Right to Information Act 2005
The Right to Information Act, 2005 is issued by Ministry of Law and justice (Legislative Department). This Act of Parliament was intro- duced in the Lok Sabha on 23rd December, 2004 and passed on 11th May, 2005 and 12th May 2005 by the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha respectively. The President gave his assent on 15th june, 2005 and few provisions of the Act were brought into force on 21st june, 2005 and the full Act was brought into force on 12th October, 2005, by publication in the official Gazette.
Table of Contents
- 1 Right to Information Act 2005
- 2 Features of Right to Information Act 2005
- 3 Objectives of Right to Information Act
- 4 Obligations of Public Authority
- 5 Designation of Public Information Authority
- 6 Duties of Public Information Officer
- 7 Procedure for Requests for Obtaining Information
- 8 Types of Information Exemption From Disclosure
- 9 Appellate Authorities
- 10 Appeal
- 11 Penalties
- 12 Jurisdiction of Courts
- 13 Role of Central and State Government
The Right to Information Act, 2005 has marked in a new dawn in the era of the Indian History. RTI Act, 2005 provides 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.
The right to Information act was passed “to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens.” The main aim of the Act is to provide secure access to information for promoting transparency and accountability.
As per the preamble, the RTI Act helps in:
- Securing access to information under the control of public authorities
- Promoting transparency and accountability in the workplace
- Constituting a Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions
Features of Right to Information Act 2005
The salient features of RTI Act are as follows:
- A citizen has the right to seek information from any public authority.
- This right includes the inspection of documents, records, notes, and other certified samples held by the public authority.
- Public information authorities and assistant public information officers are enacted within 100 days of the enactment.
- The Act makes it obligatory for every public authority to make suo-motu disclosure in respect of the particulars of its organization, functions, duties, etc. as provided in section 4 of the Act.
- To seek information, an application is to be made to the State public information officer who deals with requests for information.
- The application should be accompanied by a demand draft/banker cheque/ Indian Postal Order of ₹10 payable to the Accounts Officer of public authority
- There is no fee for making an appeal.
- It is not compulsory to provide reasons for seeking the information.
- No prescribed form of application is there for seeking information. Plain paper can be used.
- An appeal to the first Appellate Authority can be made if the information is not provided within time. A second appeal with the State Information Commission is made if the first appeal is not accepted.
- The Commission decides the appeals and conveys its decision to the Appellant/ Complainant and First Appellant Authority.
Objectives of Right to Information Act
The basic object of the Right to Information Act is to authorize citizens, promote transparency and accountability in the working of the government, discourage corruption, and make democracy work for the people in a real sense.
An informed citizen could keep necessary vigil on the instruments of governance and make governments more accountable to the governed. The Act is a big step towards making citizens informed about the activities of the Government.
The objectives of Right to Information Act are as follows:
- To encourage accountability and transparency in the performance of public duty by the public bodies.
- To set up a system wherein the citizens have a right to access the information under the control of public authorities.
- To allow the government bodies (public authorities) to take decisions as per the prescribed laws and contain corruption.
- To bring forward the irregularity of the public authorities into the public domain.
A “Public Authority” is any authority, body, or institution of self-government. These bodies or institutions are constituted by or under the constitution or by another law made by the parliament or the state legislature. The state government or the Central Government may by issuing the notification declare anybody or institution as the public authority.
The bodies owned or substantially financed by the Central or State Government authorities are also recognized as public authorities. The non-financial bodies that are substantially financed by either the State Government or the Central Government also come under the definition of Public Authority.
The various obligations of a Public Authority are as follows:
- Maintain all records duly cataloged and indexed in a manner and the form which facilitates the right to information under this Act and ensures that all records that are appropriate to be computerized are, within a reasonable time and subject to availability of resources, computerized and connected through a network all over the country on different systems so that access to such records is facilitated.
- Publish within one hundred and twenty days from the enactment of this Act, details of particulars of its organization, functions and duties, powers of officials, procedures, regulations, etc.
- Publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies on announcing the decisions that may affect the general public.
- Provide reasons for its administrative or quasi-judicial decisions to affected persons.
A public authority, within 100 days of enactment, is required to designate the Central Public Information Officers or the State Public Information Officers in respective public offices or administrative offices.
These designated officers have to provide the necessary information to the public. At every sub-divisional level and other sub-district levels, Central Assistant Public Information Officer or the State Assistant Public Information Officer, as applicable, will be designated to receive the request of the information and submit the information.
The Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information officer provides reasonable help to the persons who seek information from these officers in form of Appellate Authorities.
The Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer shall take reasonable help from any officer. Any officer whose assistance is required by the above officer shall render reasonable assistance at a reasonable time.
Duties of Public Information Officer
Every public authority in compliance with the Act is required to designate officers as public information officers. They are required to furnish the necessary information as demanded by the public. The public information officers are the officers who are required to furnish the necessary information as desired by the citizens under the Act.
The various duties to be undertaken by the public information officers are as follows:
- Public information officers shall deal with the applications or requests of information of the citizens demanding the information, and if the information cannot be provided, an explanation should be provided for the same.
- If the information demanded is related to the other public authority office, the public information officer shall transfer the same within 5 days of the request to that concerned officer and shall inform the applicant accordingly.
- The public information officer can seek the information from any other officer as he deems fit for the discharge of his duties.
- The public information officer within 30 days of the receipt of the request shall provide the desired information to the applicant.
- If the information desired is for the liberty or life of a person, it shall be provided within 48 hours of the receipt of the information.
- If the public information officer fails to provide the information within the specified time, it is deemed that he had refused to supply the information.
- If the information desired cannot be provided in full, the public information officer shall inform the applicant stating the reasons for providing the partial information.
- If the information to be supplied is treated to be confidential by the third party, the public information officer shall take it into consideration within 5 days from the receipt of the request.
- The public information officer can issue a notice to the third party to present itself within 10 days of the receipt of the notice.
Procedure for Requests for Obtaining Information
The procedure for the request for obtaining information involves four main steps, which are explained in below:
The request for getting the information is required to be submitted in writing or using electronic means in English, Hindi, or the official language of the area. The request should clearly state the information sought. The reason for seeking the information is not required to be given while making the application. The prescribed fee shall be paid for obtaining the information.
The time limit for obtaining information is as follows:
- The time limit for supplying the information is 30 days.
- If the information is regarding the life and liberty of a person, it shall be provided within 48 hours.
- An additional 5 days should be given if the information is to be furnished by the Assistant Public Information Officer.
- If the interest of a third party is also included, then an additional 10 days are to be provided, which means a total of 40 days are to be given.
- The public information officer shall furnish the information free of cost if the above time limits are breached.
The various fee applicable is prescribed in the following manner:
- The application fee paid should be reasonable and prescribed through a notification from time to time.
- People living below the poverty line should not be charged.
- The information must be furnished free of cost if Public Information Officer fails to furnish information within the prescribed time.
Grounds for Rejection
The grounds for rejection are as follows:
- If the information is covered under the exemption from disclosure.
- If the information infringes the copyright of any person other than the State.
Types of Information Exemption From Disclosure
The following type of information is exempted to be provided to the public (as given by the RTI 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;
- The 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;
- The 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 Governments;
- 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;
- The 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;
- The information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has not related to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual;
- Notwithstanding any of the exemptions listed above, a public authority may allow access to information, if the public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interests.
It is the responsibility of the Public Information Officer of a public authority to supply correct and complete information within the specified time to any person seeking information under the RTI Act, 2005.
There are possibilities that a Public Information Officer may not act as per provisions of the Act or an applicant may not otherwise be satisfied with the decision of the Public Information Officer. The Act contains a provision for two-tier appeals to tide over such situations.
The first appeal lies within the public authority itself which is made to an officer designated as the First Appellate Authority by the concerned public authority. The First Appellate Authority happens to be an officer senior in rank to the Public Information Officer.
The second appeal lies with the Information Commission. The Central Information Commission (Appeal Procedure) Rules, 2005 govern the procedure for deciding appeals by the Central Information Commission.
Section 19 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 deals with appeals. The Appellate Authorities under this Act are Central Public Information Officers, Central Commission, or State Commission.
Any person who does not receive the decision within the time limit specified in the Act or who is aggrieved with any of the decisions of the State Public Information Officer or the Central Information Officer may file an appeal within 30 days from the expiry of such period or from the receipt of the decision to the officer,
who is senior in rank to the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer as the case may be. However, the aggrieved party may appeal even after 30 days if there are sufficient grounds for filing an appeal.
The appeal by the concerned third party shall be made within 30 days if it relates to the disclosure of the third party information against the order of the Central or the State Public Information Officer.
The second appeal against the above officer shall be made within 90 days from the date when the decision has been made or has been received.
Disposal of Appeal
If an appellate authority while deciding an appeal comes to a conclusion that the appellant should be supplied information in addition to what has been supplied by the Public Information Officer, he/she may either:
- Pass an order directing the Public Information Officer to give such information to the appellant; or
- He himself may give information to the appellant. In the first case, the appellate authority should ensure that the information ordered by him to be supplied is supplied to the appellant immediately.
Time Limit of Appeal
The first appellate authority should dispose-off the appeal within 30 days of receipt of the appeal. In exceptional cases, the Appellate Authority may take 45 days for its disposal. However, in cases where disposal of appeal takes more than 30 days, the Appellate Authority should record in writing the reasons for such delay.
A penalty of ₹250 each day till the time of furnishing information can be imposed by the State Information Commission or the Central Information Commission at the time of deciding the complaint as the case may be on the Central or State public information officer, as the case may be, who has not furnished the information or the information furnished is misleading.
However, the total amount of penalty imposed shall in no case exceed ₹25,000. Further, if the Central Commission or the State Commission is of the opinion that the State Public Information Officer or the Central Information Officer.
As the case may be, has not provided the requisite information, or with mala fide intentions has not supplied the requisite information, it shall recommend disciplinary action against the Central or the State Public Information Officer as the case may be.
Jurisdiction of Courts
No court shall entertain any suit, application, or any other proceeding with respect to any order made under this Act and besides that, no order shall be called into question. The Supreme Court after the reference may remove the State Commissioner and Central Commissioner and thereafter the Governor or the President, as the case may be, may remove them from their office.
However, the orders of the authorities under the Act or the denial of the information can be challenged by a Writ Petition before the High Court or Special Leave Petition before the Supreme Court.
Role of Central and State Government
The role of the Central Government or the State Government in the RTI Act, of 2005 is as follows:
- To develop or organize the educational program to advance the understanding of the public and make them clear about the relative provisions of the Act.
- To encourage the public authorities to participate in the development programs and to undertake such programs.
- To promote timely and effective dissemination of information by public authorities about their activities.
- To train the Central Public Information Officers or State Public Information Officers and facilitate relevant training materials
The appropriate government is required to compile a guide in its official language. The appropriate government may if considered necessary, can update the objects of the Act, postal address, and email address, of the Central and State Public Information Officer.