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The aim of this project is to acquaint the reader with the Historical Background of
RTI Act, 2005.

I would like to extend my gratitude and sincere thanks towards the cooperating
faculty of Law in Army Institute of Law without whom this project would be of
much difficulty. Our Professor, Mrs. Amrita Rathi has pushed us towards achieving
newer levels of understanding and grasping all that we can in the Laws of
Information Technology.

I would also like to thank the supporting piers and not forgetting to mention, my
parents who have supported me throughout my life and without whom
understanding the ways of making a good, no, a better project, a thought that might
seem very obscure to few individuals.

In the life of Indian Republic, the first political commitment to the citizen's
right to information came up on the eve of the Lok Sabha Elections in 1977 as
a corollary to public resentment against suppression of information, press
censorship and abuse of authority during the Internal Emergency of 1975-77.
In its election manifesto of the 1977, the Janata Party promised "an open
government," and declared that it would not 'misuse the intelligence services
and governmental authority for personal and partisan ends." Pursuant to this
commitment, the Janata government headed by Morarji Desai constituted in
1977 a working group to ascertain if the Official Secrets Act, 1923, could be
modified so as to facilitate if the Official Secrets Act, 1923 could be modified
so as to facilitate greater flow of information to the public. The working group
comprising officials from the cabinet Secretariat and the Ministries of Home
Affairs, Finance and Defence laboured for months to recommend that the Act
of 1923 should be retained without change. This 'no change' recommendation
was far from popular expectations. The very composition of the group,
however, was indicative to the kind of recommendations made by it
Bureaucracy by its nature reveals in secrecy, and hence, any other kind of
recommendation would have been an contented to regulate its
communication system with "We, the People of India" along the network of
the colonial Official Secrets Act (Maheswari 1980).


The events which helped create political commitment to the right to

information for the second time had resemblance with the historical context
out of which the principle of public access to information evolved in Sweden.

In 1986, the Supreme Court in the famous case of Mr. Kulwal vs Jaipur
Municipal Corporation gave a clear cut directive that Freedom of Speech and
Expression provided under Article 19 of the Constitution clearly implies Right
to Information as without information the freedom of speech and expression
cannot be fully used by the citizens.

The National Front Government's renewed commitment to this right

was the outcome of the people's frustration over the earlier government's
reluctance to part with the information relating to Bofors and other deals
(Guha Roy 1990). In its 1989 Lok Sabha Election Manifesto, the National Front
Committed itself to "open government", and declared unequivocally that
"people's right to information shall be guaranteed through Constitutional
provisions". Reintegrating this commitment, the them Prime Minister V.P.
Singh, in his first broadcast to the nation in December 1989 said, "We will
have to increase access to information. If the government functions in full
public view, wrong doings will be minimised. To this end, Official Secrets Act
will be amended and we will make the functioning more transparent. Right to
information will be enshrined in our Constitution."

Sadly, despite such strong commitment, there was actually no headway

towards transparency and openness in our governmental functioning due to
the early fall of the National Front Government. Subsequently, the National
Agenda for Governance of the present multi-party coalition called National
Democratic Alliance (NDA) declared: "Our first commitment to the people is
to give a stable, honest, transparent, and efficient government capable of
accomplishing all-round development. For this the government shall
introduce time-bound programme of needed administrative reforms…." In
pursuance with this commitment, the NDA Government introduced the
Freedom of Information Bill, 2000 in the Parliament. After having been
pending for about two years the Bill was finally passed by the parliament on
4th December, 2002 and it received the assent of the President of India on 6th
January, 2003.

Meanwhile, instead of waiting for a central legislation, half a dozen

states have enacted their own laws on right to information (RTI). These
include Goa (1997), Tamil Nadu (1997), Rajasthan (2000), Maharashtra (2000),
Karnataka (2000) and Delhi (2001). Besides, Madhya Pradesh has issued wide-
ranging administrative directives on dissemination of information upto the
level of Gram Panchayats. Interestingly, all the states that have their own RTI
laws were non-NDA partners ruled states when the Act was passed. In some
of these states, the law is too weak. The Tamil Nadu Act, for instance, has
imposed more than twenty restrictions on the application of the right. The
Goa and Karnataka Acts, on the other hand, have several good features.
However, in all these states, the concerned citizens and civil society
organizations still complain about denial of information on important issues
relating to public interest.

The Freedom of Information Act, 2002 has evoked lot of controversy on

various issues. Some of them are notably as follows :

(a) The Act exempts from disclosure "information exchanged in

confidence between the Central and State governments or any of
their authorities or agencies." It is commonly felt that this is too
wide a clause to cover a lot of such information which should
otherwise be available to the people.
(b) A major lacuna of the Act is that it does not specifically provide for
penalties against the officials who in violation, of the law, would
either refuse to provide information or give false, misleading or
incomplete information.
(c) In this age of economic liberalization when the governments are
keen on outsourcing many of their traditional functions to private
agencies and allowing foreign direct investments in telecom,
power, banking and other major sector, the Act, however, does not
apply to the private sector, in contrast to the South African law
enacted in the same year which specifically brought the private
sector under its purview so that there could be no disparity
between the public sector and the private sector engaged in similar
commercial activity.
(d) The most serious shortcoming of the Act lies in that it provides for
appeals only within the government bodies. It not only bars
jurisdiction of courts but also ensures that no appeal should lie
even with an independent body.

It has taken India 77 years for transition from an opaque system of

governance, legitimised by the Colonial Official Secrets Act, to one where
citizens can demand the right to information. The recent enactment of the
Freedom of Information Act, 2002 marks a significant shift for Indian
democracy, for the greater the access of citizens to information, the greater the
responsiveness of government to community needs.

In 1994, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan an organisation for worker’s rights,

started a grassroot campaign for Right to Information, demanding
information concerning development works in rural Rajasthan. This
movement grew and the campaign resulted in the govt of Rajasthan enacting
a law on Right to Information in 2000.

In 1996, National Campaign for People’s Right to Information, one among

several civil society groups, was founded with the objective of getting
legislation on RTI passed.

In 1997, Tamil Nadu became the first state in India to have passed a law on
Right to Information.

In pursuance with the commitment of NDA, the new coalition to implement

its National Agenda on Governance, introduced Freedom of Information Bill,
2000 in the Parliament. After having been pending for about two years, the
Bill was finally passed by the parliament on 4 th December, 2002 and it received
the assent of the President of India on 6th January, 2003.
Meanwhile, instead of waiting for a central legislation, half a dozen states
have enacted their own laws on right to information. These include, Goa,
Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Delhi.

In 2004, the UPA govt appointed a national Advisory Council to monitor

implementation of govt schemes and advise govt on policy and law NAC
recommended changes to the existing Freedom of Information Act. RTI bill
2004 tabled in parliament as applicable only to the Union govt. The civil
society protested against the bill as most of the information required by the
common man was from state govt. after heavy lobbying by NCPRI and other
organisations the RTI Act, 2005 was passed with 150 amendments.


The Right to Information that the Indians have is formulated as Freedom of

Information to the citizens of the US, with the enactment of Freedom of
Information Act.

The Freedom of Information Act (5 USC § 552) (FOIA) is one of the most
important legal tools citizens and reporters have for furthering government
transparency in the United States. And yet, history shows that empowering
the citizenry as a check on the government has worried many members of the
executive branch, including presidents of both parties, and reminds us that
citizens must be constantly vigilant to protect hard-earned transparency

FOIA was originally championed by Democratic Congressman John

Moss from California in 1955 after a series of proposals during the Cold War
led to a steep a rise in government secrecy. Moss found support from
newspaper editors and journalists, but he could not find Republican co-
sponsors until years later. During the Kennedy and Johnson administrations,
he received support from a young Representative named Donald Rumsfeld.
Unfortunately, President Lyndon B. Johnson, a fellow Democrat, opposed the
bill—in fact, every federal agency and department at the time opposed it.
However, when the Senate passed its version of the bill, it became clear that
government transparency was going to win out in the end. Moss issued one
final report that clarified rules and exemptions for the government agencies,
and the House passed the bill soon after (with a vote of 307-0).

With the finalized FOIA bill now on his desk, President Johnson still had his
own concerns. On the 4th of July, 1966, Johnson decided not to hold a public
event for the signing—which he did for other major bills. Instead, he issued a
signing statement when making the bill a law, in which he attempted to
undercut the law by focusing on exemptions for national security and FOIA's
room for interpretation. Yet the last sentence of his signing statement is the
one that endures: “I sign this measure with a deep sense of pride that the
United States is an open society.”

Though the 1966 bill was a huge step towards government transparency,
FOIA lacked the teeth necessary to force government agencies to comply. It
wasn't until 1974, after the Watergate scandal and the tight-lipped Nixon
administration, that Congress amended FOIA to become the bill it is today.
The Senate and the House introduced many new requirements, timeframes,
sanctions for wrongly withheld information, and necessary language waiving
fees for journalists and public interest groups.

President Gerald Ford's chief of staff, Donald Rumsfeld, an early supporter of

the original FOIA, and the head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal
Counsel, Antonin Scalia, pushed the president to veto the FOIA amendments.
Ultimately, Ford agreed. In his veto message, Ford called the bill
unconstitutional, felt that national secrets were at risk, and thought the ten-
day deadline was too burdensome.
The House and Senate would have nothing of this, however, and overrode his

In 1996, President Clinton signed into law the Electronic Freedom of

Information Act Amendments. In his signing statement,
Clinton acknowledged how new technologies, including the Internet, would
allow for greater transparency: the amendments required agencies to make
documents available in electronic formats and digitally distributed. The
response timeframe was also extended from ten to twenty days, though in
practice this change had little effect.

But after September 11, 2001, government transparency saw a number of

restrictions. President George W. Bush issued Executive Order 13233, which
limited access to former presidential records, drawing ire especially from
archivists and librarians. Soon after, FOIA was amended to limit access to
governmental records from foreign governments through the Intelligence
Authorization Act of 2002.

In 2007, President Bush did sign the OPEN Government Act of

2007, laudedthe law, which extended crucial services to alternative journalists
and bloggers, defining them as members of the news media. (Journalists get
cheaper access to records.) It also established the Office of Government
Information Services, which oversees government compliance with FOIA.
However, the Bush administration’s compliance with FOIA was sharply
criticized by open government groups, and was widely regarded as the most
secretive administration in history.

In 2016, 50 years after FOIA first became law, President Barack Obama signed
the FOIA Improvement Act. The law contained modest FOIA reforms,
including codifying the Obama administration's "presumption of disclosure,"
which specifically limits agency discretion to withhold records under FOIA.
It's unclear what impact the presumption of disclosure will have on increasing
transparency. Obama had included similar language in a memorandum on
FOIA reform he issued on his first day in office in 2009, but the laudatory
language did not translate into greater records disclosure. In fact, during the
Obama administration, government became more secretive.

The FOIA Improvement Act also required federal agencies to create a central
online portal that will allow anyone to file a request with any government
agency. The law also required agencies to update their FOIA regulations, as
many agencies had not done so since passage of the OPEN Government Act in
2007. Additionally, the law put a 25-year limit on the ability for any federal
agency to withhold documents under the deliberative process privilege,
preventing agencies from withholding records that describe historic agency