An Overview of the Right to Information Act, 2005

An Overview of the Right to Information Act, 2005

“Where a society has chosen to accept democracy as its creedal faith, it is elementary that the citizens ought to know what their government is doing.” -Justice P N Bhagwati

Introduction

The Right to Information Bill passed by Lok Sabha on date 11,2005 and on May 12, 2005, by Rajya Sabha and received the assent of President on June 15, 2005, and hence comes into force on October 12, 2005. It has repealed the Freedom of Information Act,2002. The Act extends to the whole of India except J&K[1]. It applies to government at all levels i.e. Union, State, and Local as well as the receiver of government grants. Therefore, it is very comprehensive and covers almost all matters of governance. According to Article 19 of the Indian Constitution which gives to their citizens exercise Fundamental Right of Speech, Expression and also interpreted by the Hon’ble Supreme Court ‘right to receive and impart information’ under this Article.

In the case of Mr. Kulwal v/s Jaipur Municipal Corporation1986, Hon’ble supreme court held that
freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 of the constitution clearly implies the right to information, hence without information, the freedom of speech cannot be fully used by citizens.


Historical Background
  • In 1948 when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted and providing everyone the right to receive, seek, information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers, from this right to information gained power.
  • Also, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,1966 which states that everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression, to seek, and impart information and ideas of all kinds.
  • According to Thomas Jefferson told that information is the currency of democracy and critical emergency and development of civil society. Therefore, to set out a particular system for citizens to secure right as in form of information i.e. the right to information, hence Indian parliament enacts the Right to Information,2005.
Objectives
  • To empower the citizens
  • To promote transparency and accountability
  • To contain corruption and
  • To enhance people’s participation in the democratic process.
The reason behind the Adoption of Information Act

As our country is democratic and every citizen has the right to speech and expression, therefore, these are reasonable factors for adoption of the Information Act as follows: –

  • For corruption and scandals
  • For International pressure and activism
  • For Modernization and the information society
Features

According to section 3 of the Act, all Indian citizens shall have the right to information but there are exceptions also under section 8 (1) which tells is‘exceptions against furnishing information under RTI Act’. Section 8(2) provides discloser of information which are exempted under the Official Secrets Act,1923 if the larger public interest is served. In the Act, Informational Commissioner also appointed at Central and State level and Public authority [sec 2(h)] has designated some of its officers as Public Information Officer. They give information to a person who seeks information under the RTI Act. In normal course Within 30 days, the information supplied to an applicant is provided through the receipt of the application by the public authority. If the information sought concerns the life and liberty of a person, within 48 hours information supplied to the applicant and in case of when the application is sent through Assistant Public Information Officer or wrong public authority, additional five days added to forty-eight hours or in thirty days as the case may be. And in the case where information is not supplied then you may appeal to the state /central information commission within ninety days and if they are also not providing information, you may file a Writ in High Court.

Importance

  • The Act didn’t create bureaucracy for implementing the law. Despite that, it gives work and also mandated officials in every office to change their attitude and duty towards one who likes of mystery to one who sharing and openness.
  • It empowered the Information Commissioner with carefully and deliberately to act like high authority or say to be the highest authority in the country with the command to any office in a country to provide information as per provision of the Act. And it empowered the commission to make fine to any office who didn’t obey the command.
  • As our country is a democratic country and the Act has been seen as the key to strengthening participatory democracy.
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  • Due to this Act citizens access information and get help and empower even poor and weaker sections of society to know and also demand to get information about policies and actions, thereby their leading welfare improves.
  • By accessing information, shows an early promise by exposing information that was wrong done at high places like in the organization of the Commonwealth Games and coal blocks.
  • It opens up records of government to public inspection thus motive behind this is that by giving citizens an imperative tool to inform them about what the government does and also how effectively, thus consequently the government more answerable.
  • By removing unnecessary secrecy, it improves in decision making by public authority.

Challenges

  • There are lots of information and different type of information in many fields is sought which has no public interest and also sometimes it is used to misuse the law and harass the public authority. Like asking Information about desperate and voluminous information, Gain publicity by filing RTI or file RTI for just harassing the public authority.
  • RTI cannot be exercised because in our country many peoples were illiterate and unaware of any information.
  • Its aim is not to create a grievance redressal mechanism but redress grievances.

Other Issues

  • To enforce the RTI Act, the Information Commissioner does not have enough authority.
  • No secured compliance of compensation to activists by public authority as ordered by the commission.
  • No such records or poor record-keeping practice.
  • Shortness of infrastructure and also staff for running information commission.

Some Legislation which is Non-Discloser Information under-

  • Indian Evidence Act,1877(under section 123,124 and 162)
  • Atomic Energy Act,1912
  • Central Civil Service Act,1965
  • Official Secrets Act,1923
Under the Constitution

Where a citizen in a democratic country has exhausted the remedy of appeal or second appeal, means whatever order given by the commissioners and appellate authorities is only for the purpose of the Act. However, citizens have the right to approach the High Court under Article 226 or if there are violations of fundamental rights, they may directly approach the Supreme Court under Article 32.

‘Everybody knows that corruption thrives in secret places, and avoids public places, and we believe it a fair presumption that secrecy means impropriety’  -Woodrow Wilson

In the case of S.P. Gupta, the court held that the right of citizens is given to know about the public act and also details of every public transaction undertaken by public functionaries were described.

Amendment in RTI Act

RTI can also be filed by NRIs (Non-Resident Indians)

Provisions added via RTI (Amendment) Act, 2019

Term of Information Commissioners: The Original RTI Act, 2005 states that the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners (appointed at the central and state level) will hold office for a term of five years.  The RTI(Amendment) Act,2019  removes this provision and states that the Central Government will determine the term of office for the Chief  Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners.

Determination of salary: The Original RTI Act,2005 states that the salary of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners (at the central level) will be equivalent to the salary paid to the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners, respectively.  Similarly, the salary of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners (at the state level) will be equivalent to the salary paid to the Election Commissioners and the Chief Secretary to the state government, respectively.

The RTI (Amendment) Act, 2019 seeks to amend these provisions to state that the salaries, allowances, and other terms and conditions of service of the central and state Chief  Information  Commissioner and Information Commissioners will be determined by the central government.

Conclusion

Recent are the days were RTI,2005 plays a great role and proves information on how government-run and also in another field. As the right to information has been recognized as a fundamental human right, thereby uphold the dignity of all human beings. The right to information forms the crucial underpinning of participatory democracy so it is essential to ensure accountability and good governance. Hence without information, citizens can not competently exercise their rights and make an informed choice.

Also Read: Advantages of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016


[1] https://rti.gov.in/rtiact.asp

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