FoE and RTI are basic tenets of democratic polity: Atwal

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New Delhi, Oct 14 (UNI) There can be no gainsaid that for both the members of Parliament (MPs) and the citizens, the Right to Information and Freedom of Expression have created an enabling atmosphere thereby making them partners in the process of development.

Speaking at the 119th Assembly of the IPU, on ''Freedom of Expression and Right to Information'' in Geneva today, Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal said Freedom of Speech and the Right to Information play a very crucial role for the success of a democratic system in the real sense.

Sharing his thoughts on the subject, Mr Atwal said the Freedom of Expression and the Right to Information are the basic tenets of a democratic polity. Citizens' involvement in a democracy is not, and should not be, confined to mere casting of votes. Their participation needs to be proactive on a continuous basis, which means that they should put forth their views on all issues of public importance.

He further said ''to be able to comprehend an issue in the right perspective, people should have access to authentic information. It is only when they are well informed about the activities of the Government can they form an opinion and express the same''.

Freedom of Expression and the Right to Information, are, therefore, closely interlinked and are essential pre-requisites of a democracy and the importance of these Rights has been recognised the world over.

In India, the Freedom of Expression finds place among six Freedoms under the Fundamental Rights guaranteed by our Constitution, Mr Atwal said and added that all citizens of India, irrespective of their caste, creed, colour, sex, race or religion enjoy this Freedom and any violation of the Right is punishable under the law of the land.

India is also committed towards ensuring good governance based on transparency and accountability. In this regard, we have enacted the Right to Information Act 2005, which has gone a long way in empowering people and promoting transparency. It is a comprehensive law covering all matters of governance and is applicable to the Government Departments at all levels -- Union, State and Local, and the agencies which are in receipt of government grants.

The Act has proved to be very popular and has been extensively used by the common man, he said.

In India, the MPs have been granted absolute privilege in respect of anything said or any vote cast in the Parliament or any Committee thereof so that they could express their views without any fear.

Article 105 of the Constitution of India, which embodies this privilege grants immunity to the MPs from proceedings in any court for anything said in the course of business of the House.

For holding discussions on Government policies and programmes and to scrutinise their actions, the MPs need to keep themselves fully abreast of the relevant information. In the House, MPs rely on various procedural devices including Parliamentary Questions to elicit information from the Government.

Based on the authentic information thus gathered on the functioning of the government machinery, they effectively call for its accountability, Mr Atwal said.

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