Right to Imformation

  • The right to information includes an access to the information which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes the right to inspect the work, document, records, taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents/records and certified samples of the materials and obtaining information which is also stored in electronic form.
  • Right to Information Act 2005 mandates timely response to citizen requests for government information.
  • Act provides for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority, the constitution of a Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions.
  • RTI Act 2005 extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Objective of the Right to Information Act :

  • The basic object of the Right to Information Act is to empower the citizens,promote transparency and accountability in the working of the Government,contain 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.
  • Revelation of information in actual practice is likely to conflict with other public interests including efficient operations of the Governments, optimum use of limited fiscal resources and the preservation of confidentiality of sensitive information. So this Act harmonises these conflicting interests while preserving the paramountcy of the democratic ideal.

Provisions of RTI Act 2005:

What is Information? (Section 2 (f))

  • Information is any material in any form. It 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.
  • It also includes information relating to any private body which can be accessed by the public authority under any law for the time being in force.

What is “Right to Information”?

“Right to Information” means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes the right to

  1.   inspection of work, documents, records;
  2.   taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records;
  3.   taking certified samples of material;
  4.   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.

What is a Public Authority? (Section 2 (h))

A “Public authority” means any authority or body or institution of self- government established or constituted

  • (a) by or under the Constitution;
  • (b) by any other law made by Parliament;
  • (c) by any other law made by State Legislature;
  • (d) by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government, and includes any  (i) body owned, controlled or substantially financed; (ii) non-Government organization substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government.

What are obligations of Public Authority? (Section 4)

(1) Every public authority shall

(a)maintain all its records duly catalogued and indexed in a manner and the form which facilitates the right to information under this Act and ensure that all records that are appropriate to be computerised are, within a reasonable time and subject to availability of resources, computerised and connected through a network all over the country on different systems so that access to such records is facilitated;

(b) publish within one hundred and twenty days from the enactment of this Act:

  1. the particulars of its organisation, functions and duties;
  2. the powers and duties of its officers and employees;
  3. the procedure followed in the decision making process;
  4. the rules, regulations, instructions, manuals and records;
  5. a statement of the boards, councils, committees and other bodies consisting of two or more persons constituted as its part or for the purpose of its advice, and as to whether meetings of those boards, councils, committees and other bodies are open to the public;
  6.   a directory of its officers and employees;
  7.   the monthly remuneration received by each of its officers and employees, including the system of compensation as provided in its regulations;
  8. the budget allocated to each of its agency, indicating the particulars of all plans, proposed expenditures and reports on disbursements made;
  9. the particulars of facilities available to citizens for obtaining information;
  10. the names, designations and other particulars of the Public Information Officers;
  11. such other information as may be prescribed and thereafter update these publications every year;

(c) publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect public

(d) provide reasons for its administrative or quasi-judicial decisions to affected persons

(2) It shall be a constant endeavour of every public authority to take steps to provide as much information suo motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including internet, so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information.

(3) Every information shall be disseminated widely and in such form and manner which is easily accessible to the public.

(4) All materials shall be disseminated taking into consideration the cost effectiveness, local language and the most effective method of communication in that local area and the information should be easily accessible, to the extent possible in electronic format with the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, available free or at such cost of the medium or the print cost price as may be prescribed.

What is “Competent Authority”?

“Competent authority” means

  1.  the Speaker in the case of the House of the People or the Legislative Assembly of a State or a Union territory having such Assembly and the Chairman in the case of the Council of States or Legislative Council of a State;
  2.   the Chief Justice of India in the case of the Supreme Court;
  3.   the Chief Justice of the High Court in the case of a High Court;
  4.  the President or the Governor, as the case may be, in the case of other authorities established or constituted by or under the Constitution.
  5. the administrator appointed under article 239 of the Constitution;

What is a Public Information Officer? (Section 5)

  • Public authorities have designated some of its officers as Public Information Officer. They are responsible to give information to a person who seeks information under the RTI Act.
  • According to the Act, every public authority shall, within one hundred days of the enactment of this Act, designate as many officers as the Central Public Information Officers or State Public Information Officers, as the case may be, in all administrative units or offices under it as may be necessary to provide information to persons requesting for the information under this Act.
  • The Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer may seek the assistance of any other officer as he or she considers it necessary for the proper discharge of his or her duties. For the purposes of any contravention of the provisions of this Act, such other officer  whose assistance has been sought, shall be treated as a Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be.

What is an Assistant Public Information Officer?

  • These are the officers at sub-divisional level to whom a person can give his RTI application or appeal. These officers send the application or appeal to the Public Information Officer of the public authority or the concerned appellate authority. An Assistant Public Information Officer is not responsible to supply the information.
  • The Assistant Public Information Officers appointed by the Department of Posts in various post offices are working as Assistant Public Information Officers for all the public authorities under the Government of India.

What is the Fee for Seeking Information from Central Government Public Authorities?

  • A person who desires to seek some information from a Central Government Public Authority is required to send, along with the application, a demand draft or a banker’s cheque or an Indian Postal Order of Rs.10, payable to the Accounts Officer of the public authority as fee prescribed for seeking information. The payment of fee can also be made by way of cash to the Accounts Officer of the public authority or to the Assistant Public Information Officer against proper receipt.
  • However, the RTI Fee and the mode of payment may vary as under Section 27 and Section 28, of the RTI Act, 2005 the appropriate Government and the competent authority, respectively, by notification in the Official Gazette, make rules to carry out the provisions of this Act.
  • The person making request for the information shall be provided the information free of charge where a public authority fails to comply with the time limits specified in this Act.

What is the Fee for the BPL applicant for Seeking Information?

  • If the applicant belongs to below poverty line (BPL) category, he is not required to pay any fee. However, he should submit a proof in support of his claim to belong to the below poverty line.

Is there any specific Format of Application?

  • There is no prescribed format of application for seeking information. The application can be made on plain paper. The application should, however, have the name and complete postal address of the applicant.

Is it required to give any reason for seeking information? (Section 6(2))

  • The information seeker is not required to give reasons for seeking information.

Is there any provision for exemption from Disclosure of Information?

  • Sub-section (1) of section 8 and section 9 of the Act enumerate the types of information which is exempt from disclosure.
  • Sub-section (2) of section 8, however, provides that information exempted under sub-section (1) or exempted under the Official Secrets Act, 1923 can be disclosed if public interest in disclosure overweighs the harm to the protected interest.

Section 8:

(1) There shall be no obligation to give any citizen,—

(a) information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence;

(b) information which has been expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law or tribunal or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of court;

(c) information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature;

(d) information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information;

(e)information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information;

(f)information received in confidence from foreign Government;

(g) information, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes;

(h) information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders;

(i) cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers provided that the decisions of Council of Ministers, the reasons thereof, and the material on the basis of which the decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken.

(j) information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Public Information Officer or the appellate authority is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information provided that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.

(2)Notwithstanding anything in the Official Secrets Act, 1923 nor any of the exemptions permissible in accordance with sub-section (1), a public authority may allow access to information, if public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interests.

(3) Subject to the provisions of clauses (a), (c) and (i) of sub-section (1), any information relating to any occurrence, event or matter which has taken place, occurred or happened twenty years before the date on which any request of information is made shall be provided to any person making a request, povided that where any question arises as to the date from which the said period of twenty years has to be computed, the decision of the Central Government shall be final, subject to the usual appeals provided for in this Act.

Section 9:

  • Public Information Officer may reject a request for information where such a request for providing access would involve an infringement of copyright subsisting in a person other than the State.

Section 10(1):

  • Where a request for access to information is rejected on the ground that it is in relation to information which is exempt from disclosure then access may be provided to that part of the record which does not contain any information which is exempt from disclosure under this Act and which can reasonably be severed from any part that contains exempt information.

Is there any assistance available to the Applicant for filing RTI application?

  • If a person is unable to make a request in writing, he may seek the help of the Public Information Officer to write his application and the Public Information Officer should render him reasonable assistance.
  • Where a decision is taken to give access to a sensorily disabled person to any document, the Public Information Officer, shall provide such assistance to the person as may be appropriate for inspection.

What is the Time Period for Supply of Information?

  • In normal course, information to an applicant shall be supplied by PIO within 30 days from the receipt of application by the public authority. (or reject the request for any of the reasons specified)
  • If information sought concerns the life or liberty of a person, it shall be supplied within 48 hours.
  • In case the application is sent through the Assistant Public Information Officer or it is sent to a wrong public authority, five days shall be added to the period of thirty days or 48 hours, as the case may be.
  • If the Public Information Officer fails to give decision on the request for information within the period specified Public Information Officer shall be deemed to have refused the request.

Is there any provision of Appeal under the RTI Act? 

  • If an applicant is not supplied information within the prescribed time of thirty days or 48 hours, as the case may be, or is not satisfied with the information furnished to him, he may prefer an appeal to the first appellate authority who is an officer senior in rank to the Public Information Officer.
  • Such an appeal, should be filed within a period of thirty days from the date on which the limit of 30 days of supply of information is expired or from the date on which the information or decision of the Public Information Officer is received. The appellate authority of the public authority shall dispose of the appeal within a period of thirty days or in exceptional cases within 45 days of the receipt of the appeal.

Is there any scope for second appeal under the RTI Act?

  • If the first appellate authority fails to pass an order on the appeal within the prescribed period or if the appellant is not satisfied with the order of the first appellate authority, he may prefer a second appeal with the Central Information Commission within ninety days from the date on which the decision should have been made by the first appellate authority or was actually received by the appellant.

Can anyone go to the court against any order under this Act? (Section 23)

  • No court shall entertain any suit, application or other proceeding in respect of any order made under this Act and no such order shall be called in question otherwise than by way of an appeal under this Act.

Whether Complaints can be made under this Act? If yes, under what conditions?

  • If any person is unable to submit a request to a Public Information Officer either by reason that such an officer has not been appointed by the concerned public authority; or the Assistant Public Information Officer has refused to accept his or her application or appeal for forwarding the same to the Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be; or he has been refused access to any information requested by him under the RTI Act; or he has not been given a response to a request for information within the time limit specified in the Act; or he has been required to pay an amount of fee which he considers unreasonable; or he believes that he has been given incomplete, misleading or false information, he can make a complaint to the Information Commission.

What is the Method of Seeking Information? (Section 6(1))

  • A citizen who desires to obtain any information under the Act, should make an application to the Public Information Officer of the concerned public authority in writing or through electronic means in English or Hindi or in the official language of the area in which the application is made. The application should be precise and specific. He should make payment of application fee at the time of submitting the application as prescribed in the Fee Rules.
  • Where such request cannot be made in writing, the Public Information Officer shall render all reasonable assistance to the person making the request orally to reduce the same in writing.
  • The application has to be sent to the concerned Regional Head i.e. the Public Information Officer of the Region to which the matter/information pertains to, who shall dispose of the request within 30 days of the receipt of the request.

What if request of information has been rejected?

  • Where a request has been rejected, the Public Information Officer shall communicate to the person making the request,
  1.   the reasons for such rejection;
  2.   the period within which an appeal against such rejection may be preferred; and
  3.   the particulars of the appellate authority.

What if apllication is made to wrong public authority? (Section 6(3))

  • If an application is made to a public authority requesting for an information, which is held by another public authority or  the subject matter of which is more closely connected with the functions of another public authority, the public authority, to which such application is made, shall transfer the application to that other public authority and inform the applicant immediately about such transfer.

What is Third Party Information? (Section 11)

  • Third party in relation to the Act means a person other than the citizen who has made request for information. The definition of third party includes a public authority other than the public authority to whom the request has been made.

Section 11:

(1)Where Public Information Officer intends to disclose any information on a request made under this Act, which relates to or has been supplied by a third party and has been treated as confidential by that third party, Public Information Officer shall within five days from the receipt of the request, give a written notice to such third party of the request and of the fact that Public Information Officer intends to disclose the information, and invite the third party to make a submission in writing or orally, regarding whether the information should be disclosed, and such submission of the third party shall be kept in view while taking a decision about disclosure of information:

Except in the case of trade or commercial secrets protected by law, disclosure may be allowed if the public interest in disclosure outweighs in importance any possible harm or injury to the interests of such third party.

(2) Where a notice is served by Public Information Officer, third party shall, within ten days from the date of receipt of such notice, be given the opportunity to make representation against the proposed disclosure.

(3)Public Information Officer shall within forty days after receipt of the request for information, if the third party has been given an opportunity to make representation under sub-section (2), make a decision as to whether or not to disclose the information and give in writing the notice of his decision to the third party.

Is there any organization(s) exempt from providing information under RTI Act?

  • Yes, certain intelligence and security organisations specified in the Second Schedule, are exempted from providing information excepting the information pertaining to the allegations of corruption and human rights violations.
  • In the case of information sought for is in respect of allegations of violation of human rights, the information shall only be provided after the approval of the Information Commission. Such information shall be provided within forty-five days from the date of the receipt of request.

Power and Functions of Information Commissions:

Section 18:

(1) It shall be the duty of the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, to receive and inquire into a complaint from any person,—

(a) who has been unable to submit a request to a Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, either by reason that no such officer has been appointed under this Act, or because Public Information Officer has refused to accept his or her application for information or appeal under this Act for forwarding the same to the Public Information Officer or senior officer specified in sub-section (1) of section 19 or the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be;

(b) who has been refused access to any information requested under this Act;

(c) who has not been given a response to a request for information or access to information within the time limit specified under this Act;

(d) who has been required to pay an amount of fee which he or she considers unreasonable;

(e) who believes that he or she has been given incomplete, misleading or false information under this Act; and

(f) in respect of any other matter relating to requesting or obtaining access to records under this Act.

(2) Where the Information Commission is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to inquire into the matter, it may initiate an inquiry in respect thereof.

(3) The Information Commission shall, while inquiring into any matter under this section, have the same powers as are vested in a civil court while trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, in respect of the following matters, namely:—

(a) summoning and enforcing the attendance of persons and compel them to give oral or written evidence on oath and to produce the documents or things;

(b)requiring the discovery and inspection of documents;

(c) receiving evidence on affidavit;

(d) requisitioning any public record or copies thereof from any court or office;

(e) issuing summons for examination of witnesses or documents; and

(f)any other matter which may be prescribed.

(4)The Information Commission may, during the inquiry of any complaint under this Act, examine any record to which this Act applies which is under the control of the public authority.

Section 19:

(1)Any person who, does not receive a decision within the time specified or is aggrieved by a decision of the Public Information Officer may within thirty days from the expiry of such period or from the receipt of such a decision prefer an appeal to such officer who is senior in rank to the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer as the case may be, in each public authority.

Such officer may admit the appeal after the expiry of the period of thirty days if he or she is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the appeal in time.

(2) Where an appeal is preferred against an order made by a Public Information Officer to disclose third party information, the appeal by the concerned third party shall be made within thirty days from the date of the order.

(3) A second appeal against the decision under sub-section (1) shall lie within ninety days from the date on which the decision should have been made or was actually received, with the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission.

Information Commission may admit the appeal after the expiry of the period of ninety days if it is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the appeal in time.

(4) If the decision of the Public Information Officer relates to information of a third party, the Information Commission shall give a reasonable opportunity of being heard to that third party.

(5) In any appeal proceedings, the onus to prove that a denial of a request was justified shall be on the Public Information Officer who denied the request.

(6) An appeal shall be disposed of within thirty days of the receipt of the appeal or within such extended period not exceeding a total of forty-five days from the date of filing,  with reasons to be recorded in writing.

(7) The decision of the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, shall be binding.

(8)In its decision, the Information Commission has the power to—

(a) require the public authority to take any such steps as may be necessary to secure compliance with the provisions of this Act.

(b)require the public authority to compensate the complainant for any loss or other detriment suffered;

(c) impose any of the penalties provided under this Act;

(9) The Information Commission shall give notice of its decision, including any right of appeal, to the complainant and the public authority.

Section 20:

Where the Information Commission is of the opinion that the Public Information Officer has without any reasonable cause refused to receive an application for information or has not furnished information within the time specified or malafidely denied the request for information or knowingly given incorrect information or destroyed information or obstructed in any manner in furnishing the information, it shall impose a penalty of two hundred and fifty rupees each day till application is received or information is furnished, so however, the total amount of such penalty shall not exceed twenty-five thousand rupees. Public Information Officer shall be given a reasonable opportunity of being heard before any penalty is imposed on him:

The burden of proving that he acted reasonably and diligently shall be on the Public Information Officer.

(2) The Information Commission shall also recommend for disciplinary action against the Public Information Officer under the service rules applicable to him.

Are political parties under RTI?

  • The Central Information Commission (CIC), consisting of Satyanand Mishra, M.L. Sharma and Annapurna Dixit, has held that the political parties are public authorities and are answerable to citizens under the RTI Act. The CIC, a quasi-judicial body, has said that six national parties – Congress, BJP, NCP, CPI(M),CPI and BSP and BJD – have been substantially funded indirectly by the Central Government and have the character of public authorities under the RTI Act as they perform public functions.
  • In August 2013 the government introduced a Right To Information (Amendment) Bill which would remove poiltical parties from the scope of the law.

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