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Status of RTI implementation in Nepal

RTI implementation is still challenging despite the RTI act promulgated over 15 years ago

Status of RTI implementation in Nepal

The Right to Information (RTI) is widely regarded as a vital tool for citizen empowerment, governmental accountability, corruption prevention, information accuracy and fostering fairness in public discourse. The implementation of RTI is still challenging despite the RTI act promulgated over a decade and a half ago. This article delves into the current status of RTI implementation in Nepal, key progress, major challenges and the way forward.

Policy context

The concept of RTI began in Nepal’s policy landscape dates back to 1990. The Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal in 1990, for the first time, ensured RTI as a fundamental right. Subsequent legal milestones such as the Interim Constitution 2007, Right to Information Act 2007, Right to Information Regulation 2009 and the Constitution of Nepal-2015 have contributed to establishing RTI as a cornerstone of democracy, good governance and equity in Nepal. The 2015 constitution explicitly emphasizes “full freedom of the press” in its preamble and has included the ‘right to information (Article 27)’ as one of the fundamental rights. However, the constitution's allowance for “reasonable restrictions” lacks clear legal definition, posing a significant challenge. This ambiguity, coupled with the absence of a precise operational framework for the “protection of national interest,” could potentially empower state authorities to impede RTI. There are a few attempts of the government to impose restrictions on people’s right to information. For instance, in 2023, the government classified 87 policy areas as ‘confidential’, a move later retracted due to pressure from advocacy groups like the Federation of Nepali Journalists.

Implementation status

The RTI Act of 2007 defines entities established under the constitution, parliamentary acts, or government authority, including those receiving government, foreign, or international organization funds as public bodies. These bodies are mandated to regularly update information for public access, ensure accessibility for citizens and disseminate information through national languages and mass media. The Act requires these bodies to proactively disclose information every three months. 

Government ministries and departments are ahead on proactive disclosure compared to other entities such as political parties, NGOs/CBOs and foundations. A Nov 2023 letter from the National Information Commission (NIC), instructing courts to maintain proactive disclosure, still indicates that even courts have struggled to uphold the proactive disclosure.

Regarding information dissemination, government offices, compared to other entities such as NGOs, political parties and foundations, have performed better. Most government offices in Kathmandu disseminate a wide range of information, covering aspects such as organizational structure, duties, employee details, services offered, decision-making processes and more, through various mediums, including websites, boards, pamphlets and digital platforms. Ministries and departments also adhere to this practice, extending it to provincial and local levels. The government offices however have not been disseminating financial information, including financial transactions. NGOs, political parties and foundations are also found publishing information in various platforms, but their information is more to showcase their progress rather than providing all the detailed information as indicated by the law.

Following the act instructed to do so, government ministries, departments and offices have a provision of an Information Officer for the purpose of disseminating information. The name of the Information Officer is publicly displayed on either the website or office notice board, or both. However, these officers are often not communication experts but are assigned based on personal interest. The appointment of the information officer is mostly on an ad-hoc basis and without considering specific qualifications.

NGOs and foundations, which used to have communications focal points even earlier than the act’s provision, are still centered around showcasing organizational progress and building the organization's image rather than serving as a link between the people and the organization. As information seekers and media wrongly perceive the I/NGOS and foundations as the ‘dollar farming’ means and have negative connotation, inquiry by the press or the individual about the work of the I/NGOs are seen as potentially harmful. In response to this perceived threat, communication officers utilize their networks and expertise to minimize media and public inquiries into their work, aiming to mitigate potential negative consequences. Another significant issue with I/NGOs is their lack of a culture of responding to applicants regarding bid outcomes. These organizations issue calls for Expression of Interest (EoI), receive various proposals and decide on procuring services or goods from one of the vendors. However, many of them often fail to inform all the non-successful applicants of the outcome, including which bidder bagged the contract. Many of them remain silent even when inquiries are made via email on this.

Info commission’s role

The National Information Commission (NIC), established under the RTI Act of 2007 to safeguard, promote, and implement RTI in the country, reported receiving a total of 1,068 appeals in 2079-80 BS (2022-23).  Out of the appeals made, NIC resolved 1,054 cases, which is 99.04 percent. It is important to note that most of the appeals received by NIC in the last fiscal year (72.05 percent) were related to local government. This indicates both public interest in accessing local government information and a tendency for local government representatives to be more reluctant to provide such information.  Additionally, in 2023-24, NIC instructed the Office of the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers, chief ministers of all seven provinces of Nepal, all local governments, and the BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences to ensure transparency in public procurement. Furthermore, NIC initiated legal action against the chiefs of four public institutions for non-compliance with the RTI law.


In the context of Nepal’s literacy rate, which is 76 percent according to the latest census, the awareness of RTI at the citizens’ level is really low and this has affected RTI implementation. Another prominent challenge is the lengthy and time-consuming process, which often discourages common people from utilizing it. There have been instances where information seekers faced attacks or harassment, and government officials displayed unhelpful attitudes, creating unfavorable environments for accessing information. Additionally, there have been reports of hurdles in registering RTI applications and instances where requests were ignored, psychologically disempowering individuals from seeking information. Despite the RTI being enacted over a decade and a half ago, it is still wrongly perceived as a right primarily for journalists.  Even among those aware of RTI, there is a lack of habit in seeking information from government offices. Language barriers further compound the issue, as information is primarily disseminated in Nepali, neglecting the substantial portion of the population whose first language is not Nepali.

Way forward

In order to strengthen RTI in Nepal, a comprehensive strategy is imperative. This involves awareness campaigns targeting citizens to boost understanding of RTI rights, utilizing various communication channels and languages for maximum impact, simplifying RTI application procedures and adequate guidance and support to RTI applicants. Equally important is the implementation of specialized training programs for Information Officers. Encouraging proactive disclosure of information by all public entities is vital to enhance transparency. Addressing language barriers, enforcing public accountability, engaging with the media to amplify awareness, strengthening oversight by the National Information Commission (NIC), fostering community engagement and conducting regular evaluations of RTI implementation efforts are additional important steps to strengthen it.

The author is a media researcher 

[email protected]