The right to know


Transparency is not incompatible with judicial independence, argues Ajit Prakash Shah, a former chief justice of Delhi and Madras high courts

Despite several judicial declarations about the right to information (RTI), it took action by a group of disempowered rural workers in Rajasthan for the discourse surrounding the traditionally urban subject of transparency to take shape.

Members of a collective of farmers and labourers – the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan – who were working for a state employment guarantee scheme, came to realize that corrupt officials were using the secrecy surrounding state records to siphon off their wages and other entitlements. Their demands for access to their wage records led to the idea of right to information spreading to the rest of the country. This idea has now captured the public imagination in a manner that has few parallels in independent India.

The Right to Information Act, 2005, enacted in fulfilment of the Congress party’s election promise, is perhaps the biggest contribution of our legislature towards promoting greater accountability.

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Ajit Prakash Shah is a former chief justice of Delhi High Court and Madras High Court. He is well known for his ruling in the recent judges’ assets case, in which he declared that it is in the larger interest of people that judges of high courts and the Supreme Court declare their assets.