Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI)

Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI)
30 April 2020

Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI)

The right to information is a fundamental right and is an essential condition for the existence of participatory democracy. Under Article 19(1) of the Constitution, each citizen has freedom of speech and expression. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights under Article 19, the Right to information is treated as a human right. The Act gives every individual similar powers as that of an elected representative.

Right to Information (RTI) is an act of the Parliament of India which specifies the procedures and rules regarding citizens' right to information. It replaced the former Freedom of Information Act, 2002. Under the provisions of the Right to Information Act, any citizen of India may request information from a "public authority" which is required to respond with efficiency or within thirty days. In cases involving a petitioner's liberty and life, the information has to be produced within 48 hours.

This law was passed by Parliament on June 15, 2005, and came fully into force on 12 October 2005. Every day, over 4800 RTI applications are filed. In the first ten years of the commencement of the act over 17,500,000 applications had been filed.

Section 2(f) of the RTI Act defines Information as, “Information” means 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 a time being in force.’’

Right to Information (RTI) is defined under Section 2(j) as: “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 materials;
  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.
Applicability

The Act applies to the whole of India. The Act is applicable both to Central and State Governments and all public authorities. Before, the J&K Right to Information Act was in force in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. But, after the revocation of much of Article 370 of the Constitution of India, the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and also the Union Territory of Ladakh came under the Central Act also. It includes all the constitutional authorities, including the legislature, executive, and judiciary; anybody or institution constituted or established by an act of Parliament or a state legislature.

Reasons for Adoption of Information Act

The aspects responsible for the adoption of information act are as follows-

  1. International pressure and activism
  2. Corruption and scandals
  3. Modernization and the information society
Penal Provision

The penal provision under Section 20 of the RTI Act authorizes the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be to inflict the prescribed penalty on the concerned Public Information Officer in case the Officer has refused to receive an application for information or has not issued information within the specified time.

Case Laws

S.P. Gupta v. Union of India 

In this case, It was held that whenever disclosure of a document is completely contrary to the interest of the public it is immune from disclosure. However, the decision on such immunity will rest with the court and not with the head of the department of Government.

State of U.P. vs Raj Narain case 

In this case, it was held that “In a government of responsibility like ours, where all the agents of the public must be responsible for their conduct, there can be but few secrets. The people of this nation have a right to know every public act, everything that is done in a public way, by their public, functionaries. They are all entitled to know the particulars of every public transaction in all its bearing.”

People’s Union for Civil Liberties vs Union of India

In this case, it was held that “Right to Information is a facet of the freedom of ‘speech and expression’ as contained in article 19(1)(a) of the constitution of India. Right to Information, thus, indisputably is Fundamental Right.

Loopholes of RTI Act 

As much as the Act has given the power to the citizen and given them a “weapon” to keep the public officers in check, not everything about it is foolproof. The Act has flaws – Some of them in its interpretations, and some in its implementation. There are also certain issues with the implementation of the Act in some states. For example, Chhattisgarh has raised the fee for an RTI application? 500, placing it beyond the reach for a lot of people. This is despite the fact that the Act stipulates a nominal fee.

Conclusion 

With the enactment of the Right to Information, Act India has moved from an arbitrary and opaque system of government to the beginning of an age where there will be huge transparency and to a system where the citizen will be authorized the true center of power. Only by giving power to the ordinary citizen any nation can progress towards greatness and by enacting the Right to Information Act 2005 India has taken a small but important step towards that goal.