Right to Information Act (RTI)
Author: Suruchi Suman
The Right to Information in short RTI is an act of the Parliament of India which sets out the rules and procedures regarding citizens’ right to information. It replaced the former Freedom of Information Act, 2002. RTI means that any Indian citizen can request any information (which is supposed to be public knowledge) from the offices and departments of the state or central governments. The RTI Act mandates that any Indian citizen is free to seek any information from any public or government authority and the authority is under liability to respond to such a request within a period of 30 days from the date of receiving such an application.1 In case of matter involving a petitioner’s life and liberty, the information has to be provided within 48 hours. However, the information sought must not be related to defence, national security, or personal details.
The RTI Bill was passed by Parliament of India on 15th of June 2005 and came into force with effect from 12th of October 2005.
Although Right to Information is not included as a Fundamental Right in the Constitution of India, it protects the fundament rights to Freedom of Expression and Speech under Article 19(1)(a) and Right to Life and Personal Liberty under Article 21 guaranteed by the Constitution.
History of RTI
It all started in Rajasthan, A few labourers were refused to get their wages because of inconsistency in their performance. The labourers were soon joined by Mazdoor Kissan Shakti Sanghatan(MKSS), an activist group which demanded that the government produce required proof to check for the workers’ performance records.
Post a lot of protests, the MKSS finally received the copies of rolls, which also highlighted the corruption among the officials. This discrepancy provoked MKSS to carry out protests demanding the right to information.
In 1996, the MKSS organized a 40 days protest in Be aware with over 100 activist groups. These later formed the National Campaign for people’s right to Information (NCPRI) which prepared the initial layout of the Right to information act along with the press council of India.2
This was not all. After these developments, protest in various states erupted for the clearing and rightful implementation of the Right to Information Act. The Maharashtra protest was led by Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal supported the protest with People of Delhi , and the efforts in Rajasthan by Aruna Roy and Shekhar Singh are few of the protests that took place.
This protest turned into a national event leading to the passing of the Freedom of Information Act 2002 which became the RTI Act 2005.
Fact: A Pune police station received the first RTI application in the year 2005.
Applying for RTI
Applying for RTI is a simple process and can be done either online or offline. Nevertheless, some states have not still effected the online option. One can apply for RTI through the official website of the RTI. For different states and departments, the rules for filing RTI is different.
Importance of RTI
Right to Information Act ensure timely response to citizen requests for government information. It is an initiative taken by Department of Personnel and Training, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions to provide a – RTI Portal Gateway to the citizens for quick search of information on the details of first Appellate Authorities, PIOs etc. amongst others, besides access to RTI related information / disclosures published on the web by various Public Authorities under the government of India as well as the State Governments3
- RTI empower the citizen
- It promotes transparency and accountability in the working of the Government.
- It also play a major role to contain the corruption and make our democracy work for the people in real sense.
- It also provide a mechanism through which people can keep an eye on the instruments of governance and make government more accountable.
Due to RTI, Indian citizen can now ask government authority like applying for a delayed IT refund, driving licence or passport, or details of a repair or infrastructure project completed or going on. Information sought can also related to the funds allotted under the different kinds of relief funds in the country. The act enables students to get copies of answer sheets from the universities.
Fact: Earlier RTI act 2005 was applicable for whole India except J&K but after the revocation of article 370 and ending of Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood, Right to Information Act 2005 would now apply to the new union territories of J&K and Ladakh as well. Earlier Jammu and Kashmir used to pertain under the J&K RTI Act- which allowed only the residents of the state to ask only.
Reserve Bank of India v. Jayantilal Mistry (2015)
Issue: The issue before the Court in this case was whether the Reserve Bank of India as well as other banks can deny information sought by the public on the ground of economic interest commercial confidence, fiduciary relationship with other Bank on the one hand and the public interest on the other, and if not, to what extent can information be provided by the banks under the right to Information Act, 2005?
Judgement: Answering the question in the negative, the Court held that the RBI was to act in the interest of the public at large for it is the statutory duty of the Reserve Bank to comply with the provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2005. The Court rejected the argument that information could be withheld in view of the fiduciary relationship with other banks and held that the RBIdoes not place itself in a fiduciary relationship with the Financial institutions because, the reports of the inspections, statements of the bank, information related to the business obtained by the RBI are not under the pretext of confidence or trust.
Central Public Information Officer, Supreme Court of India v. Subhash Chandra Agarwal
Issue: In November 2009, the Central Information Commission (CIC) ordered the Supreme Court of India to disclose information pertaining to the decision making process by the Supreme Court Collegium. The order was passed in response to a request made under the Right to Information Act, 2005 by activist Subhash Chandra Agarwal. The Commission ordered the Central Public Information Office (CPIO) of the Supreme Court to disclose correspondences between the Collegium and the government regarding, in particular, the appointment of Justices HL Dattu, AK Ganguly and RM Lodha, so as to supersede the seniority of Justices AP Shah, AK Patnaik and VK Gupta.
Judgement: The Court will decide whether the public disclosure of information pertaining to decisions made by the Collegium, curtail the independence of the judiciary? Further, does Section 8(i)(j) of the RTI Act exempt the CJI from publicly disclosing information, on the ground of protecting the privacy of members of the Collegium?
Right to Information Act was much needed act for the people of India. Because these are the things which makes India a stronger democracy. Due RTI, people life have become more comfortable because now people can get whatever information they need to know. Students can ask for their copies from university. Due to RTI, government authority comes under scrutiny and they have a kind of fear of accountability towards people of India. RTI made the system more transparent. And at the end I can only say that RTI ACT is very good initiative by the Government.