In modern India where politics plays a vital role, Corruption among the Public Officials is growing with a high speed day by day. To bring transparency and openness for the citizens to know about their Governmentary System and its administrative functions, the Government of India repealed ‘Freedom of Information Act, 2002’ and passed a new legislation ‘Right To Information Act, 2005’ called as one of the best transparency laws in the world.
The main aim of ‘Right To Information Act, 2005’ is to ensure accountability in the workings of every public authorities by providing access to information to the citizens and to bring reduction in corruption. As preamble itself speaks that the RTI Act was enacted to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every Public Authority in order to strengthen the core constitutional values of a democratic republic. One of the main purposes is also to make the government free from corruption and arbitrariness. This act has its wider scope in the country like India where almost all the public officials are involved in the cases of corruption.
The Right and Duty/Obligation are correlated to each other. Every citizen of India has right to seek information from the public officer if needed, that is by filing a request or application and it is the duty of public officer to provide such an information without any failure. The right and duty are correlated to each other as two faces of the same coin. When the right is claimed by one person, the obligation arises on the other side.
‘Right’ means a well-founded claim which can always be implied by the nature of the human being. If the claim is founded or given by law, it is a legal right. Men are by their inherent nature moral and social beings, they have therefore mutual claim upon one another. Generally correlation of legal right is legal duty.
‘Information’ means only that information which is recorded in a material form not in a oral form and includes records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to private body which can easily be accessed by the public authority. Information asked should always be administrative in nature.
‘Right To Information’ is a statutory right conferred on the citizens of India which is equivalent to the right to freedom of speech and expression given under Article- 19(1) (a) of the Indian Constitution. Even Corporates and Associations can avail the information from the public authorities but only through the individuals who constitute their management. If the concerned public authority is failed in providing sufficient information then Public Information Officer can be penalized for such offence.
Public Authority means any authority or body or institution which is established by the government and set up under the Indian Constitution.
Procedure for obtaining information: The person, who is willing to obtain any information from the public officer, shall make a request to the Public Information Officer in writing under Form- A or through electronic means. For this he has to pay Rs: 20 by treasury challan and cash. Similarly a sum of Rs: 15 will be charged per hour, or any fraction thereof, to inspect the documents. The cost of photocopying one page has been fixed at Rs: 5, for computer printout Rs: 10 per page and for CDs and Floppies Rs: 100 per piece. The name of the person must be included while requesting for the information, though reason for requesting information need not be stated. Firstly the application should be filed before the Assistant Public Officer and he will transmit the application within 5 days to the Public Information Officer, who has to dispose the application within 30 days. A prescribed fee as above stated should be paid to the public authority along with the application for seeking information. If the accurate information is not provided then complaint or application or appeal can be filed to Central/ State Information Commission. For First Appeal Rs: 40 and for Second Appeal Rs: 50 will also be charged. Public Information Officer is bound to find out sources and availability of the information. Frivolous information will not be entertained by the public authority.
Madhya Pradesh was the only first state in India to become actively engaged in securing the Right to Information for the public in October 1996. After which many states have brought out the act into force in the state.
Exemption from disclosure of information:
a) Information which affect the sovereignty and integrity of India.
b) Information which has been expressely forbidden by any court of law.
c) Information, if disclosed will lead to breach of privilege of parliament.
d) Information, if endangers lives of the whistle blowers.
e) Information received in confidence from foreign countries.
f) Information containing commercial and trade secrets.
If there is failure on the part of Public Information Officer in providing information and that too without any reasonable cause then penalty in the form of fine can be imposed which will be Rs: 250/- per day but should not extend to Rs/- 25000.
1. The Central Board of Secondary Education and Another V/S Aditya Bandopadhyay and Others (AIR 2011 SCW 4888)
According to this case question before the court was whether the answer book of a ‘Student’ is a document under ‘Right to Information Act, 2005’. The Court held that when a candidate participate in an examination and submits its answer book containing answers to the examining body for evaluation and declaration of the result, the answer book is a document or record. The evaluated book of the Student is the opinion of the examiner and it can also be considered as ‘information’ under Section: 2 (f) & (i) of the Act.
2. Vijay Prakash V/S Union of India (AIR 2010 DEL 7)
According to this case it is stated that the disclosures of service records of a public servant sought by husband so as to establish his case in matrimonial proceedings. The court held that it shall not be permissible under Section: 8 of the ‘Right to Information Act, 2005’