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Right to Information Act

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The Right to Information Act

The Right to Information Act passed in 2005 extends to all states and union territories of India excepting the state of Jammu and Kashmir. This act gives Indian citizens the right to access information about any public authority or institution, including non-government organizations substantially funded by the government.

The main aims of the RTI act are to provide clarity of information to the citizens of India, to contain corruption and to promote accountability in the working of every public authority.

What is Information According to RTI?

“Information means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, 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.” [S.2(f)]

What Does Right to Information Mean?

This includes the right to:

  1. inspect works, documents, records.
  2. take notes, 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 or through printouts.[S.2(j)]

What Does Public Authority Mean?

It means any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted:

  1. by or under the Constitution;
  2. by any other law made by Parliament;
  3. by any other law made by State Legislature;
  4. by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government.

and includes any

  1. body owned, controlled or substantially financed
  2. non-government organization substantially financed directly or indirectly by the appropriate government. [S.2(h)]

What are the obligations of public authorities?

Public authorities are to maintain and catalogue records in accordance to the act and ensure that records that are appropriate are computerised within reasonable time and subject to availability of resources.[S.2(a)]

Who are Public Information Officers (PIOs)?

According to this act, Public Information Officers (PIOs) are “to provide information to persons requesting information under this Act.” [S.2.(5)(1)]

How do you request for information?

A person can request information in writing or through electronic means in English, Hindi or in the official language of the area in which the application is being made, along with the prescribed application fee [S.6.(1)]. The application can be made to the Central Public Information officer, State Public Information Officer, Central Assistant Public Information Officer, or State Assistant Public Officer depending on the case.

What is the time limit to get information?

  • Thirty days from the date of application.
  • Forty-eight hours for information concerning the life and liberty of an individual
  • An additional five days will be added to the above response time, in case of transfer of application Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer.
  • Failure to provide information within the specified period is deemed as a refusal.

What is the fee?

  • There is an application fee of Rs.10 but it varies from state to state.
  • If further fees are required, the person concerned has to be informed in writing along with calculation details of how the figure was arrived at.
  • No fee will be charged to people living below the poverty line.
  • Applicants can seek review of the decision on fees charged by the PIO by applying to the appropriate Appellate (terms to know) Authority.
  • Applicant must be provided information free of cost if the PIO fails to provide information within the prescribed time limit.

Who are Appellate Authorities?

  • An Appellate Authority is required to look into complaints made by people regarding
    • inability to submit requests to a Central or State Public Information Officer
    • denial of access to information
    • no response to information within the specified time limit
    • unreasonable fee amount to be paid
    • any other matter relating to requesting or obtaining access to information
  • A first appeal can be made to a senior ranked Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer within thirty days from the date of expiry or from receipt of decision. [S.5.(19)(1)]
  • Third party appeal against decision made by the Public Information Officer (PIO) must be made within 30 days from date of decision.
  • A second appeal can be made to Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission within “ninety days from the date on which the decision should have been made or was actually received.” [S.5.(19)(3)]
  • The responsibility of proving denial for request lies with the Public Information Officer who denied the request. [S.5.(19)(5)]
  • An appeal will be disposed of within 30 days from date of receipt or within an extended period of 15 days. [S.5.(19)(6)]

What are the penalty provisions?

  • A penalty of Rs.250 up to a maximum of Rs.25,000 will be issued to any Public Information Officer on the following grounds
    • Refusing to receive an application for information
    • Not furnishing information within the specified time
    • Denying request for information in bad faith
    • Destroying information requested
    • Obstructing access to information.

What are the grounds for rejection?

  • An application can be rejected if the disclosure of information
    • affects the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of India or would lead to incitement of an offence. [S.2.(8)(a)]
    • is forbidden to be published by any court, tribunal or if disclosure may constitute contempt of court. [S.2.(8)(b)]
    • including information such as trade secrets, commercial confidence, intellectual property. [S.2.(8)(d)]

Importance of the Right to Information Act

  • This law empowers people to ask for information about central, state governments including non-governmental organizations which are substantially funded by the government.
  • The law gives citizens of India the tools to fight against corruption.
  • RTI gives people the right to hold the government and organizations substantially funded by the government accountable
  • The Right to Information Act gives citizens the right to ask for information and decide, based on the information received, whether their constitutional rights have been met.
  • This law arms individuals with information so that they can advocate for themselves.

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