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PAPER SUBMITTED ON

RIGHT TO INFORMATION ACT 2005 - AN OVERVIEW

PAPER SUBMITTED BY:


ANUSHREE ADHAU
LL.M. 1st year
NALSAR, HYDERABAD.

ABSTRACT

The Right to Information Act 2005 is unique and one its kind. It has been
enacted for the convenience of the citizens of the country and to maintain the
transparency between the government working and the public who are the
beneficiaries. As the Act aims at making the government transparent and more
accountable, the effective use of it would, in a long run, curb corruption.
If we do not have information on how our Government and Public Institutions
function, we cannot express any informed opinion on it. Democracy revolves around
the basic idea of Citizens being at the center of governance. And the freedom of the
press is an essential element for a democracy to function. It is thus obvious that the
main reason for a free press is to ensure that Citizens are informed. Thus it clearly
flows from this that the Citizens Right to Know is of apex importance.
Right to Information is a Fundamental Right and guaranteed as per Article 19
and 21 of the Constitution of India. It is part of the Fundamental Right to Freedom of
Speech and Expression recognized by the Constitution and various Supreme Court
decisions. This act has repealed the Freedom of Information Act, 2002.
The Act does not emphasize active intervention in educating people about their right
to access information- without widespread education and awareness about the
possibilities under the new Act; it could just remain on paper. The Act also reinforces
the controlling role of the government official, who retains wide discretionary powers
to withhold information.
However it can be said without any hesitation that India has finally woken up
to realize that right to information is a key component in the attainment of economic,
social and political rights of an individual as well as the community at large,
INTRODUTION:
Right to Information is a Fundamental Right and guaranteed as per Article 19
and 21 of the Constitution of India. It is part of the Fundamental Right to Freedom of
Speech and Expression recognized by the Constitution and various Supreme Court
decisions. The Right to Information Act 2005 (Act No. 22/2005) is a law enacted by
the Parliament of India giving citizens of India access to records of the Central
Government and State Governments. The Act applies to all States and Union
Territories of India, except the State of Jammu and Kashmir - which is covered under
a State-level law. Under the provisions of the Act, any citizen (including the citizens
within J&K) may request information from a "public authority" (a body of
Government or "instrumentality of State") which is required to reply expeditiously or
within thirty days. The Act also requires every public authority to computerize their
records for wide dissemination and to proactively publish certain categories of
information so that the citizens need minimum recourse to request for information
formally.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND:
The RTI Laws were first successfully enacted by the state governments —
Tamil Nadu (1997), Goa (1997), Rajasthan (2000), Karnataka (2000), Delhi (2001),
Maharashtra (2002), Madhya Pradesh (2003), Assam (2002) and Jammu and Kashmir
(2004).
The Maharashtra and Delhi State level enactments are considered to have been
the most widely used. The Delhi and J&K Right to Information Acts are still in force.
The first draft of the Right to Information Bill was presented to Parliament on 22
December 2004. After intense debate, more than a hundred amendments to the draft
Bill were made between December 2004 and 15 June 2005, when the bill finally
passed. The Act came fully into effect on 13 October 2005. The Act covers the whole
of India except Jammu and Kashmir. It is applicable to all constitutional authorities,
including the executive, legislature and judiciary; any institution or body established
or constituted by an act of Parliament or a state legislature. It is also defined in the Act
that bodies or authorities established or constituted by order or notification of
appropriate government including bodies "owned, controlled or substantially
financed" by government, or non-Government organizations "substantially financed,
directly or indirectly by funds" provided by the government are also covered in the
Act's ambit.
Ideal Status of Right to Information:
The ideal status the right to information deserves is that of a fundamental right under
our Constitution .With the Constitutional guarantee to conform to, the Act could have
been used as an instrument constituting the requisite authorities, apart from laying
down the quintessential exceptions to granting information, such as national security
and parliamentary privilege.
ANALYSIS:
An Act to provide 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 Act
consists of six chapters and two schedules – preliminary, right to information and
obligations of public authorities, the central Information commission, the state
Information commission, powers and functions of the Information Commissions,
appeal and penalties, and Miscellaneous.
The Right to Information Act basically has two Parts-(a) Substantive law, and
(b) Procedural law. Section 3 could coupled with some other provisions like sections
8, 9, 18, 19 and 20 of the Act deal with substantive law while section 6 along with
some other provisions like section 7 of the Act deal with procedural law. Thus the Act
is a completed Code in itself. The core of the enactment is that the citizen can obtain
such information he needed from public authorities. It is the mandate of sections 3
and 4 of the Act to provide information to the citizens.

Definition: Information

The Act defines information in sec. 2(f) as any material in any form, including
the records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars,
orders, log books, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in
any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be
accessed by a public authority under any law for the time being in force.
Sec. 2(i) defines the word ‘record’ as including (a) any document, manuscript and file,
(b) any microfilm, microfiche and facsimile copy of a document, (c) any reproduction
of image or images embodied in such microfilm and (d) any other material produced
by a computer or any other device.
The information under this Act includes any mode of information in any form
of record, document, e-mail, circular, press release samples, samples of electronic
data, etc. The most welcoming feature of this enactment is that the information can be
obtained within a fixed time frame of 30 days and if the information relates to life or
personal liberty, then it can be obtain within 48 hours. No such time frame provision
has been made in any Act or code till this date. There are certain limitations or
exemption under section 8 of the Act which precludes the citizen getting such
information. Subject to the limitation narrated under section 8, every public authority
is under an obligation to provide the information on request both written and oral. The
Act made provisions for the Constitution of Central Information and State
Information Commissions for the respective States as the appellate authorities and for
monitoring the proper working of this Act.
The Act provides for appointment of Public Information Officers in each of
the public authorities at different levels. They are appointed by designation of their
existing staff. Assistant Public Information Officers are also similarly designated in
every division and sub-division of the administrative units.
The first step to be taken by the citizen seeking information is that he may
send the application for information to the Assistant Public Information Officers who
will transmit it within 5 days to the Public Information Officer. The application so
transmitted shall be attended to and disposed of by the Public Information Officer
within 30 days of its receipt by him. Here disposal of application means a real and
substantial disposal. He should make available the full information in the form it is
requested. If the entire material is not available he must make available so much of
information as is available with him in the first instance and transmit within 5 days,
the rest of the application to the concerned Public Information Officer for disposal
who should in his turn shall comply with the request within 30 days as originally
fixed. If the information is partly made available and the rest is rejected, the
Information Officer shall state the reasons thereof.
The next stage is that if the Public Information Officer refuses to make the
information either partly or fully or fails to respond or respond in an unsatisfactory
manner, the applicant for information may file an appeal before the officer higher in
status over the Public Information Officer. This appeal before the higher officer is
called the First Appeal.
Second Appeal is the third stage. The authority to entertain the Second appeal
is the Central/State Information Commission. The powers of Information Commission
are very extensive. If the appeal is allowed the Commission may direct the
Information Officer to furnish the information in the manner asked for. If the
Commission finds the Information Officer to be at fault, the Commission may levy on
him heavy penalties and may also direct initiation of disciplinary proceedings against
him to the original Appointing Authority. The mechanism thus created for making the
information available to the citizen is four-tired commencing from Assistant Public
Information Officer, above him, the Public Information Officer, then Senior Officer
who is the Appellate Officer and finally the Information Commission that is the
Second Appellate Authority. In addition to making the application for information,
the Citizen has another right to file a complaint to the Central/State Information
Commission direct if the services being provided under the above chain of officers are
found to be wanting in any respect. The Commission while disposing of the complaint
may in addition to granting the reliefs as applied for, may further issue General
Orders for rectifying the deficiencies in the system complained against by the citizens.
While that much is the procedure to be followed by the citizens in obtaining the
information from public authorities, the Central/State Commissions, which are
independent statutory bodies, have overall control over the whole system. The
Commissions have power to supervise the work of Information Officers and call from
them the reports. The Commission will prepare an Annual Statement of the work
done, the number of applications for information received and the method of their
disposal. The Commission while submitting its own report containing the above
particulars to the Government may also include the action taken by the Commissions
against erring officers.
The Act is complete code in itself as it is having penalty clause. Section 20 of
the Act authorized the Central/States Information Commission to impose penalty of
Rs.250 up to Rs.25,000, on erring officials, by giving an opportunity to them. More so
the commissions are also authorized to recommend for disciplinary action against the
erring public authorities as well as for non-complying the provisions of the Act, under
the service rules applicable to them.
However, Central Intelligence and Security agencies specified in the Second
Schedule like IB, RAW, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Economic
Intelligence Bureau, Directorate of Enforcement, Narcotics Control Bureau, Aviation
Research Centre, Special Frontier Force, BSF, CRPF, ITBP, CISF, NSG, Assam
Rifles, Special Service Bureau, Special Branch (CID), Andaman and Nicobar, The
Crime Branch-CID-CB, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Special Branch, Lakshadweep
Police are excluded from disclosures. Agencies specified by the State Governments
through a Notification will also be excluded. The exclusion, however, is not absolute
and these organizations have an obligation to provide information pertaining to
allegations of corruption and human rights violations. Further, information relating to
allegations of human rights violation could be given but only with the approval of the
Central or State Information Commission.
Another anomaly that is noticeable is the omission in the statute that the rule
making power of the Competent Authority may be subject to the approval or
ratification by the Government. Here the power to make rules is vested in the
Supreme Court, High Court, Speaker or Chairman of the Parliament/Legislatures.
While the rules made by the Government are subject to the rule of laying them on the
Table of Legislature, the rules made by the Competent Authority are not required
under this Act to be laid before the legislature nor are they made subject to the
supervisory control of the Central or State Governments or the legislature. It is
possible that the rules made by Competent Authorities may sometimes conflict with
those of others made by the Central or State Governments. Hence it is suggested that
the rules that may be made by the Competent Authority shall be subject to either prior
permission or subsequent ratification by the concerned Governments.
Another feature of this Act is that judicial intervention is prohibited i.e. the
Court has no power to entertain any suit or application or other proceedings in respect
of any order made under this Act. The Act provides for rule making power to both
Central and State Governments and such rules that were framed shall be laid before
parliament in case of Central Govt. and State Legislature in case of State Govt.

Impact of the New Law:

Now that the statute requires information about the pendency of the applications,
reasons as to why they are not disposed of or the reasons behind the rejection of an
application, there is bound to be improvement in the efficiency of the departments.
Another important aspect is that in India we have not given respect and prominence to
the rights of the individual Citizen. True democracy is impossible until we recognize
the majesty of the individual Citizen. If individual Citizens are empowered to ensure
greater accountability and transparency in governance, it can bring about a major
change.
CONCLUSION:
This Act is designed to facilitate and further its end i.e., empowerment of
public to know what is going on under the guise of administration and should not be
treated as an enactment providing penalties and punishments.
Without any hesitation it can be said that this Act should be the voice of so called
voiceless in our society. Lastly, remind everybody that one should not be crazy about
rights only and one should also be mindful about ones duties. Rights and duties are
the two sides of a coin.
In recent years, there has been an almost unstoppable global trend towards
recognition of the right to information by countries, intergovernmental organizations,
civil society and the people. The right to information has been recognized as a
fundamental human right, which upholds the inherent dignity of all human beings.
Moreover, the Right to Information Act is for the smooth functioning of the
government by maintaining transparency between the government working and the
public who are the beneficiaries. In nutshell it can be said that this piece of legislation
is unique in many aspects. It entitled the citizen to know the details of governance
subject to certain limitations. It will further reduce the gap between the rulers and
ruled.