Right to Information Act

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This article is about the Indian federal law. For freedom of information in other countries, see Freedom of information legislation.
The Right to Information Act, 2005
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An Act to provide 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 and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
Citation Act No. 22 of 2005
Territorial extent Whole of India except Jammu and Kashmir
Enacted by Parliament of India
Date enacted 15-June-2005
Date assented to 22-June-2005
Date commenced 13-October-2005

The Right to Information Act (RTI) is an Act of the Parliament of India "to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens" and replaces the erstwhile Freedom of information Act, 2002. The Act applies to all States and Union Territories of India except Jammu & Kashmir. Under the provisions of the Act, any citizen may request information from a "public authority" (a body of Government or "instrumentality of State") which is required to reply expeditiously or within thirty days. The Act also requires every public authority to computerise their records for wide dissemination and to proactively certain categories of information so that the citizens need minimum recourse to request for information formally. This law was passed by Parliament on 15 June 2005 and came fully into force on 13 October 2005.[1] Information disclosure in India was restricted by the Official Secrets Act 1923 and various other special laws, which the new RTI Act relaxes.

Background[edit]

Freedom of Information Act 2002[edit]

The establishment of a national-level law, however, proved to be a difficult task. The Central Government appointed a working group under H. D. Shourie and assigned it the task of drafting legislation. The Shourie draft, was the basis for the Freedom of Information Bill, 2000 which eventually became law under the Freedom of Information Act, 2002. This Act was severely criticised for permitting too many exemptions, not only under the standard grounds of national security and sovereignty, but also for requests that would involve "disproportionate diversion of the resources of a public authority". There was no upper limit on the charges that could be levied. There were no penalties for not complying with a request for information. This Act, consequently, never came into effective force.

State-level RTI Acts[edit]

The state-level RTI Acts were first successfully enacted by the state governments of Karnataka (2000), Goa (1997), Rajasthan (2000), Tamil Nadu (2001), Delhi (2001), Maharashtra (2002), Assam (2002), Madhya Pradesh (2003), Jammu and Kashmir (2004), and Haryana (2005).

Scope[edit]

The Act covers the whole of India except Jammu and Kashmir, where J&K Right to Information Act is in force. It is no to all constitutional authorities, including the executive, legislature and judiciary; any institution or body established or constituted by an act of Parliament or a state legislature. It is also defined in the Act that bodies or authorities established or constituted by order or notification of appropriate government including bodies "owned, controlled or substantially financed" by government, or non-Government organisations "substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds" provided by the government are also covered in the Act.

Private bodies[edit]

Private bodies are not within the Act's ambit directly. In a landmark decision of Sarbajit Roy versus Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission,[2] the Central Information Commission also reaffirmed that privatised public utility companies continue to be within the RTI Act- their privatisation not withstanding.

Political parties[edit]

The Central Information Commission (CIC) 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 they have the character of public authority under the RTI Act as they perform public functions [3][4] On 12 August 2013, the Congress Party tabled RTI Amendment Bill 2013 in Lok Sabha to keep political parties out of RTI ambit.[5]

The Bill to amend the Act so as to keep political parties out of its ambit, was on September 3, 2013 deferred to the Winter Session of Parliament.[6] On December 17, 2013 the Standing Committee on Law and Personnel said in its report tabled in Parliament[7]

"The committee considers the proposed amendment is a right step to address the issue once and for all. The committee, therefore, recommends for passing of the Bill,"

Process[edit]

The RTI process involves reactive (as opposed to proactive) disclosure of information by the authorities. An RTI request initiates the process.

Each authority covered by the RTI Act must appoint their Public Information Officer (PIO). Any person may submit a written request to the PIO for information. It is the PIO's obligation to provide information to citizens of India who request information under the Act. If the request pertains to another public authority (in whole or part), it is the PIO's responsibility to transfer/forward the concerned portions of the request to a PIO of the other authority within 5 working days. In addition, every public authority is required to designate Assistant Public Information Officers (APIOs) to receive RTI requests and appeals for forwarding to the PIOs of their public authority. The applicant is required to disclose his name and contact particulars but not any other reasons or justification for seeking information.

The Central Information Commission (CIC) acts upon complaints from those individuals who have not been able to submit information requests to a Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer due to either the officer not having been appointed, or because the respective Central Assistant Public Information Officer or State Assistant Public Information Officer refused to receive the application for information.

The Act specifies time limits for replying to the request.

  • If the request has been made to the PIO, the reply is to be given within 30 days of receipt.
  • If the request has been made to an APIO, the reply is to be given within 35 days of receipt.
  • If the PIO transfers the request to another public authority (better concerned with the information requested), the time allowed to reply is 30 days but computed from the day after it is received by the PIO of the transferee authority.
  • Information concerning corruption and Human Rights violations by scheduled Security agencies (those listed in the Second Schedule to the Act) is to be provided within 45 days but with the prior approval of the Central Information Commission.
  • However, if life or liberty of any person is involved, the PIO is expected to reply within 48 hours.

Since the information is to be paid for, the reply of the PIO is necessarily limited to either denying the request (in whole or part) and/or providing a computation of "further fees". The time between the reply of the PIO and the time taken to deposit the further fees for information is excluded from the time allowed. If information is not provided within this period, it is treated as deemed refusal. Refusal with or without reasons may be ground for appeal or complaint. Further, information not provided in the times prescribed is to be provided free of charge. Appeal processes are also defined.

Exclusions[edit]

Central Intelligence and Security agencies specified in the Second Schedule like IB,Directorate General of Income tax(Investigation), RAW, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Economic Intelligence Bureau, Directorate of Enforcement, Narcotics Control Bureau, Aviation Research Centre, Special Frontier Force, BSF, CRPF, ITBP, CISF, NSG, Assam Rifles, Special Service Bureau, Special Branch (CID), Andaman and Nicobar, The Crime Branch-CID-CB, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Special Branch, Lakshadweep Police. Agencies specified by the State Governments through a Notification will also be excluded. The exclusion, however, is not absolute and these organizations have an obligation to provide information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violations. Further, information relating to allegations of human rights violation could be given but only with the approval of the Central or State Information Commission.

Information Exclusions[edit]

The following is exempt from disclosure under section 8 of the Act:-

  • 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 offense;
  • 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;
  • Information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature;
  • 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;
  • 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;
  • Information received in confidence from foreign Government;
  • 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;
  • Information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders;
  • Cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers;
  • 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 (but it is also provided that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied by this exemption);
  • Notwithstanding any of the exemptions listed above, a public authority may allow access to information, if public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interests. However, this does not apply to disclosure of "trade or commercial secrets protected by law ".
Arvind kejriwal fought for the enactment of RTI in delhi for which he also got Maccsassay award(Malaysia).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The effective date is often incorrectly referred to as 12 October 2005. The Act actually came to force on the midnight between the 12th and 13th, which means that it came into effect from the 13th onwards.
  2. ^ http://www.rti.india.gov.in/cic_decisions/Decision_30112006_12.pdf
  3. ^ PTI. "Khurshid sounds warning note on RTI ruling". The Hindu. Retrieved June 4, 2013. 
  4. ^ PTI. "Political parties under RTI: Congress rejects CIC order". The Hindu Newspaper. Retrieved June 4, 2013. 
  5. ^ Krishnan, Murali (12 August 2013). "Congress tables RTI Amendment Bill 2013 in Lok Sabha". www.indianewsco.com. India News Co. Retrieved 12 August 2013. 
  6. ^ "Bill to amend RTI Act deferred to Winter Session". thehindubusinessline.com. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
  7. ^ "Parliament panel backs Bill to keep parties out of RTI" Press Trust of India

External links[edit]

File for RTI online: http://www.onlinerti.com