Right to information (RTI) holds a lot of importance when it comes to maintaining transparency and establishing good governance. Democracy fosters only on good governance whose main pillars include transparency, rule of law, responsiveness, accountability, participation, consensual decisions, equity and effectiveness, among others. As RTI is a crucial tool for promoting good governance, the former is often regarded as a synonym for democracy. There is no doubt that the RTI is a major instrument of promoting human rights and enhancing citizens’ sovereignty. Many nations around the world have formulated laws related to RTI in order to ensure corruption-free administration. Nepal, too, has implemented the RTI Act, 2064 BS (2007) and the RTI Rules, 2009. As per the provision of the RTI Act, the National Information Commission (NIC) was established in 2008 to implement the Act. The independent body is responsible for the protection, promotion and practice of RTI in the country.
The Constitution of Nepal 2015 also takes RTI as one of the fundamental rights of citizens. Article 27 of this national charter mentions: ‘Every citizens shall have the right to seek information on any matters of concern to him/her or the public. Provided that nothing shall be deemed to compel any person to provide information about which confidentiality is to be maintained according to law.’ RTI helps enhance effectiveness of public service and increase public trust and bring democratic practice to life. However, no monumental effort seems to have been made to internalise RTI. Although most public offices from the federal to the local levels have designated their spokespersons and information officers in order to impart information about their activities to those seeking such information, their behaviours have yet to change fully. This further complicates the information acquiring process. The institutional mechanism related to RTI is not so effective as it should have been.
Despite such hurdles, the establishment of NIC has been instrumental in the promotion of RTI in the country. According to its annual report for the fiscal year 2078/79 B.S., the NIC settled 1,077 appeals of the total registered 1,083. The appeals filed at the NIC were divided into 10 categories before analysing them. The number of cases related to the local governments stood at about 78.5 per cent. The report shows that the number of complaints associated with banks and financial institutions remained 10.3 per cent, law and justice administration 1.01 per cent, information and communication 7.2 per cent and education, health and sports 3.78 per cent. Similarly, the number of complaints in regard to drinking water, electricity, construction and transport was 0.64 per cent, public enterprises, corporations and authorities, 1.66 per cent, land, land revenue, forest and agriculture 0.83 per cent and administration 0.46 per cent.
Meanwhile, receiving the NIC's report at the office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers in Singha Durbar on Wednesday, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda said that the promotion of RTI would create a development-friendly environment in the country. He also added that with the guarantee of RTI, good governance would be maintained in the society. “Increasing people's control, surveillance and intervention in the governance system is directly linked to RTI,” he said. When people remain informed and transparency is maintained, distortions and inconsistencies can be prevented. Despite commitments made by every successive government to ending corruption, public offices have been in the grip of fiscal irregularities. So, it is necessary to promote RTI in a more effective manner to check such incongruities.