Introduction to RTI Act by Shikha at LexCliq

The Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI) is a legislation that lays down the rules and procedures for citizens to access to information withheld with the any  Public Authority . The RTI Bill was passed by India’s Parliament on June 15, 2005, and went into effect on October 12, 2005. Under the RTI Act, any Indian citizen may request information from a public authority which is required to respond promptly or within thirty days. The information must be provided within 48 hours if the matter involves a petitioner’s life or liberty. This act is one of the most important acts passed by the Legislature, which gives power to the ordinary citizens to question the government and its working. This has been widely used by the citizens and it acts as a check to the corrupt, bias and arbitrary act of government and public authorities. Public Authorities is defined under Sec2(h) of the RTI Act, as all authorities and bodies under the union government, state government or local bodies. Civil societies that get major funding from the government, either directly or indirectly, are likewise covered under RTI.

“Right to Information” means the right to information accessible under this Act that is held by or in the possession of any Central or State Public Authority, according to Section 2 (j) of the RTI Act. This includes the right to:

  • Work, documents, and records are all subject to inspection;
  • Taking notes on documents or records, extracting information from them, or obtaining certified copies of them;
  • Obtaining verified material samples;
  • Obtaining information on diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes, or any other electronic medium, as well as printouts of information stored in a computer or other device.

The objective of the Act are:

  • To empower the citizens
  • To promote transparency and accountability
  • To contain corruption
  • To increase public’s participation in the democratic process.

The act mandates centre or state government and the public authorities, to provide timely response to the citizens’ request for information within 30 days of filing of such application and if the authorities fails to provide information within the given time period or gives  incorrect, incomplete or misleading or distorted information  they are imposed with penalties. There is also provision for appeal. If the Public Information Officer (PIO) has denied your request for the requested information. The applicant must file a first appeal with the First Appellate Authority within 30 days after receiving the CPIO’s judgment. If the public authority is unable to provide information within the 30 day time period or if no response is received from CPIO within 30 days (35 days if application is lodged with ACPIO), a first appeal must be filed within 30 days of the date when the CPIO’s reply was due.  One can file a second appeal if they are not satisfied with the decision of the First Appellate Officer, or if believe the information provided by the Public Authority is insufficient, misleading, or inaccurate.

The right to information is a fundamental right under Article 19 (1)  and 21 of the Indian Constitution.  The citizens therefore have a fundamental right to know. Also Indian is a Democratic State where Government is for the people so the people have right to have information about the polices, decisions and actions of the Government and the public authorities

In the year 1976, in the landmark judgment of  Raj Narain vs the State of Uttar Pradesh case[1], the Supreme Court of India determined that under Article 19, the right to information shall be considered as a fundamental right. As a result, in 2005, the government established the Right to Information Act, which establishes a framework for exercising this fundamental right.

Under this act people can question about the working of the government and the public authorities  but there are certain  exceptions also. The information must not be of such kind that can affect the sovereignty and the integrity of India is exempted from the purview of RTI Act.

RTI Act is important because it empowers the citizen to question the government. It is relevant to the interests of citizens and is significant for the functioning of a transparent democracy. The information obtained not only helps in making government accountable but also useful for the overall interests of the society.

 

[1] 1975 AIR 865

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