Understanding the Global Regulatory Process
Research Handbooks in Comparative Law series
Edited by Francesca Bignami and David Zaring
Chapter 7: Access to information in the UK and India
This chapter examines the impact of two similar pieces of Access to Information legislation: the UK Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2005 and the Indian Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005. By looking at the origins, composition and function of these two laws, the chapter explores both the similarities and differences that characterise the attempt to bring transparency to two very different social and political environments. As symbols of “power transferred”, both pieces of legislation stand as tools to enable and strengthen citizen rights to information. In operation, the two laws have had similar effects and patterns of use. They have generated high-level publicity and scandal and at the same time, beneath the headlines, they have also been used as a quotidian tool for information-gathering. Both laws have led to increased government transparency: information disclosure has been used to bring about accountability as well as, to a more limited extent, reform and change in government behaviour. Despite these similarities, the two laws have been shaped by their very different political contexts (Graziadei, 2008). The UK FOI Act is robust and extensively used, though it has been subject to a certain degree of resistance, government complaints and attempts to scale back the protections of the Act. The origins and use of the Indian RTI Act have proved more “politicised” but the impact of the Act has been limited by poor implementation, bureaucratic hostility and deep socio-political obstacles.
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