good governance” are undertaken. Governance means the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are either implemented or failure in implementation is acknowledged and remedied. Governance includes national governance, international governance, corporate governance and local governance. Government is one of the actors in governance and so is the public sector. All actors other than Government, public sector and the military constitute “civil society”.
According to a paper prepared by the Human Rights Initiative, good governance has eight major facets. It is participatory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive and follows the rule of law. It is assessed that if corruption is minimized, the views of the minorities and vulnerable members of society are heard, that promotes governance. Good governance is an ideal, which is difficult to achieve in its totality. However, to ensure sustainable human development, action must be taken to work towards this ideal. The right to information is one of the methods by which success may be achieved in good governance.
2.2 Right to information need for legal, social, political, economical and human Rights:
Human development can be described as a comprehensive economical, social, cultural and political process, which aims at the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population and of all individuals. The right to information as a human right is a result and/or product of the human development. However, human rights which protect our lives need to be protected by a full democracy in the country. If there is not a full democracy, all members of the society can not participate in the decision making process and for this reason they need the right to information. Unless there is a true democracy in a country, the problem of the right to information can not be solved, fully. If we accept that a full democracy is a pre-condition for the right to information, it can be also said that developing countries do not have the chance to use the right to information wholly yet.
The phrase of the right to information does not have any meaning for a person who is hungry, who does not have enough money to live; who is not educated and who does not have freedom. In the same way, a country which has the problem of hunger, education, economic and politic freedom cannot give the priority to the right to information. Of course, information is a power which plays important role in solving these problems. But governments and individuals generally are not aware of this power, and say: first comes the right to eat, the right to work, the right to have a shelter, the right to have social security, in short the right to live and then the right to information (33). The right to access to information has not been realized by the majority of India’s people. Rather than protecting citizen’s right to information, India and other developing countries have created a “poverty of information” through sanctioning an official culture of secrecy. And the media in these countries has not done enough to counter this culture by procuring information and putting it in the public domain.
Libraries, especially public libraries, as information and cultural centers have important responsibilities in safeguarding the public’s right to information. Libraries are a good answer to many of the challenges in the information society. It is now realized clearly that there is a strong relationship between the level of development and the use of public libraries. For the use of public libraries in a country there must be enough public libraries and educational facilities. Development is the foundation which increases the public library use and consequently the right to information. Further Library services, and of course the right to information can be thought as a part of the national information policy. However, most of the least developed and developing countries generally do not have national information policies. Lack of a national information policy in a country affects library services and the right to information negatively
Public information and transparency fall within the scope of libraries’ expertise. This applies to the production of information and to its presentation and the ensuring of access to information and services. The demand for libraries’ expertise in modern society is quite clear. What is still unclear to many decision-makers is the wide range of functions that libraries can fulfill if they are asked to do so and supplied with adequate resources (34). Thus there is an urgent need to develop public policy in relation to IT and public libraries which should have definite clause on how information literacy skills can better aid and uphold the implementation of Right to Information Act. It should further enlists the guidelines on how each village / district/ rural library can strategically spread information literacy among the realties and further orient them to use information literacy skills for exploit their right to information which further can help them to improve their standard of living.
2.3 For finding job according to the merit:
We live in an information-hungry world that simply couldn’t function without computers. By the same token, the world can’t turn without the ‘tetchiest’ who troubleshoot, devise creative solutions to computing problems and save our bacon when things go wrong. Quite simply, computer expertise is in demand and, if you’re technically minded, there is an information technology job somewhere out there for you.
IT employment opportunities are varied and exciting. Some jobs offer you the opportunity to be your own boss, working as an independent consultant or from home. Others allow you to work in a variety of business and allied environments. For qualified people with the right skills, this is a sector where one can make a good living, with the possibility for top rank employees and consultants to earn top level salaries. Unless you have relevant work experience or can otherwise demonstrate your expertise, for most IT jobs today you will need to have formal qualifications of some kind. A bachelor’s degree in computer science or computer information systems is a basic requirement for most jobs in information technology. Postgraduate qualifications can be useful in some sectors of the industry. IT professionals at the top of their game can look forward to a bright future.
Within the information technology job market there are many niches, with job opportunities to suit most people’s preferences. If you’re happy to spend much of your time on your own with your computer, there are jobs in software development that should suit your temperament and test your ability to create innovate solutions. Not all information technology jobs are solo enterprises. Many positions are people-oriented and will suit computer professionals who like their job to include interaction with others. Jobs on help desks are a good example. They will require you to have patience and people skills as well as the technical knowledge to solve the problems that crop up in the average computer user’s working day. Many of the job descriptions in the information technology sector feature teamwork and liaison with like-minded professionals, and offer people careers with a strong management component. Lead applications developers work with teams of experts, while network managers also have a managerial role.
2.4 In economic and business sectors:
Information technology (IT) refers to the management and use of information using computer-based tools. It includes acquiring, processing, storing, and distributing information. Most commonly it is a term used to refer to business applications of computer technology, rather than scientific applications. The term is used broadly in business to refer to anything that ties into the use of computers.
Mostly businesses today create data that can be stored and processed on computers. In some cases the data must be input to computers using devices such as keyboards and scanners. In other cases the data might be created electronically and automatically stored in computers. Small businesses generally need to purchase software packages, and may need to contract with IT businesses that provide services such as hosting, marketing web sites and maintaining networks. However, larger companies can consider having their own IT staffs to develop software, and otherwise handle IT needs in-house. For instance, businesses working with the federal government are likely to need to comply with requirements relating to making information accessible.
The constant upgrade in information technology, along with increasing global competition, is adding difficulty and hesitation of several orders of scale to the business and trade. One of the most widely discussed areas in recent business literature is that of new organizational network structures that hold survival and growth in an environment of growing complexity. Effective implementation of information technology would decrease liability by reducing the cost of expected failures and increase flexibility by reducing the cost of adjustment. The businesses reaction to the environment remains to be the vital determinant for its effectiveness. The capabilities and flexibilities of computer-communication systems make them gradually more appropriate to businesses by being able to respond to any specific information or communication requirement.
Information Technology is having impact on all trade industries and businesses, in service as well as in manufacturing. It is affecting workers at all levels of organizations, from the executives to middle management and clerks. Information technology is increasingly becoming a basic factor of all types of technologies such as craft, engineering, routine, and non-routine. The advances in Information Technology would result in remarkable decline in the costs of synchronization that would lead to new, concentrated business structures. It enables the business to respond to the new and urgent competitive forces by providing effective management of interdependence.
In the near future businesses would be facing a lack and a redundancy of information called information glut. To solve the information-glut companies will need to introduce methods for selective thinning out of information. Improvements in telecommunications will make it easier to control business units dispersed over different parts of the world. Advances in telecommunications, would result in increased distance-communication. Indirect communication would be preferred for well-structured information for routine, preprogrammed and decision processes.
2.5 Information for agriculture:
In any sector information is the key for its development. Agriculture is not exception to it. If the relevant and right information in right time is provided it can help agriculture a lot. It helps to take timely action, prepare strategies for next season or year, speculate the market changes, and avoid unfavorable circumstances. So the development of agriculture may depend on how fast and relevant information is provided to the end users. There are other traditional methods to provide the information to the end users. Mostly they are inoculated, untamed and also communication is one way only. It will take long time provide the information and get feedback from the end users.So now its time to look at the new technologies and methodologies, which will benefit developing nation like India, which can help it to become the super power. There are many ways in which Information Technology can be used to exchange the information rather effective communication like information kiosks which provide not only the basic services like email, helps in education, health services, Agriculture and Irrigation, online trading, community services etc., expert systems which helps in determining marketing alternatives and optimal strategies for producers, integrated crop management systems for different crops, Farm-level Intelligent Decision Support system developed to assist in determining optimal machinery management practices for farm-level system. Many organizations and Institutes are utilizing the information technology to provide solutions to the problems faced by the agriculture sector in a cost effective manner with proper business models.
A cross disciplinary group working on research issues in increasing access to internet and communication technologies to rural and small town India. The lab is involved in various projects funded by Media Lab Asia, Ministry of Communications and IT (GoI), Development Gateway Foundation (GoI, World Bank) and Pan Asia Networking (UNDP, IDRC, APDIP, ISOC, APNIC and Microsoft). The areas under investigation include design and evaluations of devices and interfaces for computer, handheld and mobile users, cross-lingual information retrieval and translation, improving information dissemination protocols over the internet catering for low bandwidth and small devices, ethnographic studies emphasizing the study of social & cultural factors influencing interaction design of applications for e-learning and use of computers in education. The laboratory is formed around several core projects, each involving academic, industrial and village community partners.
The agriculture scenario all over the world is undergoing a rapid change particularly after WTO Agreements came to existence. In order to take full advantage of the changing global agricultural scenario interconnecting of policies related to pricing, marketing and trading of agricultural commodities are also reviewed. Simultaneously there is also need to review and revitalize the mechanism for transfer of technology under changing environment. It is readily accepted that increased information flow has a positive effect on the agricultural sector and individual firms. However, collecting and disseminating information is often difficult and costly. Information Technology (IT)offers the ability to increase the amount of information provided to all participants in the agricultural sector and to decrease the cost of disseminating the information. An understanding of the factors associated with IT adoption and use in agriculture will enable the development of strategies to promote IT adoption and increase the effectiveness and efficiency of information used in agriculture.
It is a fact that access to information holds the key for successful development. Improved communications and information access is directly related to socio-economic development of any nation. Agriculture is one of the prospective areas in which IT can effectively be applied particularly for the social and economic development of the Indian agrarian community. However, rural population in our country still have difficulties in accessing crucial information in the forms they can understand in order to make timely decisions for better farming. IT is generating possibilities to solve such problems of different categories of end users. For this purpose electronic communications infrastructure needs to be established in the country for remote rural areas. The challenge is not only to improve the accessibility of communications technology to the rural population but also to improve the relevance of information to local development.
The present article depicts the changing scenario of information dissemination exploiting the information technology to the farmers for their agricultural development.
IT is playing an important and vital role in agricultural production and marketing. IT allows farmers to save time on order and delivery and getting feedback. In the existing competition, there is a need to rapidly attract new customers as well as retain existing customers. In order to take the real status of agricultural production and marketing, there is an urgent need to develop the following items:
- Farmers’ crop database must be managed. The database includes the kinds of crops, the size of cultivated area, time of harvest and yield. Farmers or the extension personnel transmit those data via the Internet to database server. Further, information provides the farmer with an important instrument for decision making and taking action.
- Crops information service system should be created. This system analyzes the crop data to create some statistical tables. Farmers can access these statistical data by browsing the homepage and make their production plan. Changes within the structure of agriculture will probably have an impact on the selection and types of acquisition of software and other integrated systems made by the farmers.
- Production techniques and information inquiry system should be created. This system integrates the production techniques and information, which are developed by experimental agricultural institutes and agricultural improvement stations. Farmers can find out relevant production information through this inquiry service system.
- Production equipment’s inquiry service system should be created. This system gathers information from the companies of seeds and crop production equipment to build the production equipment’s inquiry service system. At the same time, allow relevant companies to access this system and enter their own data. Therefore, farmers can order the needed items through this system. Information is critical to the social and economic activities that comprise the development process. Development economy has witnessed for revolutions in agricultural (i.e. Green, white, yellow and blue revolution), bio-technological, industrial and information technology. Good communication system and information system reinforce commitments to sustainable productivity. The Government of India is giving more thrust on agriculture, food and information technology sectors towards achievement of economic reforms to achieve high growth rate in production in the years to come.
The National Agriculture Policy announced addresses the challenges arising out of economic liberalization and globalization. It seeks to actualize the vast untapped growth potential of BD agriculture, strengthen rural infrastructure to support faster agricultural development, promote value addition and secure a fair standard of living for farmers and farm workers. The National Agriculture Policy lays emphasis on the use of Information Technology for achieving a more rapid development of agriculture in India. In pursuance thereof, the Department of Agriculture & Cooperation (DAC) has formulated information technology (IT) Vision 2020. This vision inter-alia envisages that:
- a) Information relating to agriculture sector would be available to the ultimate users – the farmers – for optimizing their productivity and income;
- b) Extension and advisory services making use of information technology would be available to the farmers on round the clock basis;
- c) The tools for information technology will provide networking of agriculture sector not only in the country but also globally and the Union and State Government Departments will have reservoirs of data base; and
- d) The long term vision on ‘Information Technology in Agriculture Sector’ is to bring farmers, researchers, scientists and administrators together by establishing ‘Agriculture on-line’ through exchange of ideas/information. In future, information technology will reduce the cost and time of information system. IT will bring new information services for agricultural development that will enable the farmers to have much greater control over the information channels.
Towards People’s Empowerment and Right to Information in Bangladesh
3.1 Legal perspective
3.2 The right to Information: Mother of all Rights.
3.3 The way ahead.
3.1 Legal perspective:
Few other pieces of law in Bangladesh have raised as high expectations as the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2009, adopted in the first session of the Ninth Parliament on March 29, 2009. The provisions of the law became effective on July 1, 2009, while on the next day the Government formed the Bangladesh Information Commission as provided by the law. The heightened expectation of the law is primarily because of the kind of potential and opportunity created by it as captured by the Prime Minister in the above statement.
The enactment of the Right to Information Act is an epoch-making incident in the history of Bangladesh … it will greatly help establish accountability and transparency in every sphere of society and the administration … the government will continue to work to safeguard the people’s right to information.
The preamble to the Act refers to the constitutional commitment to freedom of thought, conscience and speech as a fundamental right and on that basis recognizes the importance of ensuring free flow of information and people’s right to information as an inalienable part of this fundamental right. Reiterating the other key constitutional provision that all powers of the republic belongs to the people, it underlines that for true empowerment of the people the RTI is indispensable. It also declares that RTI will ensure transparency and accountability in all public institutions and non-government organizations (NGOs) that operate using government or foreign funds.
The preamble declares that RTI will lead to control of corruption and improvement of governance quality.The law empowers citizens to seek and receive information and official documents from authorities covered under the law. The RTI can not only empower the people to hold the authorities including the Government accountable but also indeed in its letter and spirit has the potential to revolutionize the concept of democratic governance – governance that engages the people to establish democracy with the people.
The people’s right to information is far more than enactment of the Right to Information Act (RTI) Act, it is about its compliance and enforcement. It is also about ensuring that the people’s access to information is ensured in all aspects of the society in a way that daily lives of citizens are positively transformed. This is much easier expected than achieved, for which a whole range of stakeholders have to own it, take the responsibility, and deliver the same. A year and a half after the enactment of the law, this paper is an attempt to assess the progress towards its implementation against the expectations and to identify key areas of strategic emphasis needed in moving ahead if the law has to serve its goals and objectives.
The experience of implementation of right to information laws worldwide shows how difficult, long-drawn and often frustrating it is for people to start to reap the benefit out of such laws. Bangladesh will be no exception, and indeed for all practical purposes it may be even premature to make an assessment of the progress in that direction. The theme of the paper is even more important because laws and institutions of democracy in Bangladesh face perennial challenge of multifarious nature including an erosion of public trust and confidence. For many there may be a sense of helplessness, despair, cynicism and even apathy as far as rule of law is concerned and the capacity of laws and institutions to deliver. It is also important in a situation where in spite of highly supportive statement of the Prime Minister mentioned above, opposing views from the corridors of the Government not are not far to seek.
3.2 The right to Information: Mother of all Rights.
The Right to Information is the key to all other rights. It is among the most important instruments to effectively empower those to whom power should belong in democracy – the people. The United Nations has called it the touchstone of all the freedoms to which UN is consecrated. The history of the recognition of the right to information is much older though. The first country to have the RTI law was Finland and Sweden in 1766 when the former was a territory governed by Sweden. The joint Parliament of the then Finland and Sweden adopted the first RTI law of the world titled Access to Public Records Act, 1766. More than eighty countries have since enacted RTI law or act, of which over 40 have done so during the decade of nineties and thereafter. The fact that the newly elected Government of Bangladesh adopted the Right to Information Act in the very first session of the 9th Parliament, marked a significant step forward in fulfilling the constitutional pledge of the state of Bangladesh.
This upsurge of the RTI law worldwide comes as an indicator of the growing recognition of the importance of the citizens’ access to information as a catalyst for strengthening democracy, promoting human rights and good governance, and fighting corruption. Enactment of RTI laws has in many cases taken persistent efforts of campaign and advocacy by a multiplicity of stakeholders in the public, private, and nongovernmental sectors, particularly the latter who like in Bangladesh, played the catalytic role. The experience of RTI movement shows that while enactment of the law appears as a dream-come-true for the campaigners, its implementation, like any other law enforcement, is much more challenging.
The enactment of the Act marks the culmination of a process that can be traced from 1983 when the Press Commission recommended adoption of an RTI Act, through the Law Commission’s Working Paper of 2002 and the civil society demand for an Act that
intensified by 2004. As a part of their advocacy for an RTI Act the civil society organizations eventually formed the RTI Forum led by the Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF), which drafted the Act and lobbied with the Government. The demand for the RTI
Act occupied a central position in public discourse as reflected in the media and eventually in the election manifesto of the major political parties. Coupled with continued efforts by the RTI Forum, this resulted in the adoption of the RTI Act 2009 by the present
Government. As much as the enactment represented a realization of one of the key electoral pledges of the Government, it also a significant step forward in fulfilling Bangladesh’s international commitment as a State Party to the UN Convention against Corruption, which provides for creating legal and institutional mechanisms to ensure people’s access to information.
Result of a collective effort by stakeholders within and outside the Government, the RTI Act of Bangladesh has made a good beginning as a comparable law with those adopted by many other countries in recent times. The Act has been welcomed and criticized as it happens in case of any law like this, especially with respect to the list of exemptions which many including this author considers to be too long. Like any other law the RTI Act in its present form is not necessary written in stone, and can be expected to be amended in due course in incremental approach to meet higher standards.
3.3 The way ahead:
The challenges of RTI implementation cannot be viewed in isolation from those of the democratic space – the institutional, legal, political and behavioral context in a society that enables fulfillment of the letter and spirit of democracy. It is about the capacity, for example, of contesting political actors to uphold certain principles, values and standards so that opposing political stance and debate thrive. The democratic space is protected by basic standards of civility, mutual acceptability and coexistence of diverse political forces within the bounds of the rule of law. It is a set of democratic practices and spirit where politicians and political parties, as much as may be opposed to each other and may not accept what they stand for, would be able to ensure that the mutually conflicting stance remain within the “rules of the game,” so that one would defend the right of the other to differ and be critical.
The history of Bangladesh is replete with evidences of the people’s movement for the democratic space. Yet there is much to be desired in terms of the democratic and political space conducive to promotion of people’s right to information that demands much advanced and matured type of political behavior and practice to evolve only in a long term process. Politics in Bangladesh remains locked in a bitter confrontation of contested legitimacy and acceptability between the leading political parties. Disputing a policy or raising critical voice is often unacceptable. The prospect of refreshing transformation in democratic space in the days to come will depend on the leadership and the institutions and processes that are going to evolve. Equally, if not more important, will be the extent to which the people can engage in raising voice and demand to hold the government accountable in a space where questions or criticisms will be viewed as an indispensable element of democratic behavior for which people’s right to information will be recognized as indispensable. The change will come as an outcome of a collective of the following.
3.3.1 Primacy of the Political Commitment:
The most crucial factor that will continue to determine the degree of success in ensuring people’s right to information is the political will, the degree of commitment of the government, upon which rest the key responsibility and authority of creating conditions for effective implementation of the RTI law. That the enactment of the law was backed by a clear manifestation of the top level political will be hardly questioned. The right to information occupied a key position in the process building up to the national election to the 9th parliament held on December 29, 2008. All major political parties including the two major electoral alliances led by the ruling Bangladesh Awami League (AL) and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) recognized the importance of the RTI. The AL in particular committed in its election manifesto to ensure people’s right to information, so did the BNP, though the former was more specific about it. RTI was also prominently at the core of public discourse and demand, media reports and commentaries. A close look at the AL manifesto for the 9th Parliament elections makes it easy to realize how RTI was dovetailed with its commitment to promote good governance and control corruption. The key first step towards implementing the RTI – generating the political will – therefore was clearly taken. At the political level, commitment is one thing, while delivery can be quite different. The main challenge lies in the fact that information is power. It requires a paradigm shift including a major transformation of the mindset and attitudes to be able to share power and to own and internalize the culture of disclosure. What will remain an open question is the capacity to sustain the commitment.
3.3.2 National Implementation Strategy of RTI:
The implementation of RTI needs to be placed in a strategic framework and a plan of action with a time-frame preferably identifying targets in short, medium and long term. In developing the strategy, all stakeholders should be engaged, especially the Information Commission, civil society, NGOs, media and others in a participatory process. The lead has to be taken by the Information Ministry as the focal point to set up a high-powered inter-ministerial committee that could coordinate the development of the strategy and action plan. The technical input to the strategy could be outsourced to a panel of independent experts. The strategy and the action plan should contain clearly defined processes and tools of monitoring and evaluation. NGOs and other institutions covered by the law should develop their own time-bound implementation and monitoring plan. Information officers need to be designated early in all public offices. The office of the designated officers should be in such places as may be accessible to the people without any inconvenience. Special arrangements should be made for offices and/or institutions like the Government Ministries where entry of common people is restricted without which assigning designated officers will not bear fruit.
Effective implementation demands that necessary resources are allocated. Shortage of resources can turn out to be crucial in a country like Bangladesh where not only that the transition from the culture of secrecy will require significant investment in training and capacity building in the demand and supply side, but also modernizing the archiving and retrieval system of information will require huge investments for projects of relatively long term nature. A recent study has shown that even in highly developed countries like UK and USA shortage of resources stands out as a key predicament against implementing access to information. Therefore, the national implementation strategy must also provide for plans to generate appropriate funds in short, medium and long terms for implementation of the right to information. Such allocations should be reflected in the annual national budget as well as that of concerned authority as defined in the law. A sensible approach could be to start modestly on a pilot basis. It could be a phased initiative in which the law is enforced on experimental basis in a few key ministries and/or departments and then drawing upon the experience replicate the same over a well-designed time-line across the board. Such an approach can not only provide for learning by doing, but also prevent situations where both the demand and supply side can be overwhelmed by over-expectations.
3.3.3 Priority to Proactive Disclosure:
The Implementation Strategy should attach high priority to the principle of maximum possible proactive disclosure, which implies that disclosure is the rule, and nondisclosure
is the exception. Like RTI laws in most other countries, the Bangladesh RTI Act contains provisions requiring institutions or authorities covered by it to make certain types of information disclosed before being asked or proactively, by publishing reports or other means including websites. Proactive disclosure of this type can build the trust of the people on the authority whether in the public or non-governmental sector. If activities of the different ministries and/or departments including information on public procurement can be made available on-line everyone will have an equal opportunity to know about upcoming tenders and about contracts that have been awarded. Such measures can lead to
higher levels of accountability, and by limiting discretion reduce abuse of power. Experience of countries where access to information law has been effectively implemented shows that proactive disclosure before being asked also reduces the number of requests and cuts delays in receiving information when requested.
3.3.4 A Vibrant and Effective Information Commission:
Experience has shown that where an independent, sufficiently resourced and empowered Information Commission is operational to oversee the due enforcement of the right to information act it can make a hugely positive contribution in ensuring delivery of information to the seekers, addressing grievances, and above all, building the culture of openness in the government and other relevant bodies as well as the society as a whole. The enthusiasm of the Bangladesh Information Commission has raised many expectations. The Commission needs to develop its own strategy and plan of action, consisting of time-bound targets for its capacity building and delivery of measurable results and effectiveness. Much would depend on the degree to which it can achieve higher levels of public trust, credibility, professional excellence, visibility and dynamism. A Commission like this in Bangladesh will be as effective as the Government of the day
wants it to be. Hence in order to be sufficiently resourced – financial, human, technical, it
must take advantage of the highest level political commitment to build working relationship with the Government, while maintaining the highest degree of independence.
One important aspect of the law that needs to be reviewed together with the Government is article 17 that provides that the Government will determine the status, compensation and other benefits of the Chief Information Commissioners and other Commissioners shall be determined by the Government. This leaves uncertainty and creates the scope of undue dependence of the Commission upon the government. The Commission and its human resources are, to be sure, in a relatively unknown professional terrain, not least because of the need to cope with challenges of mindset transformation of stakeholders. Their own training and exposure to international expertise and experiences will therefore be of crucial importance. In addition to addressing the core jurisdiction of complains and appeals, the Commission should also develop its plan to conduct public awareness and outreach campaigns in collaboration with other stakeholders, particularly the civil society and NGOs. The awareness campaign should put specific emphasis on complains and appeals mechanisms, tools and processes that could ease the tension between the information providers and seekers. It should also contain information and communication plan delineating in plain language the scope of what should be expected of the law and what not in order avoid over-expectations and conflicts. The Commission will have to be specially alert that the appeals procedures are simple and easily accessible to all in both urban and rural settings. Special provisions must be made to ensure that the centralized structure of administration of the country does not act as a barrier to information requests and deliveries. In the absence of local offices of the proposed Information Commission, public libraries, post offices and NGO offices can be dovetailed into the access system. The Information Commission can actively engage with members of the parliament, particularly parliamentary committees in enforcing the implementation . Work of the Information Commission also needs to be monitored in order to determine its effectiveness in promoting implementation. This is a role primarily for the Commission itself. But they can also outsource some such responsibility involving the civil society like the RTI Forum and the media. The RTI Forum has undertaken an initiative to assess the level of implementation the Act focusing on all key stakeholders in both demand and supply side. A more specific regular activity of the Forum could be the tracking of the
work of the Commission including the actions or inaction of the Information Commission, consistency of decisions vis-à-vis the law and the rules, and to bring out periodic reports which the Commission can benefit from. A mission of the Information Commission should be to develop relationships with various authorities in a manner that helps inculcate a sense of ownership of the right to information. If the law and the Commission is perceived as intimidating to the supply side, the achievement of the purpose of the Act will be jeopardized. Regular consultations and collaboration between the authorities and the commission will help prevent possible misperceptions and mistrusts.
3.3.5. Breaking the culture of secrecy:
The most formidable challenge facing democratic and accountable governance is secrecy. Secrecy leads to concentration of power and widening of discretion which are ingredients of poor and unaccountable governance. Most governments, and indeed also often the non-government organizations are used to doing things in a secretive fashion. In general, most officials both within and outside the government possess a sense of possessiveness about in information at hand. Releasing them to the public is perceived as sharing the control and, hence, power. Therefore, a fundamental change in mindset is necessary.
Openness is more easily preached than practiced, often because of lack of capacity and knowledge, but more often because of a mindset. It is crucial therefore, to work towards achieving a qualitative change of mindset breaking away from a culture of secrecy to culture of openness. While officials in general have to be oriented towards the mindset change, it is particularly important in case of information officers with specific provisions for their training and capacity-building. Equally important for effective implementation is wide dissemination of the process of applying for information and contact details of the information officers. Priority should be to train a core team of officials at various levels who could then train and sensitize peers and others.
It will not be easy to move towards the culture of openness, but the sooner the holders of information realize the virtue of sharing information – how it improves governance, builds trust and increases credibility – the better is the possibility of specific results. It requires huge and comprehensive efforts, which must be built on motivation of stakeholders on how the change of mindset benefits the information providers too.
Providing information can, for instance, ease burden, improve credibility and acceptability, or even facilitate officials – public or private – to seek information on matters affecting themselves.
Drawing upon the national implementation strategy, the various authorities holding the information must develop and implement their respective disclosure and communication policies to provide the public with information upon demand and without being asked. Such policies should also define ways and means to build capacity to handle grievances and internal appeals against a decision by the designated officer.
Seeking and receiving information should not require any special effort. It should be easy and convenient for the information seeker, putting the onus on the supply side – the officials must be aware that they are not only obliged to supply information as provided by the law but also to justify denials, if any. The policy should provide tools and processes for monitoring of RTI implementation process with strict enforcement of disciplinary measures for willful and motivated denial of information.
An important way to mainstream right to information could be through reviewing the code of conduct of officials and staff in the public sector as well as NGOs to incorporate the commitment to openness. The RTI Act also obliges the Members of the Parliament to assume a more proactive and oversight role in enforcing the people’s right to information, which can be effective when they lead by example in disclosing information. Linking the right to information initiatives to the government’s grand vision of digital Bangladesh can greatly help the transition to culture of openness and building of systemic capacity for proactive disclosure.
3.3.6 RTI-friendly Information System:
One of the most formidable challenges of implementing RTI is the lack of capacity of the information holders – institutions as well as individuals. It goes without saying that the information management system in Bangladesh is archaic, because of which the practical limitations in retrieving and providing information may also be conveniently exploited to deny and deceive information seekers. There is no alternative to developing a modern digital system of information management that would facilitate easy, dependable and secure archiving and retrieval with clear tracking indicators. Without this even with the best commitment and capacity the information system will remain insensitive to the letter and spirit of RTI.
The information management system must ensure the largest possible proactive disclosure which is helpful for both information providers and seekers. For other information to be available on request, classification in terms of obligation to disclose under the Act will be helpful. The list of exemption must be very clearly communicated to avoid conflicts. On the other hand, Article 32 (2) which qualifies the exemption list to
provide that information related to corruption and human rights violation shall not be exempted even for the organizations in the exemption list should be widely communicated at all levels. The information management system must be modernized including the use of new technologies, equipped with both hard and software including the necessary knowledge, skills and capacities.
3.3.7. RTI-supportive legal regime
Success in ensuring RTI depends very significantly on supportive legislation.The RTI Act itself should be constantly reviewed and analyzed to ensure that it actually facilitates and not restricts the people’s access to information. Like many other countries, in Bangladesh there is a number of legal and policy provisions that may make it difficult to enforce the RTI Act.
Although the Act provides for precedence of its provisions over any other existing law that may contradict with this, gray areas may be easily found to prevent effective enforcement of RTI provisions. Public officials may feel uncertain and insecure about what and how much to disclose and where to draw the line. Instruments like the Official Secrets Act 1923, Evidence Act 1872 (123-124), Rules of Business 1996 (Rule 28-1), Government Services Conduct Act 1979 (Rule 19) or the secrecy provision under the Oath (affirmation) of Appointment to public office may turn out to be among worst predicaments against breaking away from the culture of secrecy. The implementation process should include harmonizing all existing laws and regulations with the RTI Act so as to remove any inconsistencies and contradictions that could impede the prospect of implementation. RTI and an effective Information Commission will require active support and enforcement from the courts and law-enforcement institutions.
Independent judiciary and law enforcement agencies are a sine qua non for implementation of the RTI Act. Without an independent judiciary the right to information can turn out to be illusory. The integrity and capacity of the judiciary would be crucial for instance in terms of providing solutions when needed, particularly about determining the limits and exemptions to the coverage of the Act. A prerequisite for building a RTI-supportive national integrity system in which key institutions of democracy are independent of partisan political influence supported by a firm constitutional jurisprudence favorably disposed to the concept of RTI.
Law and People’s Rights Relating with Information.
4.1 Overview of Right to Information Act 2009.
4.2 Right to Information in Bangladeshi Law.
- Bangladesh Constitution.
- Official secret Act, 1923
- Government Servants (Conduct) Rules.
- Evidence Act 1872
- Rules of Business 1996.
- The Penal Code 1860.
- The Code of Criminal Procedure 1898.
4.1 Overview of Right to Information Act 2009.
The Act was notified in the Bangladesh Gazette on Monday, 6 April, 2009. It received the President’s assent on 5 April 2009.
Comes into force: All provisions of the Act have come into force since 20 October 2008 except for Sections 8, 24, 25 which shall come into effect from I July 2009. This includes the sections on request for obtaining information (,sec.8) appeals mechanism (Sec.24) and complaints mechanism (Sec.25).
Authority and Information Providing Unit:Any organization/institution constituted in accordance with the Constitution of People’s Republic of Bangladesh;
*Any ministry, division or office constituted under the Rules of Business as given in Article 55(6) of the Constitution;
* Any statutory body or institution established by or under any Act;
* Any private organization or institution run on government funding or with help from the government exchequer;
* Any private organization or institution run on foreign funding;
* Any organizations or institution that undertakes public functions in accordance with any contract made on behalf of the Government or made with any public organization or institution;
* Any other organization or institution as may be notified by the Government in the official gazette from time to time.
The Information Providing Units include:
*The head office, divisional office, regional office, district office or sub‑district (upazila) office of any department, directorate or office attached to or under any ministry, divisional office of the government;
* The head office, divisional office, regional office, district office or sub‑district (upazila) office of an authority.
Third Party: Third Party is any other party associated with the information sought, other than requester applying for information or the authority providing the information.
Information means: Section 2 According to the Act, information is in relation to an authority’s constitution, structure and official activities and includes any: memo, book, design, map contract, data, log book, order, notification, document, sample, letter, report, accounts statement, project proposal, photograph, audio, video, drawing, film, any instrument prepared through electronic process, machine readable documents and any other documentary material regardless of its physical form or characteristics. Information does not include office note sheet or photocopies of note sheets.
Right to Information:
Every citizen has a right to information from the Authority and the Authority shall on demand from a citizen be bound to provide information.
What is not open? ‑ Publication or providing certain types of information is not mandatory. None of the authorities will be obliged to give the citizens the following information:
1) Information disclosure of which would be a threat to the security, integrity and sovereignty of Bangladesh;
2) Information related to any foreign policy, the disclosure of which would lead to harming existing relationships with any foreign state, or international institution or any regional bloc or organization;
3) Information received in confidence from a foreign government;
4) Information related to commercial or business confidence, copyright or intellectual property right, the disclosure of which would harm the intellectual property rights of any third party;
5) Information the disclosure of which would either benefit or harm an individual or institution, such as :
- a) any advance information regarding income tax, customs, VAT and law relating to excise, budget or change in the tax rate;
- b) any advance information regarding changes related to exchange rate and interest rate ;
- c) any advance information regarding the management and supervision of financial institutions including banks;
6) Information the disclosure of which would obstruct the enforcement of law or incite any offence;
7) Information the disclosure of which would endanger the security of the people or would impede the due judicial process of a pending case;
8) Information the disclosure of which would harm the privacy of the personal life of an individual;
9) Information, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person;
10) Information given in confidence by a person to help a law enforcement institution;
11) Information related to any matter pending in any court of law and which has been expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law or tribunal or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of court;
12) Information related to any matter which is under investigation whose disclosure might impede the investigation process;
13) Information, the disclosure of which would affect any criminal investigation process and the arrest and prosecution of the offenders;
14) Information, which according to law is liable to be published only for a specified time period;
15) Information obtained through technical or scientific experiments which is expedient to be kept secret for strategic and commercial reasons;
16) Information related to any purchase processes before it is complete or before any decision is taken regarding the purchase or the processes involved;
17) Information whose release may lead to breach of privileges of National Parliament (Jatiya Sansad);
18) Information regarding any person which is to be kept in confidence by law;
19) Advance information regarding question papers of an examination or the marks obtained,
20) Documents including summaries to be placed before the Cabinet or as the case may be, in the meetings of the Council of Advisors and information relating to deliberations and decisions made, provided that the decisions of the Cabinet or the Council of Advisors, the reasons and material basis upon which the decisions were taken shall be made public, Provided as per this section if information is not to be disclosed then the related authority must take prior approval from the Information Commission.
Partial access to information contained in records covered by the clause where information is not mandatory for publication, is allowed. A portion of the information requested can be separated from the portion applicant is not mandatory for publication.
Who are excluded? ‑ Section 32 and Schedule the following organizations and institutions involved with national security and intelligence as mentioned in the schedule shall not be covered by the RTI Act:
- National Security Intelligence (NSI)
- Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI)
- Defense Intelligence Units
- Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Bangladesh Police
- Special Security Force (SSF)
- Intelligence Cell of the National Board of Revenue
- Special Branch, Bangladesh Police
- Intelligence Cell of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) The number of institutions mentioned in the list above can be decreased or increased by the Government by amending the schedule in consultation with the Information Commission from time to time by notification published in the government gazette. Information relating to corruption and human rights must be given. If a request for such information is received, then the concerned organization or institution must give the information, subject to the approval of the Information Commission within 30 days from the date of receiving the request.
1) To maintain information in a catalogued and indexed form and preserve it in an appropriate manner;
2) Each authority shall computerize all information that can be computerized within a reasonable time limit and connect them through a country‑wide network to facilitate access to information;
3) Each authority shall follow the guidelines and directives as given by the Information Commission for the maintenance and management of information;
4) Each authority shall prepare, publish and publicist a list of information that will be given free of cost based on the directives of the Information Commission (s. 8(6)).
Information Disclosure by Authorities:
Each authority has to publish and publicist all information in an indexed manner which is easily accessible to the citizens regarding any decision taken, proceeding or activity executed or proposed. In disclosing this information, no authority shall conceal or limit access to any information; Each authority must publish a report each year which will contain the following information:
1) The particulars of an authority’s organizational framework, functions and duties and responsibilities of its officers and employees and the description of decision making processes;
2) List of all laws, acts, ordinances, rules, regulations, notifications, directives, and manuals etc. of authorities and classification of all information available with the authorities.
3) Description of the terms and conditions under which any person can obtain from an authority, license, permit, grant, allocation, consent, approval or the description of any other facilities and description of such terms and conditions, that require the authority to make transactions or enter into agreements with him;
4) Description of all facilities in order to ensure the right to information of the citizens and the name, designation, address, and where applicable fax number and e‑mail address of the Responsible Officer. If an authority frames any important policy or takes any important decisions, then it must disclose these and if necessary, explain the reasons and causes in support of these policies and decisions. Reports prepared by an Authority under this section shall be made available for public inspection free of charge and copies shall be kept for sale at a nominal price; All publications made by an authority shall be made easily available to the public at a reasonable price; The authorities shall publish and publicist matters of public interest through press releases or any other method; The Information Commission through regulations shall lay down guidelines and directives to be followed by the authorities to publish, publicist and obtain information.
1) One Responsible Officer must be nominated within 60 days from the notification of the Act by each authority established before and after the enactment of this Act for each “information providing unit”. Also, all offices created by authorities after the notification of the Act must nominate one Responsible Officer in each office as well as in each of the newly created “information providing units”.
2) Each authority shall inform the Information Commission, the names, designations, addresses and where applicable the fax numbers and e‑mail addresses of the Responsible Officers within 15 days from the date of appointment.
3) Any other officer whose support is sought by the Responsible Officer while discharging his/her duty shall be bound to extend necessary help.
4) Any other officer, whose assistance has been sought by the Responsible Officer, shall render all assistance, and for the purposes of any contravention of the provisions of this Act, such other officer shall be treated as the Responsible Officer.
Duties of Responsible Officer:
1) The Responsible Officer should provide assistance to an applicant who is sensorily disabled to access records and also provide assistance in case of inspection;
2) Must inform the applicant the reasons for failing to provide the requested information within 10 working days;
3) In case the information sought is available with the Responsible Officer then he shall fix a reasonable price of that information and request the applicant to pay the amount within 5 working days;
4) If information sought has been supplied by third party or is treated as confidential by the third party, then the Responsible Officer must give written notice to the latter within 5 days of receiving the information request for written or oral opinion. The Responsible Officer shall take its representation into consideration and make a decision in respect of providing information to the applicant.
1) Apply in writing or electronically or by e‑mail to the Responsible Officer;
2) In the application, the following information must be given: Name, address, and where applicable fax number and e‑mail address of the applicant; Correct and clear description of the information sought; Any other useful and related information that might help in locating the requested information; Description of the method by which information is sought, namely by inspecting, taking photo copies, taking notes or any other approved method.
3) The information request can me made either in the form printed by the authority or in the prescribed format. However, if the forms are not printed or are not easily available or the format has not been prescribed, then the application can be written on a plain white paper by giving all the information mentioned above or can be sent through electronically or by e‑mail;
4) The applicant will have to pay reasonable fees as may be prescribed by the Responsible Officer;
5) The government may in consultation with the Information Commission prescribe the application fees and if necessary the cost of information by notification in the official Gazette. The government may also exempt an individual or class of individuals or any other class from paying the fees.
Procedure and Time Limits for providing information:
1) Responsible Officer shall provide information within 20 working days from the date of receipt of application;
2) In case more than one “information providing unit” or authority is involved with the information requested, then information shall be given in 30 working days from the date of application;
3) In case the Responsible Officer rejects a request, then he must inform the applicant the decision and reasons for rejection within 10 working days from the date of application;
4) In case basic information concerning any person’s life or death, arrest and release from Jail is sought then it must be given within 24 hours from receiving the request;
5) In case the requested information is available with the Responsible Officer then he must calculate the reasonable fee and inform the applicant to pay the fees within 5 working days. The fees for printed publications, information in electronic format or photocopies or print outs shall not be more than the actual costs;
6) No action on application within the specified time limits of 20 and 30 working days and 24 hours as mentioned above is a deemed refusal.
Appellate Authority and Appeals Mechanism:
1) In case of the “information providing unit” the appellate authority is the administrative head of its immediate superior office. In case the unit does not have a superior office, then the appellate authority is the administrative head of that unit.
2) If any person is not given information within the time period specified in Section 9 or is aggrieved by the decision of the Responsible Officer, then he/she can appeal before the appellate authority within the next 30 days from receiving the decision or after the expiry of the time period;
3) If the appellate authority is satisfied that the appellant for justifiable reasons could not submit the appeal within the specified time period of 30 days then he may accept the appeal even after the expiry of that time;
4) The Appellate Authority shall within 15 days from the date of receiving the appeal: Direct the concerned Responsible Officer to provide the requested information; Or Reject the appeal if it not fit for acceptance.
5) In case the Responsible Officer is directed to provide the information by the appellate authority, then he must provide the information within the time specified in Section 9 to the appellant.
1) Any person for the following reasons may submit a complaint with the Information Commission:
- a) As given in Section 13 (1) i.e. Non‑appointment of a Responsible Officer by an authority or refusal to accept applications for information; Refusal upon request for any information; Not being given either a response or the information requested within the specified time period as given in the Act; If the complainant is asked to pay a fee or is compelled to pay an amount of fee which he/she thinks
are unreasonable; If the complainant feels that the information given is incomplete, false or misleading; and In respect of any other matter relating to requesting or obtaining information under this Act.
- b) If the person is aggrieved by the decision on his appeal under Section 24;
- c) If the person does not get the information from the Responsible Officer within the time limits specified i.e. 20 days (if information is Sought from one unit), 30 days (if information is sought from more than one unit or authority) and 24 hours (information related to life and death or arrest and release from jail). In case of point a) given above, a complaint can be filed with the Information Commission any time and in case of points b) and c) the complaint can be filed within 30 days from the date of getting a decision or as the case may be. If the Information Commission is satisfied that the complainant could not file the complaint due to reasonable causes within the specified time period, then the Commission can receive the complaint even after the expiry of the time period.
2) On the basis of a complaint, or if the Information Commission is satisfied that any authority or Responsible Officer has failed to carry out any function then the Commission has been given the powers to take action against the authority or the Responsible Officer;
3) The Chief Information Commissioner or if the responsibility is delegated to an Information Commissioner has the power to enquire into any complaints received. After the completion of the enquiry a decision‑paper regarding the complaint shall be prepared within 30 days from receiving the complaint. This paper has to be presented before the Information Commission in the next meeting where the decision will be taken;
4)During the enquiry, any authority or the Responsible Officer against whose decision, the complaint is being made will be given a reasonable opportunity to be heard;
5) In case a third party is involved in the case of a complaint, then the third party will be given an opportunity to present his opinion;
6) Ordinarily the Information Commission shall take 45 days to dispose off a complaint from the date on which the complaint is received. However, in certain cases, the time could be extended if required, to complete the enquiry and depositions of the witnesses. However, the time limit for disposing a complaint shall not exceed more than 75 days including the extended time;
7) While taking a decision on a complaint, the Information Commission shall have the following powers:
(i) To direct the authority or the Responsible Officer to take the following steps: To provide the requested information in a specified particular manner; To appoint Responsible Officers; To publish any special information or special class of information; To bring necessary changes in the procedures followed by the authority with regard to preservation, management or publication of information; To impart better training on right to information for officers of Authorities; To provide compensation to the complainant for any loss or other detriment suffered;
(ii) To impose Penalty as provided in the Act;
(iii) To uphold decisions of the authorities;
(iv) To reject complaints;
(v) Re‑classification of information by the authorities;
(vi) To interpret any matters relating to nature, classification, preservation, publication and supply of information as per the Act. The decisions of the Information Commission in cases of complaints shall be binding on all concerned; The decisions of the Information shall be communicated to all parties in writing; The Information Commission shall through procedures prescribed in the regulations, take other steps in disposing complaints.
Representation before the Information Commission ‑The parties to a complaint may present their statements before the Commission either personally or through a lawyer.
Establishment and Composition of the Information Commission:
1) The Information Commission must be established within a maximum period of 90 days from the date on which the Act comes into force. It shall be an independent statutory body;
2) The Information Commission includes I Chief Information Commissioner and 2 other Information Commissioners of whom one person shall be a woman. The Chief Information Commissioner is the Chief Executive of the Commission.
3) The Headquarters of the Information Commission will be based in Dhaka. If needed, branch offices may be established in other parts of the country by the Commission.
Appointment Process, Qualifications and Terms of Service:Selection Committee
1) In order to provide recommendations for the appointment of the Chief Information Commissioner and the Information Commissioners a Selection Committee shall be constituted which includes the following 5 members: A judge of the Appellate Division to be nominated by the Chief Justice, who shall be the Chairperson of the Committee; Cabinet Secretary to the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh; One member each from the ruling party and the opposition, nominated by the Speaker while the Parliament is in session; A representative nominated by the Government from amongst journalists who have the capabilities/ qualifications to be an editor or from amongst the prominent members of society.
2) The Ministry of Information shall be responsible for constituting the Selection Committee and it shall also provide the necessary secretarial assistance. Presence of a minimum of 3 members will constitute the quorum for the Selection Committee meetings.
3) In order to appoint the Chief Information Commissioner and the Information Commissioners, the Selection Committee shall on the basis of majority decision of the members present at the meeting, recommend 2 names against each vacant post to the President. In case of a tie in the Selection Committee while voting, the Chairperson has the right to cast the deciding vote. The Selection Committee will decide the procedure of its meetings.
Appointment, tenure, salaries etc
1) The Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners shall be appointed from persons having vast knowledge and experience in law, justice, journalism, education, science, technology, information, social work, management or public administration.
2) The Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners shall be appointed by the President based on the recommendations of the Selection
3) The Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners shall hold office for 5 years from date of appointment or till they attain the age of 67 years, whichever is earlier. Persons who are more than 67 years old are not eligible to be appointed as Chief Information Commissioner or Information Commissioners.
4) The Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners are not eligible for reappointment for the same post. However, Information Commissioners shall not be ineligible for appointment to the post of Chief Information Commissioner.
5) In case of vacancy of the position of the Chief Information Commissioner or in case of his absence due to ill health or is unable to carry out his functions due to other reasons, or the newly appointed Chief Information Commissioner has not joined office, then the senior most Information Commissioner will take up the responsibilities of the Chief Information Commissioner.
6) The designation/rank, remuneration, allowances and other facilities shall be determined by the Government.
Removal of Chief Information Commissioners and Information Commissioners:
1) The Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners call be removed due to the same reasons and procedures by which a Judge of the Supreme Court can be removed.
2) The President may order removal of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners if the person
- a) Is adjudged insolvent by an appropriate court of law;
- b) Engages in any paid employment outside the duties of his office;
- c) Is adjudged a lunatic by an appropriate court of law;
- d) Is convicted of an offence involving moral turpitude
Information Commission ‑ Powers and Functions: Powers
1) The Information Commission has the power to receive complaints from any person, inquire into and dispose off complaints received on the following issues
- a) Non‑appointment of Responsible Officer by an authority or its refusal to accept requests for information;
- b) Refusal upon request for any information;
- c) Not being given either a response or the information requested for within the specified time period;
- b) If the applicant is asked to pay a fee or is compelled to pay an amount of fee which he/she thinks are unreasonable;
- e) If the applicant feels that the information given is incomplete, false or misleading;
- f) In respect of any other matter relating to requesting or obtaining information under this ordinance.
2) Information Commission may on its own accord or upon a complaint, conduct an inquiry regarding a complaint made under the Act;
3)The Information Commission or the Chief Information Commissioner or Information Commissioners may exercise powers of Civil Court as per the Code of Civil Procedure 1908 in respect of following matters, namely
- a) summon and enforce attendance of persons, compel them to give oral or written evidence on oath and to produce documents or things;
- b) Examine and inspect information;
- c) Receive evidence on affidavit;
- d) Requisition information from any office;
- e) Issue summons for witnesses or documents; and
- f) Any other matter which may be prescribed in the rules to fulfill the objectives of the Act.
4) While inquiring into a complaint, the Information Commission or the Chief Information Commissioner or Information Commissioners have the power to examine on spot any information kept in custody with any authority.
The functions of the Information Commission include the following: Issue directives to authorities for preservation, management, publication, publicity and access to information; Prescribe the application procedure for accessing information from an authority and fix the appropriate price of information; Formulate and publish guidelines and directives for preservation and implementation of citizens’ right to information; In order to preserve the right to information, consider the provisions recognized under the Constitution or any other law in force and provide recommendations to the Government for their effective implementation by indicating the impediments; Identify the impediments against the preservation and implementation of citizen’s right to information and recommend appropriate solutions to the Government; Conduct research on agreements related to the right to information and other international instruments and documents and recommend to the Government for their implementation; Examine the similarities of various international instruments and existing laws on right to information, and in case of dissimilarities and in order to harmonize with the international instruments make suitable recommendations to the Government or the appropriate authority; Advise Government to ratify or sign any international instrument on right to information; Conduct research on preservation and implementation of right to information and provide support to educational and professional institutions for their implementation; Generate and increase awareness about the right to information amongst different sections of society through dissemination and publication of information and other methods; Advise and provide support to the Government to make the necessary laws and administrative directives for preservation and implementation of the right to information; Provide necessary advice and support to organizations and
institutions working on right to information and the civil society; Conduct research and organize seminars, symposium, workshops and similar other measures to increase people’s awareness on right to information and to disseminate the results obtained from the research; Provide technical and other support to the authorities with the aim to ensure the right to information; Establish a web‑portal for Bangladesh to ensure the right to information; Oversee the systems set up under any other law on right to information.
Fund, Budget and Financial Independence of the Information Commission:
An Information Commission Fund shall be constituted, the management and administration of which shall be vested in the Commission. The salaries and allowances of the Chief Information Commissioner, Information Commissioners, the Secretary and the other officers and employees shall be borne from this fund in accordance with the terms and conditions of their service. Other expenses of the Commission shall also be borne from this fund. The following money shall be deposited in the Information Commission Fund: Annual grant given by the Government; Grant given by any institution with the approval of the Government. Every year the Information Commission shall within the time specified by the Government, submit an annual budget for the next financial year on the specified forin for approval. It must specify the amount of money required by the Information Commission for that financial year. The government after considering the Information Commission’s requisition will allocate specified amount. The Commission, however, need not take government’s approval to spend the allocated money.
Officers and Employees of the Information Commission:
The Information Commission shall have a Secretary. In order to carry out its functions in an effective manner, the Commission shall also appoint as many officers and employees as may be necessary with approval from the government in respect of the organizational framework. The salaries, allowances and terms of employment of the Secretary and other officers and employees will be decided by the Government. Moreover, the Government on request from the Information Commission may depute its officers and employees with the Commission.
Information Commission’s Annual Report:
1) The Information Commission shall submit an annual report to the President on the previous year’s activities by 31 March each year.
2) Each report shall contain the following details: Number of information requests received by each authority; Number of decisions refusing requests for information to the applicants and description of the provisions in the Act under which these decisions were made; The number of appeals filed against the decisions of the Responsible Officers and the results of these appeals; Particulars of any disciplinary actions taken by the authorities against their officers; The amount of money collected by each authority; Description of the various activities undertaken by the authorities; Proposals for reform received from different authorities relating to ensuring right to information of citizens; Number of complaints received by the Information Commission; Description of the actions taken by the Information Commission in dealing with the complaints received;
Number of officers penalized by the Information Commission and the descriptions of such punishments; The total amount of penalties imposed and the amount recovered by the Information Commission; The instructions and regulations issued by the Information Commission; The accounts of income and expenditure of the Information Commission; Any other related information which the Information Commission considers necessary to be included in the report; Recommendations made to the concerned authority to take measures in case it is noticed that a particular authority is not following the provisions of the Act.
3) The President after receiving the report shall place it before the National Parliament;
4) The Information Commission shall publish and publicized the annual report through the mass media and the website;
5) Every authority shall provide the necessary documents and other related assistance to the Information Commission as needed in preparing this report.
While deciding on a complaint, or if the Information Commissioner believes that for any reason given below, any Responsible Officer will be liable for fine of 50 Taka per day up to a maximum of 5,0001Taka for
- i) Refusing to accept an application or appeal without any reasonable cause;
- ii) Not furnishing information or not taking a decision on this matter within the time specified;
- iii) Malafiedly denying the request, for information or appeal;
- iv) Instead of giving the information requested, giving incorrect, incomplete or
misleading or distorted information and:
- v) Obstructing of information in any manner.
The Information Commission has the power to impose this penalty from the date of the abovementioned actions till the date the information is provided. However, the Information Commission shall give the Responsible Officer a reasonable opportunity of being heard before the penalty is imposed on him.
In addition to the penalty, if the Information Commission is satisfied that the Responsible Officer creates impediments in providing information, it may recommend the concerned authority to take departmental action against such misconduct and request the authority to keep the commission informed about the actions taken. In case of failure to recover the penalty or compensation from the Responsible Officer, then that amount can be recovered through such procedures as are applicable for recovery of land revenue in accordance with the provisions of the Public Demands Recovery Act, 1913.
Application of Limitation Act of 1908:
In case of appeals or complaints filed under this Act, the provisions of the Limitation Act, 1908 will be as far as possible be applicable.
Rules and Regulations Making Power:
The Government in consultation with the Information Commission will frame the rules and notify in the official gazette. In case of the regulations, the Information Commission with prior approval of the Government will frame them and notify in the official gazette.
Power to Deal with removal of ambiguit
If any ambiguity arises in implementing any provisions in the Act, then the Government through a notification in the official gazette and subject to consistency with the provisions in the Act shall remove such ambiguity.
Publication of a translated English version
A translated English version of the Act will be made and in case of any conflict between the Bengali and English versions, the former shall prevail.
Repeal: Section 37 The Right to Information Ordinance 2008 is repealed. However, in spite of it being repealed all proceedings and systems accepted under the Ordinance will continue under the Act.
4.2 Right to Information in Bangladeshi Law.
- a) Bangladesh
The constitution of Bangladesh state that the subject to any reasonable restriction imposed by law in the interest of the security of the state, friendly relation with foreign state, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence, a) the right of every citizen to freedom of speech and expression and b) freedom of the press are guaranteed. The interpretation of this Article is intended to include discussion dissemination.
Although the Constitution does not specifically mentions the right to information in commonwealth countries such as India and Srilanka, courts have read this right into the Constitutionally recognized right into the Constitutionally recognized right to freedom of speech and expression.
The newly elected Government of Bangladesh adopted the Right to Information Act in the first session of the 9th Parliament on May 29, 2009, marking a significant step forward in fulfilling the constitutional pledge of the state of Bangladesh. 9
The prerequisite for enjoying this right is knowledge and information. The absence of authentic information on matters of public interest will only encourage wild rumors and speculations and avoidable allegations against individuals and institutions. Therefore, the Right to Information becomes a constitutional right, being an aspect of the right to free speech and expression which includes the right to receive and collect information.
The constitution of Bangladesh does not have any special provision for right to information/access to information. However, Articles 7 and 11 of the constitution implicitly recognize the people’s right to information. Article 7 declares that all powers in the republic belong to the people. Article l1 declares the republic as democracy, and assure human rights and freedom. Therefore, people’s right to all information cannot be barred in any way. Article 39 articulates freedom of thought, conscience, speech, and the freedom of press. If real democracy is in practice, then the absence of any particular provision for this right should create no bar in accessing information.
At present, a national movement is going on in Bangladesh in support of the demand for right to information. Several civil society organizations have formed coalitions and networks to work at different levels to make the act a reality. It is therefore important that in Bangladesh we continue to raise awareness on the issue especially its impact on the livelihood of common people
- b) Official secrets Act, 1923:
Official secrets Act is operative in almost every country of South Asia, which where under British colonial rules. These laws were brought into force to suit there agenda of preserving an oppressive regime. These have been adopted by independent nation for promoting vested political interest.
In this Act sub section 8 of section 2 define that prohibited area in a very wide range limiting the areas for collecting information.
Section 3 deals with disclosing information against the state’s interest .The penalty provision under this section does not provide any scope for defending. Only for presumption of giving information to foreign agent, offense will be considered.
Any person can be convicted only for the disclosure of information possessed by him. In this presumption is enough to prove disclosure which can affect the sovereignty, integrity, security and the interest of the state, assist the state, degrade the friendly relation with the states.
- c) Government Servants (conduct) Rules 1979:
Any sitting government official can not disclose any information to other ministries, division or department , or to non official person or press.
- d) Evidence Act 1872 :
Restricting Article of the Act are 123 and 124 . No one shall be permitted to give any evidence from unpublished official records relating to any affairs of state except within the permission of the officer at the head of the department concerned, who shall give such permission as he think fit. Even the court is bound to accept the decision of public officer. But the officer have to explain to the court.
- e) Rules of Business 1996:
Rules of Business 1996 schedule 1 has describe the allocation of responsibilities ministries and department . According to The Rule of Business , ministry of information is directed to take initiatives for publicity of internal external policy. Moreover it is Information Ministry’s responsibility to built coordination of publicity activities of the different ministries and Bangladesh mission abroad. The ministry of Information has the major role for preservation and Interpretation of the policies and activities of the Government of Bangladesh through the medium of press, but this is not practice.
f)The Penal Code1860:
This Code restricts person to express their belief, expression by words (written/spoken),signs or by any other means he/she has been defamed, entitles him/her to sue for defamation. This is a risk especially for journalists to collect and publish information.
- g) The Code of Criminal procedure,1898:
The Government by government by official gazette can forfeit any book, publication under Press and Publication Act. This is a threat to the freedom of press publication. Right to Information includes bots rights to know and right to make know.
Role and activities of the government and others; Ensuring right to in formation for the empowerment of people at the root level.
.5.1 The government steps of ensuring right to information for empowerment of people.
5.2 Tentative process of government and others.
5.3 The Civil Society, Media and NGO,s roles ensuring right to information and empowerment of people.
5.1 The government steps of ensuring right to information for empowerment of people.
Govt. to introduce e-GP system by next year:
The government will introduce e-government procurement (e-GP) system by 2011 to make the public procurement process more dynamic and modern in the country. The central procurement technical unit (CPTU) of implementation monitoring and evaluation department (IMED) of the Planning Ministry will implement e-GP under its Public Procurement Reform Project (PPRP-II) with support of the World Bank. To implement the new system, a contract on e-GP system development and implementation was signed between CPTU and GSS America InfoTech Ltd, India at the Planning Ministry on Monday
CAG to post audit reports online:
The Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) plans to post audit reports on its website, allowing people a wider access to the documents, said CAG Ahmed Ataul Hakeem. Hakeem said he would first submit the reports to the president. The posting of the audit reports on the web will help citizens see the government expenditure procedures, he added.“Until now, no audit report has been posted on the web in Bangladesh,” said Hakeem who inaugurated a three-day training for journalists on “Understanding Contents of CAG Audit Reports” at his office in Dhaka.If necessary, the CAG office will also relay other vital information to the Anticorruption Commission, Hakeem added. He said corruption in public offices could be reduced significantly if the government implements auditor recommendations. Hakeem also said he will take steps to enhance journalists’ access to the CAG office, so that they can collect information to be published in newspapers and disseminate important information to the public.
E-governance project starts next month:
The government has taken a three-year plan to bring all departments, agencies and associated organizations run by the ministries under e-governance, a state-of-the-art service delivery system.Under the scheme, a central data centre (CDC) will be set up and be connected to offices of deputy commissioners (DCs), Upazila Nirbahi Officers (UNOs) in all 64 districts, according to the science and ICT ministry.State Minister for Science and ICT Yeafesh Osman told the news agency that a project styled `Development of National ICT Infra-Network for Bangladesh Government (Bangla.gov.net) has been taken up.Osman said the Korean government agreed to provide Taka 273 crore as soft loan with 0.50pc interest rate for the project that will be implemented during 2010-12.
The project will have inter-connectivity in all ministries with a special focus on the e-governance system, the minister said and expressed his hope that the project would help make a `Digital Bangladesh’. The main objective of the venture is to build a basic infrastructure to impart IT literacy to the officials and employees under all ministries resulting in developing a skilled manpower in Bangladesh. Talking to the news agency, Executive Director of Bangladesh Computer Council (BCS), an organisation run under the science and ICT ministry, M Mahfuzur Rahman said they are expecting to take off the project next month as necessary preparations are now nearing completion. He said district level ICT centre will be set up during 2010-11 and at upazila level in the period of 2011-12.
E-governance is an information and communication technology (ICT)-enabled service delivery system that rocked the governing systems in the world to a degree by achieving good governance.Experts say the e-governance project will have people’s participation by ensuring transparency, shortened service delivery, poverty alleviation, curbing corruption and strengthening democratic practices. similar services to the rural poor. This correspondent observed that a group of youth were undergoing an elementary computer training course for free to increase their capacity for employment.
All unions to be under internet network by 2012:
All Union Parishads (UPs), the country’s lowest tire of administration, will be brought under online networking system and connected to information super highway by the year 2012 as the Local Government Division will set up Union Information Service (UIS) centres at all unions. Local Government Division (LGD) Secretary Monzur Hossain Monday told BSS that the government has decided to set up UIS at all 4,498 unions with computers and internet connections for realising the vision of building digital Bangladesh. Under the project, 100 UIS will be set by end of this year, 2,000 by 2010, 3,000 by 2011 and rest of within 2012, the LGD secretary said. The site selections for first 100 centres have already been completed and 31 centres have started the activities under the project on trial basis, he said. The project formally to be launched in the next month will be a landmark in efforts to digitise the country’s governance system from the grassroots to highest levels, the secretary said.
The LGD would appoint two computer service providers, one male and one woman from local youth for the centre, which will also serve the government’s commitment of creating employment. Before appointing, the computer service operators will be provided information technology (IT) training as they could easily browse the internet as per the requirement of the rural people. Farmers and rural entrepreneurs can collect various information of farming and prices of essentials through this UIS with minimal service charge. The UIS is expected to change the scenario of rural Bangladesh as it will definitely create momentum in the rural economy through ensuring both way flow of information at grassroots level, Monzur said. National Institute of Local Government (NILG) Director Prasanta Kumar Roy said, the UIS would be built by the own fund of the UPs, allocated from the Local Government Support (LGS) Project.
Govt plans to float tenders online:
The government is planning to float tenders online to make the public procurement system transparent, accountable and functional and keep it free from undue influence, officials said. As part of the Public Procurement Reform Project-II, it has taken up a plan to introduce, in phases, e-government procurement (e-GP) to modernise the outdated procurement process and rid it of unjustified influence or physical obstruction.
The finance minister, Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, has already iterated the government’s plan to go for government purchases online in accordance with its vision of a ‘digital Bangladesh’ by 2121. According to a study of the World Bank carried out in 2002, the total value of the country’s public procurement amounts to more than $3.0 billion a year. Both the volume and the value of such expenditures are expected to increase manifold in the coming years as the country is undertaking more development projects, said sources. More than 80 per cent of the annual development expenditures are spent on government purchase of goods, works and services, according to official statistics. With the financial assistance of the World Bank, the central procurement technical unit of the Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Division under the planning ministry has already started the primary work to launch the online tender process.
The unit’s director general Amulya Kumar Debnath told New Age on Thursday four government departments were the targeted agencies under the project. The e-GP will be introduced in 12 to 16 procuring entities under the four agencies on a pilot basis at first. The four government departments are the Local Government Engineering Department, Roads and Highways Department, Bangladesh Water Development Board and Rural Electrification Board. ‘The single end-to-end e-GP solution is one of the four components of the project, and after the launch of the e-GP, all procurement-related information will be delivered via a comprehensive integrated platform and e-GP portal,’ he said. ‘All stakeholders can have equal access to information, opportunities and participation in the procurement processes in e-GP.’
The other components of the reforms programme include furthering policy reforms and institutionalising capacity development; strengthening procurement management at the sectorial level, and communication, behavioural change and social accountability. As a part of capacity building and institutionalising the procurement system in compliance with the Public Procurement Act 2006 and the Public Procurement Rules 2008, four training courses, each spanning three weeks, have already been completed. About 108 such courses will be held for over 10 thousand officials, said Debnath.
A comprehensive social awareness campaign and communication programme on public procurement reforms, law and rules, and social accountability is also under way. Debnath said the PPA and the PPR have paved the way for making the public procurement system accountable and transparent.
He said there should not be any misconception about the laws and rules concerned. They will not cause any delay or inconvenience in the process of procurement, rather they are safeguards for ensuring fair competition and purchase of quality goods and services with government funds. ‘All government procuring entities, the bidding community, suppliers, consultants and others concerned are expected to comply with the PPA and PPR,’ he noted. ‘As government purchases are made with public money, its proper and full utilisation as per the laws and rules will help us to accelerate the pace of the ADP by implementing the development projects in time,’ said Debnath, adding the CPTU is going to launch an integrated and comprehensive campaign to generate support of all those concerned in favour of the laws, rules and reforms in public procurement.
The abbreviation ‘PPR’ no longer stands for Public Procurement Regulations, which was replaced by the Public Procurement Rules 2008. The Public Procurement Regulations 2003 was declared void as soon as the Public Procurement Act 2006 was made a law. Under the law, rules have been framed and put into force since January 31, 2008. Besides, the e-GP will also provide comprehensive management information and reporting system as prescribed in the PPR 2008.Debnath said under the IT Act, the use of e-signature has been accepted. any countries’ experience of the e-GP shows these factors, when combined, can yield savings up to 15 per cent or even more, said an expert working at the CPTU.
Govt plans to fully introduce e-commerce in 5 yrs:
cmputerisation of government operations is needed for the development of software industry, said finance minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith . “We must train the government officials to use more information technology. The government should be the biggest buyer to support the sector,” he said at the inaugural ceremony of the five-day BASIS SoftExpo 2009, organised by the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services, in the city.He also urged the private sector to come forward and support the industry by purchasing locally developed software.“The sector has immense potential and the government is planning to fully introduce e-commerce within five years,” Mr Muhith said.The government will introduce e-Government Procurement (e-GP) to modernise its procurement management, he added.
Referring to RMG sector, he said at the initial stage the government had provided support to the industry by allowing entrepreneurs to open back-to-back letter of credit (L/C) and offering bonded warehouse facility and the rest of success story was delivered by the private sector.“Similarly for the ICT sector the government will support in whatever possible way, but the entrepreneurs will have to make it at least the second largest export earning sector by themselves.”
The entrepreneurs should manage their software companies efficiently to make it a vibrant sector and help the government achieve ‘Digital Bangladesh’ by 2021, he said.The government will introduce IT course at the secondary level from 2013 and at the primary level from 2021, said commerce minister Muhammad Faruk Khan.The sector should have an export target of $50-60 million instead of only $30 million as the government is fully committed to help the sector for exporting more software, he said.The sector in 2008 exported software worth $25 million, which was only $2.5 million in 2001.
ICT is an essential tool for modernistaion, and the government will provide infrastructure for the sector, said state minister for science and ICT Yeafesh Osman. “The government is taking initiative to set up an IT park, and the ICT Policy 2008, drafted by the caretaker government, is under consideration,” he said. Uninterrupted power supply and internet service are needed for development of the sector, said BASIS president Habibullah N Karim.“We have 70,000 square feet space with all facilities in BSRS Bhaban where over 50 IT companies are located with 1,700 employees, and they are exporting Tk 120 million worth of software,” he said.The government could create such exclusive places for housing IT companies and help the entrepreneurs export more, Mr Habib said.
Website launched to elicit public opinion
A website was launched to elicit public opinion about the draft Police Ordinance-2008.The Ministry of Home Affairs launched the website htp://www.mha.gov.bd/pdf/policeord08.pdf to provide information about the Ordinance and elicit public opinion.
People have been asked to download the website and send their opinion and suggestions about the Ordinance.Letter containing opinion can be sent to Deputy Secretary (Law) at law section of the ministry.
Automation of Dhaka Customs House soon
The automation of the operational activities of Dhaka Customs House (DCH) will start soon to ensure hassle-free services for importers and exporters.Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) has taken a move to provide necessary logistic support including finance to DCH for introducing the automation of export-import procedures under an agreement, DCCI sources said.
The DCCI will sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the DCH authorities today (Sunday) for automation of the operational activities of DCH.
“We’ve planned to start installation of automation immediately after signing of the MoU. DCCI will provide both logistic and financial support for the purpose,” DCCI president Hossain Khaled told the FE Saturday.He said DCCI has initially estimated the installation cost for the automation system at Tk 30 million. It will take maximum six months to complete the automation system fully, the DCCI president said. He said introduction of automation system at the DCH would significantly reduce irregularities and corruption, particularly the tax-dodging.Referring to the automation of Chittagong Customs House (CCH), Hossain Khaled said a similar technology will be used for automation of the DCH that will reduce time and cost for automation.
“Revenue earnings from the DCH will grow after the automation system is introduced as it will help stop fraudulent practices,” said the DCCI president.
As the same technology will be used for the DCH automation like CCH, the entire process of Import General Manifesto (IGM) module would be brought under the first phase of automation while total operation of the DCH including the process related to duty assessment for import cargoes and documentation of export cargoes would be done through on-line facilities.
When the full automation becomes functional, a consignee will be able to conduct the whole export process through on-line from his business establishment without physical presence at the DCH.
The automation will protect the honest businessmen from harassment and keep away the tax dodgers from doing illegal business, the DCCI president added.
Ministry to put laws, regulations online, bundled on CDs
The law, justice and parliamentary affairs ministry has taken a move to make available all laws and regulations made as of October 20, 2008 online and bundled on compact disks for the public.
‘All laws including the ordinances promulgated in about two years of the present government will be made available on a web site for the public as part of the government’s initiative to introduce e-governance,’ the law secretary, Kazi Habibul Awal, told reporters at a news briefing at the secretariat. He said the present government had so far promulgated around 90 ordinances to introduce new laws and to amend the old ones. Asked about the fate of the ordinances promulgated during the tenure of the interim government of Fakhruddin Ahmed, the law secretary said, ‘The fate of the laws will be determined in accordance with the constitution.’
The former chief adviser, Fakhruddin Ahmed is expected to inaugurate the ‘Laws of Bangladesh’ and ‘Bangladesh Code’ on the law ministry web site, Awal said. The Bangladesh Code incorporating all laws and their amendments from 1836 to 2007 were published in 38 volumes in November 2007. The exercise of law will increase with more people now getting chance to be aware of the laws through the internet, the secretary said, adding it would help to bring in more transparency and accountability in public administration.
5.2 Tentative process of government and others:
A recent report based on 4 workshops held at divisional cities participated by various professional groups has assessed a less than encouraging progress towards implementation of the Act in terms of people’s awareness and perception of the law, the
Information Commission, strengths and weakness of the Act, instances of application of the law, challenges and ways to cope as perceived by the participants, and indicators for measuring progress of implementation. With only nineteen months passed since the law
was passed, to expect too many tangible results may not be realistic. Results can indeed be expected in an incremental process. Nevertheless, one can observe a number of notable positive steps, hesitant and tentative though, in the direction of implantation of the Act.
The Government has duly constituted the Information Commission, and with the end of the tenure of the founding Chief Information Commissioner appointed his successor. The Commission has also been provided with office premises reasonable enough for a good start. The Government is also exploring the possibility of allocating a plot of land to the Commission where its own premises could be built. The Ministry of Information as the focal point in the Government for the implementation of the Act has approved the rules, setting out the procedures of application for seeking information and acknowledgement of receipt of thereof; delivery of the requested information; communicating inability to provide information; appeals to the authority, means of providing information; determination of fees for request and price of information. The rules include formats for application, notice of inability to provide information, for appeals, and for determining the cost and price of information. Out of an
estimated 700,000 plus officers to be designated officers in Government bodies to provide information to the public several thousand have been assigned.
The Government has also taken some initiatives for awareness and training of designated officers. These include trainings being organized by the Bangladesh Public Administration Training Complex (BPATC) in collaboration with Manusher Jonno Foundation and the Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development (BARD).The BPATC
has also planned to mainstream RTI in its regular training programmers. The NGO Affairs Bureau issued a notice to the NGOs registered with them to assign designated officers and communicate appropriately.
Initiatives by the Information Commission
After an initial stage of uncertainties and resource constraints the Bangladesh Information Commission started off in earnest with a series of public awareness and outreach events in divisional, district and even lower levels, in which the Information Commissioners took part. Among participants were local level government officials, civil society, NGOs, media, and general members of public. By June 2010, 25 such visits took place. The Commission has also been receptive to proposals for attending outreach events organized by NGOs. Work on a database consisting of the names and contacts of the designated officers in both public and NGO authorities has started. The commission has completed drafting the regulations which, as at this writing, was awaiting the Government approval. Work on organizing a user-friendly office including its own website has commenced.
The Commission sent out letters to all Deputy Commissioners to inform within July 15, 2010, the names and contacts of their respective designated officers and other measures taken towards implementation of the Act, to which response with the names of designated officers came from nearly all except a handful.
The Commission has also acted upon nearly two dozen applications it has received and advised the concerned institutions to take action as per provisions of the law. Apart from the Commission’s participation in awareness and training programmers organized by various other authorities including the NGOs, the Commission conducted a training programme involving government officials at the level of Deputy secretary and above. They have also printed a few informative documents like the text of the Act, brochure, and a compilation of reports from the Commissioners’ field visits.
As already mentioned, unlike most other countries that have adopted the RTI law, the non-governmental organizations using funds from the Government sources and from foreign donations have been included in the jurisdiction of the RTI Act of Bangladesh.
As a result both as campaigners for people’s right to information and as a part of obligation under the law NGOs of Bangladesh have high stakes in the enforcement of the Act. Accordingly, some notable initiatives have been taken by the NGOs collectively and
individually, though according to most observers these are much below the expectations.
Steps taken by NGOs include: i) assigning of designated officer for providing information; ii) adoption of disclosure policy and/or proactive disclosure by a few; iii)
organizing seminars, workshops and trainings at both national and local levels; iv) information fair for awareness about the law and strengthening the demand and supply
side; v) training programme for government officials trough formal arrangements with the BPATC; vi) integration and mainstreaming of RTI in institutional capacity building and in project implementation including awareness communication and outreach programmers; vii)publication of training manuals, books, leaflets, brochures, implementation guidelines; viii) engagement with media, training of journalists: ix) grassroots awareness campaign; x)user-friendly guidebook on the Act, xi) international conference; xii) local level mobile advice & information service: xiii) advocacy for effective Information Commission through media statement and other means of campaign; xiv) technical assistance to drafting of the RTI Rules; and xv) seeking or providing support to seek information from authority.
In a few cases NGOs have also received requests for and duly provided information one of which the request came from within an organization.
5.3 The Civil Society, Media and NGO,s roles ensuring right to information and empowerment of people.
Ensuring people’s right to information is a matter of shared responsibility, not only
of the government. The NGOs, civil society, media and the private sector must also take
greater responsibility for complementing Government efforts and especially assisting
common people using the law. Strengthening the demand side capacity by creating greater awareness of the availability of the law, its usefulness for the individual, ways and means to se it, and above all build the confidence that the law is about empowering them are therefore, crucial. Without civil society engagement, the prospect of enforcing the RTI Act is most likely to fade away.
Training of various professionals including NGO officials, media, lawyers and
business can stimulate demand for information which in turn helps ensure that public
authorities put in place the most effective systems for responding. The business community is particularly relevant for anti-corruption activists: requests by businesses about government contracts can contribute to the creation of a more level playing field in the public procurement sector.
The civil society has a two-way stake in the implementation of the RTI in Bangladesh – as providers of information and as campaigners for implementation on both demand and supply side. Provisions of the Act applicable to the Government institutions in terms of providing information are equally applicable for non-governmental organizations.\ Indeed it is incumbent upon the NGOs as a sector and individually as separate entities to
lead the process by adopting policies and time-bound implementation plan emphasizing
more on proactive disclosure. The civil society must also take active role in partnering with the Government and the Information Commission in campaigning for supply side capacity building.
The more a society moves to implementation of the RTI, the more information would be available for the people. However, in practice it will be impossible, even for the most enlightened citizens, to effectively use all that is available. Apart from creating demand for citizen’s right to information in general, NGOs may play a very important role in developing and communicating various categories of materials containing information depending on areas of interest of members of the public, with special emphasis on what it is that should concern them and how they could demand and use those effectively in achieving their rights and entitlements.
There are excellent examples of civil society role in enforcing people’s right to information. The experience of the MKSS in Rajasthan, India provides one of the most frequently noted grassroots approaches in implementing RTI. The MKSS has provided impetus to many other community initiatives to apply RTI in ensuring citizen’s access to
rights and entitlements. Many NGOs have also taken the course of providing legal support to citizens with regard to their right to information. NGOs can build in RTI awareness in their own core and project activities and conduct advice and information campaign in public service delivery institutions in key areas like education, health, land administration, local government etc.
The main thrust of civil society role in RTI implementation is similar to that in most other areas of advocacy, which is to catalyze awareness and participation that would catalyze empowerment of the disempowered, and thereby promote greater transparency, accountability and democratic practices. The civil society organizations like the RTI Forum can further strengthen their advocacy for public education campaigns through collaborative efforts involving the government and the media to ensure that people are aware of their right to information and of the procedures to exercise it. Educational and training institutions both public and private at various levels can be motivated to adopt special curricula for RTI awareness.
The role of civil society must also be strategic, with a special emphasis on partnerships particularly with the media, which has its own role to play as a primary stakeholder. The principal vehicle for taking information to the public is an independent and free media. More than any other stakeholder, a free media is strategically positioned to bring to the notice of the public the whole range of information freely, fairly and objectively to the notice of the public keeping an eye on what concerns the public, what they want and need to know. In partnership with the civil society the media can play a crucial role in effective demand creation on behalf of the information seekers and in putting pressure on the supply side. Like the Judiciary a free media, as a strong pillar of democracy, that can also hold the government and other institutions accountable in general as well as from the perspective of RTI.
Like any other sector, media is not also free from challenges. There can be conflict of interest between its function of informing the public and imperative to make profit. Increasing concentration of media in business houses with political links can pose a challenge to the true spirit of RTI by influencing the opinion through purposive use of information. A strong and principled self-regulatory system within the media can be helpful.
With the growth of the Internet, which is also another potentially powerful stakeholder in RTI, the world of information is being increasingly democratized. Effective use of the Internet by the both public and private sector can truly free the information and communication system from domination of any particular authority.
Manusher Jonno Foundation is an initiative designed to promote ‘human rights’ and ‘good governance’ in Bangladesh. MJF works with different sectors of the society including non‑organizations, civil society, private sector, and state institutions. It provides financial and technical support to the stakeholders in creating an enabling environment where human rights and good governance are upheld and nurtured by the stakeholders.
Research Initiatives, Bangladesh ‑ RIB they are going to their research about the information less people of Bangladesh.
THE Right to Information (RTI) Act, which completes nine months in the statute books in November, is reaching the rural areas too, where villagers have access to services provided by different government (GO) and non-government organisations (NGO). The Uttar Shilmandi (Daripara) village in Narsingdi district is one such example. Most of the villagers are either marginal farmers or manual labourers. In view of a variety of structural disadvantages, i.e. illiteracy, malnutrition, and social complications, they fail to progress. After the enactment of the RTI Act, people are being provided with necessary information on rural development programs, agricultural extension and utilities as well as information on social development, such as health, education, finance, legal etc.
The Chanderhat Ganokendra, a community learning centre established by Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM), a major NGO, has been addressing the information needs of the rural population and spreading awareness about the Act. As a result, villagers are gradually waking up to the power of RTI. Chanderhat provides “one-stop” access to various information resources to benefit the disadvantaged community. “Villagers have started seeking information related to their problems,” DAM Regional Coordinator Tapan Kumar Sarker said.
The center provides linkage services of government and non-government organisations. It has become the heart of the poor community. From here, they get easy access to different services. During a visit to the Ganokendra, this correspondent noticed that villagers, most of whom were ultra-poor, had lined up to receive services from various centres located at the Ganokendro. The centres included an immunisation centre run by the government’s Health Directorate, a nutrition centre of Vard, a satellite clinic of the government’s Family Planning Directorate and Surjomukhi Mohila Unnyan Dal, which is managed by Village Development Society.
Its activities are being supervised by an executive committee elected from among its members, 60% of whom are women. People’s drama, essay competition, poetry recital, debate, rally are also held at the centre, where people also bring out wall magazines.
The Papri Community Resource Centre (CRC), another resource centre at Moddhya Shilamandi, also renders possible due to launching of ACCESS Project of DAM, which is funded by CORDAID of the Netherlands. The project was launched in January, 2007, and will continue till December, 2009. The program is being implemented through 553 Ganokendros and 23 CRCs of 44 unions in eight upazilas of eight districts. A total of 55,300 people are being benefited under the project, resulting in improvement in their lifestyle.
Earlier, people had a tough time in getting VGD-VGF cards, elderly allowance, disabled allowance and other essential services in the project areas. But this year, 3,525 people got VGD cards, 34, 216 VGF cards, 7,048 elderly allowance, 859 disabled allowance while 12,673 got elementary education. Not only that, 671 school dropouts were readmitted to school and 25 child marriages were prevented. Apart from this, 227 received computer training, 47 attained mobile servicing skills, 15 were imparted honey cultivation training, 6,311 others were provided with necessary information relating to health, agriculture and livelihood, 129 got government forms, 660 were connected to service-oriented organisations through cell phone and 240 others were provided with results of public examinations, job information and e-mailing through Internet services. Moreover, special programs were implemented in six villages of six upazilas in nine different areas with a view to create illiteracy-free villages. Computer training was imparted to villagers through 23 community resource centres of 23 unions in six districts.
Right to Information law, the Standard and practice in other countries:
People’s right to information has been widely accepted as a basic prerequisite for the effective functioning of a democracy. Over 40 countries across the world have comprehensive laws to facilitate access to state records and more than 30 are in the process of enacting such legislation. Although freedom of information laws have existed since 1776, when Sweden passed its Freedom of the Press Act, the last decade has seen an unprecedented number of countries adopting access to information legislation. There are several reasons for this trend:
- Since the 1980s, the emergence of new democracies has given rise to new constitutions that include specific guarantees of the right to information.
ii There has been agitation from media and civil society groups, for greater access to information held by the Government and for more participation in governance. iii Finally, several international bodies have been promoting freedom of information, and donor organizations have been encouraging countries to adopt access to information laws, as part of an effort to increase Government transparency and reduce corruption
In Canada, the Access to Information Act allows citizens to demand records from federal bodies. The act came into force in 1983, under the Pierre Trudeau government, permitting Canadians to retrieve information from government files, establishing what information could be accessed, mandating timelines for response. The Information Commissioner of Canada enforces this.
There is also a complementary Privacy Act, introduced in 1983. The purpose of the Privacy Act is to extend the present laws of Canada that protect the privacy of individuals with respect to personal information about themselves held by a federal government institution and that provide individuals with a right of access to that information. It is a Crown copyright. Complaints for possible violations of the Act may be reported to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
Canadian access to information laws distinguishes between accesses to records generally and access to records that contain personal information about the person making the request. Subject to exceptions, individuals have a right of access to records that contain their own personal information under the Privacy Act but the general public does not have a right of access to records that contain personal in‑formation about others under the Access to Information Act.
In Australia, the Freedom of Information Act 1982 was passed at the federal level in 1982, applying to all “ministers, departments and public authorities” of the Commonwealth. There is similar legislation in all states and territories:
* Australian Capital Territory, the Freedom of Information Act 1989
* New South Wales, the Freedom of Information Act 1989
* Northern Territory, the Information Act 2003
* Queensland, the Freedom of Information Act 1992
* South Australia, the Freedom of Information Act 1991
* Tasmania, the Freedom of Information Act 1991
* Victoria, the Freedom of Information Act 1982
* Western Australia, the Freedom of Information Act 1992
In New Zealand, the relevant legislation is the Official Information Act 1982. This implemented a general policy of openness regarding official documents and replaced the Official Secrets Act.
In the United States the Freedom of Information Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 4, 1966 and went into effect the following year. Ralph Nader has been credited with the impetus for creating this act, among others. The Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments were signed by President Bill Clinton on October 2, 1996.
The Act applies only to federal agencies. However, all of the states, as well as the District of Columbia and some territories, have enacted similar statutes to require disclosures by agencies of the state and of local governments, though some are significantly broader than others. Many combine this with Open meeting laws, which require government meetings to be announced in advance and held publicly
President Pervez Musharraf promulgated the Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002 in October 2002. The law allows any citizen access to public records held by a public body of the federal government including ministries, departments, boards, councils, courts and tribunals. It does not apply to government owned corporations or provincial governments. The bodies must respond within 21 days.
The Indian Right to Information Act (RTI Act) was passed by the Indian Parliament on 15 June 2005. It came into effect on 12 October 2005. Supreme Court of India had, in several Judgments prior to enactment of the RTI Act, interpreted Indian Constitution to read Right to Information as the Fundamental Right as embodied in Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression and also in Right to Life. RTI Act laid down a procedure to guarantee this right. Under this law all Government Bodies or Government funded agencies have to designate a Public Information Officer (PIO) The PIO’s responsibility is to ensure that information requested is disclosed to the petitioner within 30 days or within 48 hours in case of information concerning the life or liberty of a person. The law was inspired by previous legislation from select states (among them Tamil Nadu (1997), Goa (1997), Rajasthan (2000), Karnataka (2000), Delhi (2001), Maharashtra (2002) etc) that allowed the right to information (to different degrees) to citizens about activities of any State Government body.
A number of high profile disclosures revealed corruptions in various government schemes such scams in Public Distribution Systems (ration stores), disaster relief, construction Of highways etc. The law itself has been hailed as a landmark in India’s drive towards more openness and accountability.
However the RTI India has certain weaknesses that hamper implementation. There have been questions on the lack of speedy appeal to non‑compliance to requests. The lack of a central PIO makes it difficult to pin‑point the correct PIO to approach for requests. There is also a criticism of the manner in which the Information Commissioners are appointed to head the information commission. It is alleged by RTI Activists that bureaucrats working in close proximity with the government are appointed in the RTI Commission in a nontransparent manner. The PIO being an officer of the relevant Government institution, may have a vested interest in not disclosing damaging information on activities of his/her Institution, This therefore creates a conflict of interest. In the state of Maharastra it was estimated that only 30% of the requests are actually realized under the Maharashtra Right to Information act. The law does not allow disclosure of information that affects national security, defense, and other matters that are deemed of national interest.
In Sweden, the Freedom of the Press Act of 1766 granted public access to government documents. It thus became an integral part of the Swedish Constitution, and the first ever piece of freedom of information legislation in the modern sense. In Swedish this is known as Offentlighetsprincipen (The Principle of Public Access), and has been valid since.
The Principle of Public Access means that the general public are to be guaranteed an unimpeded view of activities pursued by the government and local authorities; all documents handled by the authorities are public unless legislation explicitly and specifically states otherwise, and even then each request for potentially sensitive information must be handled individually, and a refusal is subject to appeal. Further, the
Implementation of RTI will empower citizens, the common people. It will hold authorities in and outside the Government accountable. It will strengthen democracy, promote good governance. It will devolve authority, curtail discretion. But it will be resisted. The resistance may emerge even from within the stakeholders. Public officials may resist it because openness reduces the range of discretion; political leaders may resist
because transparency reduces the scope of unaccountable use of power or influence; opposition to RTI may come from private business houses who tend to gain in a culture of secrecy; NGOs may resist because of gains from non-disclosure; media may play a negative role by using information to promote vested interests; failure of key institutions of the national integrity system especially the judiciary and law-enforcement bodies to enforce the rule of law may prevent RTI to be enforced. Above all the civil society organizations that must play the most important demand creating role may also fail to do so because of their own failure to promote proactive disclosure on the one hand, and because of polarization, unhealthy competition and lack of unity.
Such challenges cannot, however, dampen the high expectations and extraordinary opportunity created by the RTI Act. The knowledge that challenges exist can rather help
develop the strategies and policy actions to implement the RTI. Implementation of RTI, as earlier indicated, is much more difficult than adoption of the Act; it is a multi stakeholder challenge; it requires a comprehensive approach; and it will yield result only when there is a full-fledged and committed ownership of all stakeholders, especially internalization of the benefits of the concept of the right to information by the demand side as well as the supply side – those who need the information and those who hold them.
Ensuring people’s right to information will be possible only in a long-term process that demands un-ending commitment and effort from a range of different actors who have to be prepared for coping with setbacks and frustrations. Capacity to be creative for facing challenges will be crucial, in which taking lessons from experiences of what works and\ what does not is important, so would be a commitment to learning by doing backed up by a continuous process of innovation and creativity.
One of the Advisers with the status of a Minister was recently reported to have trashed the Act by indicating that government officials were not bound to provide information to the public. Quoted in Prothom Alo and the Daily Star, September 20, 2010. Although Information Minister assured that this was not the official position of the Government, that such statement could come from an adviser to the Prime Minister remains a matter of concern. Earlier, on July 25, 2010, at the 22nd Conference of the Deputy Commissioners held in the Conference Room of the Office of the Prime Minister, the deputy Commissioners expressed their reluctance to provide to the public all the information they are required under the RTI Act. They preferred “limited flow of Information”. That time too the Information Minister came out in defense of the law and advised the officials to ensure free flow of information for the public as required
by the law. The Daily Star July 26, 2010.
The UN General Assembly in its very first session in 1946 adopted the Resolution 59(I) which states, “Freedom of Information is a fundamental human right and … the touchstone of all the freedoms to which UN is consecrated”.
Article 7 of the Bangladesh Constitution says, “All powers in the State belong to the people”. Article 39 stipulates that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas regardless of frontiers.
On September 28, for the first time in Bangladesh the Right to Know Day was observed by Transparency
International Bangladesh throughout the country. TIB then partnered in 2005 with Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) and a number of other NGOs to observe the Day which helped bringing the demand for RTI into sharper focus.
For a good tracking of the process leading to the Bangladesh RTI Act see, Shaheen Anam, “Freedom to Know”, The Monthly Forum, published by The Daily Star, June 2009.
The United Nations, The UN Convention against Corruption, Article 10.
There are criticisms of the Act including those who consider some provisions of the Act to counterproductive the notion of right to information as such. See for example, Nurul Kabir, “Hypocrisy, thy Name is Government” , a 5-part article published in The New Age, May 3-7, 2009. For a good documentation of the process leading to the adoption of the Act and a more positive view of it see, Shaheen Anam, ibid.
The series of historical struggles for assertion and establishment of democratic rights with such milestones as the language movement of 1952 and the long periods of struggle against the Pakistani authoritarian rulers including protest movements of the late sixties leading to the liberation war in 1971, restoration of democracy through popular uprising after a decade and a half of post-1975 military or military-dominated rule, and the extraordinary public participation in the national election of December 2008 to put an end to the military-backed caretaker regime are but examples of Bangladesh’s struggle for democratic space.