Right to information & laws governing it in India

By:-Monika

INTRODUCTION

The right to Information is a natural and inalienable right of every human being. Information makes men wise. In the opinion of famous French philosopher Michel Foucault, Power is derived from knowledge and information is the basic component of knowledge. Right to Information and good governance are closely related. Good governance is characterized by transparency, accountability and responsiveness. Access to Information increases transparency in a Democracy and people become aware of the day to day happenings within the government. The governance of a State can be transformed into good governance only if the participation of people increases in the functioning of government and they have access to information about the working and policies of the government.

In India, the right to information is the need of the hour. It is a useful as well as a powerful instrument to protect the fundamental rights of Indian citizens. Citizens are the sole part of a Democracy and they can be considered asset only when they have access to information about the functioning of government machinery and develop the skills to put such information to use.

The Parliament of India had enacted the Freedom of Information Act, 2002 with the aim to promote transparency and accountability in the administrative system of the government. This Act did not acknowledge the right to information of the people rather it provided for appeals to be made only within the public bodies. This was the reason that it was repelled and the Right to Information Act, 2005 was enacted. This act empowers the citizens to get any accessible information from a public authority and also makes the government machinery more transparent and accountable.

Right to Information under Indian Constitution

Indian Constitution does not apparently lay down any provision providing the Right to Information to the citizens. However, the Supreme Court, in several cases, has held that the Right to Information is an aspect of Article 19(1)(a) and Article 21 of the Constitution. Article 19(1)(a) deals with the right to freedom of speech and expression. This freedom not only covers the right to express your views freely but also the right to know. Article 21 guarantees the Right to life and personal liberty.

These articles come under Fundamental Rights guaranteed in Part 3 of the constitution. In this way, we can refer Right to Information as fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of India. This right is not absolute; it has certain reasonable restrictions to it. Section 8 of the Right to Information Act also deals with the exemption from disclosure of information. It says that any information concerning national security, integrity, the scientific, strategic or economic interest of the nation and some other important issues should not be disclosed under any circumstance.[1]

Right to Information Act, 2005

The Parliament of India, on 21st of June 2005, enacted the Right to Information Act with the aim to set up the practical regime of right to information for the people to have the access to information under the control of public authorities. It aimed to promote transparency and accountability of the sovereign authority to the people. Under this Act, any citizen can make an application to get accessible information from the public authority. It would help curb corruption and make the government work for the people in real sense. This Act provides for constitution of Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions.

  • Application of the Act

Right to Information Act, 2005 applies to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir.[2]

  • Meaning of Information

Information can be any material in any form including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advice, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material in any electronic form. It also covers the information of any private body controlled by any public authority under any law for the time in being.[3]

  • Meaning of Public Authority

A public authority is an authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted by or under the Constitution, or by any other law made by Parliament or State Legislature; or by notification issued or order made by the Central Government or State Government. The bodies owned, controlled or substantially financed by the Central Government or State Governments are also included in the definition of public authority. The financing of the body may be either direct or indirect.[4]

  • Application Procedure

Any citizen, who wants to seek information under this act, can draft an application in writing or through electronic means in English or Hindi or any other official language of the area. The application should specify all the particulars of the information sought.[5] The reason for seeking information needs not to be mentioned.[6] He can then submit it to the Public Information Officer along with the prescribed fees.

The public authority does not charge any fee for the first hour. But a fee of Rs. 5 is charged for each subsequent hour. If the information seeker belongs to the below poverty line (BPL) category, he needs not deposit any fee. However, he is required to submit the proof in order to prove his claim of belonging to the below poverty line category.

  • Time Limit to get information

The Act also specifies the time limit within which the application should be processed and particular information should be provided to the applicant:

  1. General information should be provided within 30 days from the date of application
  2. If the information concerns the life and liberty of a person, it should be responded to within 48 hours of application.[7]
  3. In case the application for seeking information is submitted to Assistant Public Information Officer, 5 days more shall be added to the above time limit.
  4. The response time shall be 40 days if the information includes the interests of a third party.
  5. If the concerned authority fails to provide information within the specified time limit, it shall be a deemed refusal.
  • Central Information Commission

The Act provides for the constitution of the Central Information Commission by the Central Government. It shall consist of 1 Chief Information Commissioner(CIC) and not more than 10 Information Commissioners, who must be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, mass media or administration. 

CIC shall hold his office for a term of 5 years. The Central Information Commission shall have jurisdiction over all Central Public Authorities. The powers and functions of the Commission are mentioned under Section 18, 19, 20 and 25 of RTI Act, 2005. These relate to suo moto disclosures receiving and enquiring into a complaint on inability to file RTI, imposition of penalties, monitoring and preparing of Annual Report.

  • State Information Commission

Every State Government shall constitute a State Information Commission to exercise the powers and perform the functions assigned to it under the Right to Information Act, 2005. This body shall consist of 1 State Chief Information Commissioner and not more than 10 State Information Commissioners. The qualifications for holding the office of State Information Commissioner are the same as that of Central Information Commissioner. The tenure of office is 5 years.

CONCLUSION

Right to Information is an important aspect of good governance. People are the sole representative in a Democracy and the right to information makes them aware of the functioning of public authorities. In India, the right to information can be considered a fundamental right under Article 19(1) and Article 21 of the Constitution. Right to Information Act, 2005 is also enacted with an ideology to promote transparency and responsiveness of the government. We can also say that the Right to Information Act is a helping hand of the Government as it makes the administrative process more transparent, reduces corruption in bureaucracy, holds the government authorities accountable and responsible.


This article has been written by Monika, student of BA LLB (Hons), 2nd year from University Institute of Legal Studies, Panjab University.


[1] Section 8 of Right to Information Act, 2005

[2] Section 1(1)(a) of Right to Information Act, 2005

[3] Section 2(f) of Right to Information Act, 2005

[4] Section 2(h) of Right to Information Act, 2005

[5] Section 6(1) of Right to Information Act, 2005

[6] Section 6(2) of Right to Information Act, 2005

[7] Section 7 of Right to Information Act, 2005

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Deepika

    Well described

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