is a factor which should make one wary when secrecy is claimed for transactions which can at any rate have no repercussion on public security".INTRODUCTION Justice Mathews ruled in the case of State of UP v. The right of the people to know the working and performance of its Government is one of their predominant rights. The earlier Freedom of Information Act 2002. If the people do not have information on how our Government and public institutions function. They are entitled to know the particulars of every public transaction in all its bearing. by their public functionaries. had got assent of the President. which can. The right to know. which is derived from the concept of freedom of speech. the common routine business is not in the interest of the public. everything that is done in a public way. but it did not notify and finally repealed. The debatable question is not on the quality of the right guaranteed by the new enactment. there can be but few secrets. Such rights enable transparency in the governmental affairs and necessitate accountability towards the people. Raj Narain said. governing the right to know of the citizens in India. where all the agents of the public must be responsible for their conduct. at any rate have no repercussions on public security. To cover with a veil. is a factor. has been regarded as a fundamental human right. which should make one wary. They are entitled to know the particulars of every public transaction in all its bearing. It is generally desired for the purpose of parties and politics or personal self interests of bureaucratic routine. Such secrecy can seldom be legitimately desired. when secrecy is claimed for transactions. The people of this country have a right to know every public act. . The responsibility of officials to explain and to justify their acts is the chief safeguard against oppression and corruption Above verdict alights the real ambit and scope of the right to information. The right to get information is an inherent right in a democratic form of government. though not absolute. which is derived from the concept of freedom of speech. got the assent of the President after the approval by the Parliament in its speedy and marathon discussions. but its enforceability. The Right to Information Act. 2005. Their right to know. Once the Apex Court held. we cannot express any informed opinion on it. The people of this country have a right to know every public act. The Parliament enacted one more law. "In a government of responsibility like ours. everything that is done in a public way by their public functionaries. though not absolute. The term right to information is often used interchangeably and.

are being framed and followed by the Government. and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely. These powers are used to affect economic interests and the personal liberty of the individual. Out of these powers. all over the world. Secret Governments and the corruption in public administration are the real evils of the century. While in Apex Court. Since power tends to corrupt. stating. as an important aspect of democracy and peoples desisted from participating in governmental affairs unless they have information as to what is going on in the Government. Bhagwati. it is extremely essential that these powers have to be exercised for public good. Hence.. had endorsed. the Government accumulates a vast armory of powers in a welfare state. An important feature justifying the openness in governmental activities is that. That is why the United National called for an international campaign to check the tendency to withhold information from the people with effective right to information legislations. from Defense to Education. or for corrupt motive.about 50 countries. The viability to access to Government is the prime criteria in deciding the openness of a Government. there is an inherent danger that the vast powers available to the executive may be used not for public good. 2 Freedom of information is a fundamental human right and. A modern democratic State being answerable and accountable to its people. how and why. in such circumstances the Right to Information laws are critical tools in the fight against Corruption. the Government frames and implements collective policies and schemes. It enhances transparency. not improperly and for the purposes of which the powers are conferred. the people are entitled to know what policies and programs. By the end of March 2004 . from External Affairs to Poverty Elevation. had enacted comprehensive laws to facilitate access to official information. Participation in government by the people is regarded. it may eventually lead to social unrest due to the division it creates between those who have easy access to goods and services and those who remain excluded. It is the poor who always bear the greatest burden of a corrupt society. but for private gain. Open Government is the new democratic culture of an open society towards which every liberal democracy is moving and our country should be no exception. Therefore. The concepts of Open Government and Right to Information are inter-relatable.. J. being an activist entity. If unbridled corruption continues to infect a society or political system. this objective can be best ensured by giving access to the individual to Governmental information and not in shrouding in secrecy as to how the Government exercises its power in individual cases.In its very first session in 1946. the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 59 (1). . the touch-stone of all the freedoms to which the United Nations is consecrated. It encourages political institutions by enhancing public confidence in their operation.

the government has to throw open its doors and invite people in to the process of governance with appropriate accessibility. Sawant. the Press Council of India headed by Justice P. The limitation is that the Act applies only to official secrets and not to secrets of a private nature. The major criticism against the Official Secrets Act that has left a deep mark on the equation between the state and the citizen. the security of the State. document or information Nowhere the word secret or official secrets are defined in the Act. In the meantime. B. Any kind of information is covered under the Act provided it is a Secret which includes any official code. note. The right to information does not mean the free flow of information without any restriction. friendly relations with foreign states. which was comprehensive and powerful. provided feasible provisions including setting up of state and national level Council for Freedom of Information. the right to information is also subject to reasonable restrictions.HISTORY Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan of Rajasthan had succeeded in showing that critical link between lack of transparency and corruption. the government of India had been promising a Right to Information legislation. plan. intimidating system. password. public order. Article 19(2) of the Constitution limits the range of restrictions in certain circumstances like in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India. The Right to Information Law in India has a recent origin. Another major condemnation of the Official Secrets Act is that it covers a broad area under the term of Secret . and the scope and method of exercising this right. Like all other fundamental rights. Hence. The bill was unsuccessful due to the non-cooperation of the Central Government. It should actively intervene to educate people about their right to access information. Yet it was being put off for one reason or another. journalists. the Act extends to the secrets of every Governmental Affairs. lawyers and other public persons drafted the Right to Information Bill. which would act as the final custodians of the right. Such a story situation invited the enactment of right to Information Law. Nevertheless the Official Secrets act. article. thereby the common men are desisted from accessing the information under a procedure established by law. Later in 1997 . An enactment like Official Secrets Act would get justification under such express restrictions or implied Governmental Necessities . sketch. 1923 that designed to protect the executive activism in India. Since then. decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court defamation or incitement to an offence. would shut the door before the common man irrespective of this right to know guaranteed in article 19(1) of the Constitution of India and Section 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. a government institutions are used to operating as a closed. The Draft bill framed by the Press Council of India. after the series of consultations with NGOs. in 1995. while simultaneously trying to promote a culture of openness within official structures. But Indian experiences are nothing but reverse. By enacting a comprehensive Right to Information Law. since no one in the government considered it to be a matter of priority. had. model.

The disclosure of any information which would prejudicially affect the national interest. without experimented in practice. such as sovereignty and Integrity of India. Strategic. now being a statutory right. the different corners of the society. 2005 is enacted. is not an absolute right. A residuary and discretion any power is given to the Public Information Officers to enable the disclosure of information if public interest in disclosure of the information outweighs the harm to the public authority. relation with foreign State are some of such restrictions. function and management structure. Section 5 of the Act necessitates appointment of Public Information Officers by the Public authorities in both Central and State level in all its administrative units or offices within 100 days of the enactment of the Act. The right to information. A citizen of India can apply for the information from a public authority on making on application in writing or through electronic means along with fee.D. The privileges of Judiciary and parliament are protected under Section 8 of the Act. IMPORTANT PROVISIONS OF THE ACT The Right to Information Act 2005 endorses the right to information as Citizen s right imposes certain obligations to the public authority regarding the maintenance of records in computerized form and publication of inside details of organization. Scientific or economic interest of the State. H. The parameters of such restrictions are significant that limits the right in large volume. trade Competition. Commercial Confidence. Security. such as the refusal of Information already published and when the request is in too general in nature. However the new enactment excluded certain grounds of refusal of disclosure incorporated in section 9 of the Freedom of Information Act 2002. . The application is to be addressed to the concerned Public Information Officer (PIO) or Assistant Public Information Officer (APIO) of the related public authority. 2000.a working group under the chairmanship of Mr. In 2003 the parliament enacted the freedom of Information Act under veiling the vehement criticism from. cabinet papers individual privacy are some of the reasonable restrictions envisaged in the Act. now become repealed and right to Information Act. which was finally reworked in to the freedom of information bill. There are many exceptional circumstances to deny the disclosure of the information. On receiving such an application PIO or APIO shall take decision on such application by providing the required Information or rejecting the application for any of the reason specified in section 8 and 9 of the Act. Shourie drafted another bill. The said Act. criminal Investigation.

removal and powers of the information commissioner are seems to be fair. Fixed Tenure. However the new enactment lacks meaningfulness in certain extent. The Committee consisting of Prime Minster. CRPF. The Chief Central information commissioner accompanied by the Information Commissioners not more than ten. rigid formalities for removal etc.subject to adjudication by the commission with notice to the Officer. The circumstances which limit the right under section 8 are undefined. In addition to all these the Act excludes the . Earlier in the Bill there was a specific provision enabling appeal to the High Court s against the orders the commission on the points of facts and law. adjudication before disclosure with prior notice to a affected third party is provided. 2002 to ensure greater and more effective access to information with more progressive. BSF. The Central Information commission is the second appellate authority.000/. The appointment. A right to information legislation should assume that the maximum information is to be available to the public. The new act substitutes the Freedom of Information Act.activities of the intelligence and Security organization in the Central or State level such as IB RAW.Section 9 of the Act protects the information on copyrights. are some of the significant features. The information commissioner shall have the power to order disclosure of information and also to require the public authority to grant compensation to the complainant. which would facilitate independency of the institution. rational qualifications. The second appeal shall be file within 90 days of receipt of the order in first appeal. The Act mandates speedy disposal of the appeals by the first appellate authority and second appellate authority within a maximum time of 45 days of filing of appeal. Openness of public activities will be meaningful only if the disclosure of information is available to the public in connection with framing of policies entering in contracts and also in decision making. opposition Leader and one Cabinet Minister makes the appointments. If any disclosure affects the third party interest. Revenue Intelligence. covering the most of the governmental activities by leaving ambiguity. participatory and meaningful changes. Defaulted officers are also subject to the disciplinary jurisdiction under the concerned service rules. The order of rejection of request for information by the public information officer is appealable before the senior officer of the PIO in the respective public authority within 30 days of the receipt of the order. Opposition Leader and one Cabinet Minister. 25. heads the central Information commission. Now that provision is deleted during the debate. Defaulted officers are liable to fine up to Rs. The rights to Information Act. However the aggrieved person can resort writ remedy under Article 226 of the constitution of India. CLSF etc as enumerated in the Second Schedule. The Act provides for the appointment of Central Information Commission and State Information Commission for tenure of 5 years to supervise the enforcement of rights. . The appointment of State Chief Information Commissioner and other state Information Commissioners are made by the committee consisting of the Chief Minster. if the request involves infringement of copyright of a person. 2005 provide penal provisions to check the abuse of power by the Public Information Officer.

not on the basis of the content of the document. which may ultimately result in maximum 5 years imprisonment and monetary fine. in the light of the extended definition of State under the Article 12. to include the private sector performing public functions also. if any information with regard to a private body is with the public authority. the involvement of the private bodies in the public activities are vital and to impose accountability through transparency in relation to private as well as public functionaries is inevitable. Yet any default in such publications is not subject to the penal action. The Right to Information Act governs only the public authority as defined under the Act. The governmental agencies dealing in revenue enquiry and security are excluded from the purview of the Act except in case of allegation of corruption and human rights violation. The general obligation of the public authority to publish information under Section 4 is automatic. RTI is an anti-corruption factor 5. The RTI is the enabling right that is the basis of all other rights 2. However during the debate the penalty provision was diluted by dropping the provision for prosecution and added a provision to apply the disciplinary jurisdiction under services rules.The restrictions are much wider as it based on the type of the document. in the pre-statute period being a fundamental right flows from Article 19(1) has a wide range. The promotion of access to Information Act. Analysis of Right to Information Legislations in India . 2000 of South Africa prepared to accept a healthier experiment by including the private sector in the regime of right to information. However as per the Act. THE NEED OF RIGHT TO INFORMATION ACT (RTI) 1. During this globalization and anti-nationalization era. The Right to Information Bill provided for prosecuting the defaulted officers. RTI promotes transparency and accountability of government 4. However the right to Information. RTI allows for participation of citizens in decision making 3. such information can be accessible or available to disclosure after issuing a notice to the private body. Such a complete prohibition irrespective of certain class of information gathered by them is unwarranted that no public bodies should be completely exempt from complying with the right to information law. RTI increases political discussion and debate 6.

There have been questions on the lack of speedy appeal to non-compliance to requests. The PIO. In the state of Maharashtra it was estimated that only 30% of the requests are actually realized under the Maharashtra Right to Information act. Is the penalty amount large enough to act as a deterrent to non compliance? Is the appeal mechanism adequately independent? DRAWBACKS OF RTI ACT[ CRITICISM] However the RTI India has certain weaknesses that hamper implementation. or which may lead to an .FOUR CRITERIA FOR EVALUATING LEGISLATION: Does the law apply as widely as possible with as few exemptions as possible? Is there adequate institutional capacity to support RTI coupled with simple and non restrictive information flows. These categories of information are defined as follows: Information. the disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India. The lack of a central PIO makes it difficult to pin-point the correct PIO to approach for requests. Section 8 of the act specifies the kind of information and the reasons on which information can be exempted from disclosure. security of the state. may have a vested interest in not disclosing damaging information on activities of his/her Institution. being an officer of the relevant Government institution. Information. strategic scientific or economic interest of India or conduct of international relations. It is alleged by RTI Activists that bureaucrats working in close proximity with the government are appointed in the RTI Commissions in a non-transparent manner. detection and investigation of an offence. There is also a criticism of the manner in which the Information Commissioners are appointed to head the information commission. and other matters that are deemed of national interest. This therefore creates a conflict of interest. The law does not allow disclosure of information that affects national security. the disclosure of which would prejudicially affect public safety and order. defense.

Even if the document is innocuous and does not contain anything the disclosure of which would compromise the public interest. The citizens in a democracy are entitled to know how each public official who is acting on their behalf is acting in any particular case or transaction in their official capacity. Minutes or records of advice. Any paper placed before the Cabinet becomes a Cabinet paper. On the other hand. all kinds of information may be exchanged in confidence between the Central and State governments or their agencies and there would be no legitimate reason in the public interest to exempt them from disclosure. Cabinet papers. The argument usually given for not disclosing internal noting is that it would discourage can dour among public servants.incitement to commit an offence or prejudicially affect fair trial or adjudication of a pending case. secretaries and other officers. Gupta case. D and E above exempt several categories of information. all that the State government or the Central government needs to do to protect information from disclosure would be to mark a communication as confidential. there is absolutely no need to exempt Cabinet papers as a class. As this stands. Again. it would be exempt from disclosure as a class by becoming a Cabinet paper. The exemptions contained in clauses C. where the court pointed out that the fear of disclosure was hardly likely to deter an honest public servant doing his honest duty from writing what he honestly felt. It is easy to imagine how easily such a clause can be misused. including information exchanged in confidence between the Central and State governments or any of their authorities or agencies. There is no legitimate basis for exempting file noting or even correspondence between public officials on a public issue in their official capacity. Since the exemptions clauses in any case exempt information with reference to the effect that it might have on national security or public interest. Information. and Information. including records of deliberations of the Council of ministers. or would cause unfair gain of loss to any person.P. the disclosure of which may result in the breach of privileges of Parliament or the legislature of a State or contravention of a lawful order of a court. including legal advice. The same is true for clause C that exempts information exchanged in confidence between the Central and State governments or any of their authorities or agencies. which would be a beneficial effect of this legislation. they would not be able to be candid in their advice. There is also no need to exempt Cabinet papers as a class from disclosure. . Trade or commercial secrets protected by law or information. the disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the legitimate economic and commercial interests or the competitive position of a public authority. This argument was roundly and conclusively debunked by the Supreme Court in the S. It is argued by the bureaucracy that if what they say to each other in their official capacity were to become known to the public. opinions or recommendations made by any officer of a public authority during the decision-making process prior to the executive decision or policy formulation. the disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the conduct of Centre State relations. it was likely to deter a dishonest public servant from writing a dishonest noting.

Though most State acts also exempt the kind of information exempted from disclosure by the Central Act.The exemption from disclosure of information which might prejudice Centre-State relations is also objectionable. The major component of the right to information chain is the Civil Service of the Country. most of them have independent appellate authorities and also have penalties for willful nondisclosure of information. irrespective is notification. Both of the appeals under the Act are to the government itself. An effective and efficient two tier appellate mechanism is provided in the Act. Thus. a remedy that would be impractical for most citizens. 2005 appears to be progressive in some other point of view. there would be no incentive on the part of any public official or authority to comply with the act. Strict time limit is given to respond the request for information and disposal of the appeals. Most of them also do not have a blanket exemption for security. A proper and effective training to the civil servants only will ensure the prompt enforcement of rights. Another serious weakness of the Central Act is that there is no provision for an appeal to an independent authority. This would hardly provide any relief to the citizens in cases where top officials of the government are themselves interested in withholding information from disclosure. All the above defects in the Central Act are likely to render it very weak and ineffective. Section 15 of the Act also bars the jurisdiction of any civil court against orders passed under the Act. intelligence and investigative agencies. Several Acts passed by the different States are much better and stronger than this. More over the Act provides an automatic enforcement. The citizens are the ultimate sovereign in this country and are entitled to know every act of their representatives. Every public body except intelligence and security agencies of the nation is included in the exhaustive definition of public authority . which is often the case. The failure in . The public disclosure of such a communication may affect Centre-State relations. the only remedy against the orders passed in appeal by the governments would be to approach the High courts or the Supreme Court by means of writ petitions. A mere enactment or implementation of its provision will not ensure the right as such. In the absence of such a penalty. Take an instance where the Home minister of the Centre writes to a Governor of a State to send a report that there has been a breakdown of the constitutional machinery in a State and that the government of that State cannot be carried on in accordance with the Constitution. It will encourage dishonest public officials to withhold information with impunity and dare the citizens to go up in appeal. However the right to Information Act. Independent adjudication mechanism under Central and State level Chief Information Commissioner is provided. on the day of its enactment15. Another serious weakness of the Act is the fact that it does not provide any penalty for willful nondisclosure of information or for willfully incorrect disclosure of information by a government authority. but that does not mean that the people of the country are not entitled to have disclosure of this communication.

etc. In order to achieve this. The Government is imparting training to public information officers. enhancing accountability and clarity of various stakeholders. etc. in order to create awareness. The success of the RTI Act must be measured not by the number of applications that are made for information. The achievements of a legal mechanism depends on the person man it. The Government. saying the RTI Act can die just because of poor implementation. awareness amongst women is much less than men. the gap in implementation of the Act is because of lack of clear accountability in respect of various functions. the study recommended measures for improving awareness on right to information. It has issued several memoranda clarifying various provisions of the Act and has published five guides on the Right to Information Act. or even by the proportion of these that are responded to fully and in a timely manner. first appellate authorities and other stakeholders. SUGGESTIONS FOR REFORM This is not the time to gloat or be complacent. In this regard. has been launching awareness generation campaigns from time to time through television and radio. according to Singh. improving efficiency of the Information Commissions. He urges that clearly one priority must be to improve its implementation. but by how effective it has been in improving governance. Assistance for capacity building has been provided to the Information Commissions under a centrally sponsored scheme. awareness about the Act in rural areas is much less than in urban areas. . Rural areas have been reached by display of RTI posters in post offices located in rural areas.implementing and enforcing anti corruption laws is the finest example for mistreatment of law by the civil servants. improving convenience in filing information requests. the application and scope of the law has to be expanded and new and innovative ways found to use the Act to promote institutional probity. The nation needs an activist Information Commissioner as the watch dog of the right to information There is inadequate planning by the public authorities in regard to supply of information.

the RTIA allows citizens to file appeals about inadequate responses to a state or national information commission.000 appeals in 2007 more than five times the number received by the United Kingdom s commissioner for the whole of the country in the same year. short on resources. That proportion is sharply lower among the rural poor. The growing backlog of appeals within some commissions. 2. Some government agencies give responsibility to lower-level staff who don t have the training. There are also difficulties with the enforcement mechanisms contained within the law. It s worth remembering that the scale on which the RTIA is being implemented is unprecedented. Many offices don t provide guidance on how to file requests. Several of the recent reports urge central and state governments to show more seriousness in overseeing the implementation of the new law. The . 2. The need to raise awareness of the RTI Act The need to train civil servants The importance of pro-active disclosure The poor state of record management The need for stronger information commissions. 3. There are daunting barriers to full realization of the RTIA s potential. especially in rural areas. Like similar laws in other countries. Many of the studies say that the credibility of these new bodies has been undermined by the widespread practice of appointing retired public servants as commissioners. The information commission for the state of Maharashtra received 16. It is estimated that a startling ninety percent of RTIA users are men. One difficulty is a simple lack of awareness about rights provided by the law. authority or resources needed to respond to requests properly. Citizens are often intimidated or threatened when they ask for information. People who want to make requests for information must overcome several practical and psychological hurdles. One survey suggests that only about fifteen percent of the Indian public knows about the RTIA. Some commissions. 1. 5. are struggling to keep up with the inflow.FIVE MAIN THEMES: 1. 4. 3.

Many citizens are also testing how the law applies to functions that have recently been privatized or spun off to quasi-public bodies. proper implementation still hinges on the efforts of thirty-five state and territorial governments. Appeals . communications and others. The answer may hinge on whether practical problems of implementation are resolved in the next few years. This can be done by deputing special and adequate evening-staff with duty-hours after normal office-hours to diary all mail received in the day. to create an award-winning call center that allows citizens to file requests by phone with the RTIA charges put on their phone bill. Even the Commission can and should modify its system to ensure a compulsory registration of all appeals/complaints found fit for registration within say one week of their reaching at mail-receipt section of the Commission. Considering dominatingrole of private-sector in public-life through banking. many state governments are experimenting with new ways of promoting awareness among marginalized communities. But it is clear that the world advanced countries and developing countries alike can learn a great deal from India s vast experiment with the right to information. Rupees 300 cores publicity-budget for RTI should be spent through Central Information Commission. Several commissions are devising new ways of streamlining their procedures so that they are not caught under backlogs of appeals. This inevitably leads to unevenness. For example. The state government of Bihar has collaborated with a non-governmental organization. India should follow South Africa in extending RTI Act to private sector for firms with some stipulated turn-over fixed separately in respect of goods and services. There is a big time-gap of even several months between an appeal/complaint reached at the Commission and its being registered. But it also creates ample opportunity for innovation in dealing with the challenges of implementation. Such evening/night duty-hours will make fast work uninterrupted from public hindrance in normal working-hours.PriceWaterhouseCoopers study concludes that rapid growth in appeals is creating a grave situation that requires urgent intervention. But highly inadequate subordinate staff needs also to be strengthened for best utilization of services of senior officers and Information Commissioners at the Commission. New Information Commissioners have been added to share ever-increasing appeals/complaints at Central Information Commission. and by simultaneous registration of all feasible appeals/complaints at the mail-receipt section only. The implementation of the RTIA is highly decentralized. Although it is a national law. It s probably too early to say whether the RTIA will produce a socio-economic revolution. 4. Parivartan. and central government bodies have given extensive guidance on how it should be put into force. Chapters on RTI Act should be added in school-syllabus to make children know about it at root-level to make its effective use later in life.

a system can be worked out whereby all pending appeals against a public-authority registered till date may be fixed on same day so that saving may be possible on precious time and conveyance expenses of publicauthorities may be largely saved by not being required to attend to hearings on different dates. are directly answerable to the people for their actions and inaction. forever. So. where governments. whenever hearing-schedule is to be fixed on weekly or monthly basis for Information Commissioners. and the world watches with bated breath! . However. It also has the potential to deepen democracy and transform it from a representative to a participatory one. Also since a fresh reallocation of work is being done subsequent to addition of four new Information Commissioners at the Commission. Field of Monthly Disposal of Cases at Commission s website should separately highlight data for each of the Information Commissioner so as to enable Commission have its own self-study to streamline the system in a manner that period of pending appeals/complaints may be almost same for each of the Information Commissioner. vested interests will exploit this weakness and grow stronger and more invincible with each passing day. the Right to Information Act is historic. If the people do not come together and recapture the power that is rightfully theirs. and has the potential of changing.found unfit to be registered should be returned to the sender say within a fortnight with a deficiency-note. the balance of power in India disempowering governments and other powerful institutions and distributing this power to the people. Chief Information Commissioner should have frequent informal interaction with all the Information Commissioners so that approach of all Information Commissioners may be similar in dealing with appeals/complaints before them. a much more concerted push has to be given to strengthen the RTI regime in the next few years. if this potential has to be actualized. In struggles as fundamental as those for power and control. Same procedure can be adopted even for future. the people of India move ahead. CONCLUSION Undoubtedly. Only recently Smt Padma Balasubramanian clubbed all pending appeals against State Bank of Bikaner & Jaipur together. and their functionaries at all levels. there is no time to waste.