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RTI & Other Basic Rights

The linkage between RTI and other basic rights and freedoms can be found in resolution 59(1),  which UN adopted in its very first session in 1946. It stated: ‘Freedom of information is a fundamental human right … the touchstone of all the freedoms to which the UN is consecrated”.

What is the logic of attaching importance to access to information to an extent that it is not only regarded as a fundamental human right but it is also identified as a yardstick to measure other freedoms? Why is freedom of information being considered as a touchstone or a benchmark for other rights and freedoms?

This clearly means that there is corresponding link between the ability to exercise the right to information and the level of the quality of life enjoyed by the citizens. In other words, the assumption is that those who have a greater level of access to information have a better quality of life as compared to those who have lesser level access to information.  It also means that right to information does not, in itself, guarantee other basic rights. In other words, it empowers citizens to attain their basic human rights.

This leads to another important question. How level of access to information empowers people to attain their basic human rights and vice versa? For example, if people know the total budget of a dispensary or of a school in their area, they will demand corresponding quality in the services. Similarly, if they know the total cost to be incurred on the proposed road in their area, they can create public pressure on their representatives and officials if the quality is compromised because of the kickbacks.

In these examples, we find the linkage of right to information with public accountability and democracy. This is the power of the right to information.

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