The government plans to table a new Right to Information (or Freedom of Information) bill in this session of the Parliament. There are many laudable changes in the new bill, but the basic assumption that people must ask and pay for any information they want from, of, or about the government still remains.
Eight states have implemented RTI. Given this experience and the inherent culture of secrecy and fear in the government, it is time to look for a better adaptation of the idea to Indian circumstances: Duty to Publish Act! It is more suitable than the Right to Information Act. DTP instead of RTI!
A DTP Act would require the government to publish all information except that which is permitted to be kept secret by the law. First and foremost this will change the debate from what government should reveal to what it can keep secret. Instead of deciding on a case by case basis, as it does today, it would need to develop general guidelines that determine what information can be kept out of the public domain. This fundamental restructuring of the debate—from what should be revealed to what can be kept secret—would strengthen the hands of citizens far more than any severe penalty clause that can added to the RTI bill.