Right to Information Act, 2005

It came into force on 12th October, 2005. The basic object of it is to empower the citizens, promote transparency and accountability in the working of the Government, control corruption, and make our democracy work for the people in real sense. It goes without saying that an informed citizen is better equipped to keep necessary vigil on the instruments of governance and make the government more accountable to the governed. The Act is a big step towards making the citizens informed about the activities of the Government.

Right to information is accessible under the Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes a right to inspection of work, documents, records, taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records, taking separate samples of material or obtaining information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts where such information is stored in a computer or in any other device.

All citizens shall have the right to information except people of J & K as the act extends to the whole country except State of Jammu & Kashmir. Section 6 tells that any “person” may request for information in writing or through electronic means English or Tamil along with fees  thus, the word “person” is defined under section 3(42) of the General Clauses Act, 1897 and shall include any company, or association or body of individuals, whether incorporated or not. An applicant making request for information shall not be required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him.

It applies to both the Central and State Governments and all public authorities including public Sector, government funded organizations/ institutions, schools, hospitals, etc. The public authority is bound to furnish the information, maintain the records for easy access and to publish within 120 days the name of the particular officers who should give the same and in regard to the framing of the rules, regulations etc. and to be disseminated in the prescribed form and manner. In Thalappalam Ser. Coop. Bank Ltd. & others Versus State of Kerala & others, Supreme Court held that any private organisations, including NGOs, which is substantially funded by the government , is within the ambit of Public authority under RTI.

Third party means a person other than the citizen making a request for information and includes a public authority thus, anyone other than the appellant or the respondent. In matters where an appellant is seeking information not regarding his or her own activities, or is asking for details of shared records that list details of several persons other than him or her, information cannot be provided until the third party consents to disclosure and subsequently until the Central Public Information Office after considering the implications of such disclosure allows it. PIO intends to disclose an information supplied by a third party which he has treated as confidential, the PIO, before taking a decision to disclose the information shall invite him to make submission in the matter.

In the case of state of Uttar Pradesh Vs Raj Narain (1974) 4 SCC 428, Supreme Court of India said that the Right to Information is included in the right to freedom of speech and expression explicitly guaranteed in Article 19(1) (a) of the Indian Constitution. “It is not in the interest of the public to cover with a veil of secrecy the common routine business – the responsibility of officials to explain and to justify their acts is the chief safeguard against oppression and corruption.” India is a democracy and people are the masters thus, they have a right to know how the governments, meant to serve them, are functioning. Further, every citizen pays taxes; even a beggar on the street pays tax as he buys soap, etc. Therefore, they have a right to know how their money is being spent. The Act also empowers every citizen to ask any questions from the Government or seek any information, take copies of any government documents, inspect any government documents/works or take samples of materials of any Government work.

The public information officer on a receipt of the request, as expeditiously provide the information within 30 days with the prescribed fees or reject the same. Most of all, various exemptions are mentioned from the disclosure of information that are:

a)      Affect the Sovereignty, integrity of country, security, strategy, etc.

b)      Prohibited by any Court of Law or lead to contempt of court.

c)      Breach of Privilege of Parliament or State Legislature.

d)      Commercial Confidence, Trade Secret, intellectual Prosperity and would harm the competitive position of a third party, until for a large public.

e)      Information available in any fiduciary relationship.

f)       Information received in confidence from any Foreign Government.

g)      The disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person.

h)      Impede the process of investigation, apprehension or prosecution of offenders.

i)        Cabinet papers and records of deliberations provided the decision of the council of ministers shall be made public in the near future.

j)        Personal information, disclosure of which has no relation to the public but would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy.

k)      Information not denied to parliament or state legislation to not deny.

l)        Decisions reasons and relevant material allowed after the matter is closed.

An appeal can be filed either by applicant or by the third party within 30 days from the receipt of decision given by PIO to the senior officer. But a second appeal within 90 days from the date of receipt of decision may be filled to the Central Information Commission for Central Government Departments there is a State Information Commission for state Government and there decision shall be mandatory.

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