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The Right To Information From A to Z

Right to information can be defined as the freedom of the people to have access to the information of the government which is held in the hands of public authority or in other words, when a person has right to seek information regarding the policy of the government and raise questions as to transparency and accountability. Right to information is one of the key of strengthening participatory democracy and cementing the people-centered governance, as the access to information empowers the citizens and eventually leading to their welfare . In a fundamental sense, right to information is a basic necessity of good governance.

In recognition of the need for transparency in public affairs, the Indian parliament enacted the Right to Information Act, 2005 which came into force on October 12th 2005 . Right to Information Act replaced the Freedom of Information Act, 2002 and repealed the Official secrets Act 1923. The first RTI application was filed by Mr. Shahid Raza Burney in Pune Police station on October 12th 2005.

Preamble
  1. To secure access to information under the control of public authorities
  2. To promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority;
  3. To constitute a Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions;
  4. Informed citizenry and transparency of information are vital to the functioning of our democratic republic;
  5. To curtail corruption;
  6. To hold Government and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed.

Salient Features
  • A citizen has a right to seek information from a Public Authority.
  • The right is not absolute. Sec. 8 and 9 (exempt from disclosure)
  • Public authorities to designate Public Information Authorities and Assistant Public Information Officers within 100 days of the enactment.
  • Application to be made to an officer of the Public Authority who is State Public Information Officer, in writing in English or Hindi or in the official language of the area in which application is made.
  • The Application is to accompany a Demand Draft/Banker Cheque/Indian Postal Order of Rs. 10 payable to the Accounts Officer of public authority as fee prescribed.
  • No prescribed form of application for seeking information.
  • The information seeker is not required to give reasons for seeking information.
  • Time limit-30 days/48 Hours/45 Days.
  • The Act makes it obligatory for every Public Authority to make suo-motu disclosure in respect of the particulars of its Organization, functions, duties etc. (S.4.)
  • Transfer of a request by a Public authority to another public authority.
Appeal Provision (in cases of non-delivery, delay, etc.)
  • 1st appeal within 30 days – with public agencies- Sec.19 (1)
  • 2nd appeal within 90 days – with the State Information Commissions - Sec. 19 (3)
  • Appeals to be cleared within 30 or 45 days- Sec. 19 (6)
  • No fees for making an Appeal.

Right To Know- A Fundamental Right

A tool which can be used as a kind of stipulation or limitation upon an authoritarian rule.
No such right to information given specifically under the Indian Constitution, it came to be read by the judiciary in the decision making process.

Union of India v. Association for Democratic Reforms [AIR (2002)5 SCC 294]
  •  SC has delivered a land mark judgement in the realm of cleansing an election process and free it as far as possible from criminalization and corruption.
  • It has guaranteed a right to voters to know all the antecedents of the candidates in the election of Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies.
  • The candidates were required to submit information about their criminal record, if any, their assets and liabilities and educational qualifications.
  • It was held that the requirement to disclose this information emanate from every citizen’s fundamental right to know, which flows from every citizen’s freedom of speech and expression guaranteed u/Art.19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
  • Issued an Ordinance with an object to introduce electoral reforms but primarily to undo what the SC did in its judgement.
  • The Ordinance sought to amend S. 33-B in the Representation of Peoples’ Act (Third Amendment),2002.
  • Amendment completely wiped out the sprite and value of the judgement.
  • Provided a right to every candidate contesting an election to hide or suppress his criminal antecedents.
  • They become entitled, not to provide their educational qualifications, assets, liabilities and other such information including entire criminal record, which legitimately could be disclosed by the candidates.
  • People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India [AIR (2003)4SCC 399]
  • The SC reiterated its earlier decision and strike down the amendment in S.33-B.
  • The Court held, that the legislature’s power to interfere with a fundamental right u/Art.19(1)(a) was limited to the grounds provided under Art.19(2) and that S.33-B was beyond legislative competence.

The Sc Has Held This Right As Fundamental In Other Cases Also Like:

  1. Reliance Petrochemicals Ltd. v. Indian Express Newspapers Bombay(P) Ltd.
  2. Tata Press Ltd. v. MTNL.
  3. Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting v. Cricket Association of Bengal
These judicial decisions created a basis for Parliament to take note of such a right as a necessary ingredient for democratic governance of the Country.
These judicial decisions paved way and recognized right to information as a fundamental right u/Art.19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution.

Meaning Of Information (Section 2(F))

Any material in any form including:
  • records
  •  documents,
  • memos,
  • e-mails,
  • opinions,
  • advice,
  • press releases
  • circulars,
  • orders
  • logbooks,
  • contracts
  • reports,
  • papers,
  • samples,
  • models,
  • data material
held in any electronic form, and information relating to any private body, which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force, but does not include file noting.

Meaning Of Right To Information (Section 2(J))

It includes the right to:
  1. inspect works, documents, records;
  2. take note, extracts or certified copies of documents or records;
  3. take certified samples of material;
  4. obtain information in form of printouts diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode

Time Limit For Getting The Information

  • 30 days from the date of application;
  • 48 hours for information concerning the life and liberty of a person;
  • 5 days shall be added in case the application is given to Assistant Public Information Officer;
  • 40 days if the interest of a third party are involved (maximum period + time given to the party to make representation);
  • Failure to provide information is a deemed refusal. through printouts.

GROUND FOR REJECTION
  • Covered by exemption from disclosure. (S.8)
  • Infringes copyright of any person other than the State. (S.9)

h2>Meaning Of Public Authority (Section 2(h))
  1. It means any authority or body or institution of self-govt. established or constituted: S.2(h)
    • By or under the Constitution;
    • By Parliament;
    • By State Legislature;
    • By a notification issued or order made by the appropriate Govt. and includes any-
  2. Body owned, controlled or substantially financed;
  3. NGO, substantially financed directly or indirectly by the appropriate Government.

Nexus Between Rti And Good Governance

The characteristic features of Good Governance are transparency, accountability, rule of law, people’s participation and these are promoted by way of Right to Information.

RTI And Combating Corruption

Lack of Transparency was one of the main causes for corruption and Right to Information would lead to openness, accountability and integrity -Soli Sorabji, Former Attorney General of India (1998-2004)

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