Right to information in India
Written By: Nikita Mandal
India is considered to be the largest democracy in the world. The key features of every democratic system are transparency, openness, and accountability. In India, the public authority has a wide discretionary power, so the legislators and the public have a feeling that this could lead to abuse of power which will ultimately lead to mismanagement and corruption.
For this purpose, the general public of the country should have the right to access information related to the conduct or work prescribed by government officials, so that checks and balances can be maintained. Right to information means that the public can participate in governance by accessing information held by administrative or public authorities regarding functions conducted for the public good.
It is not only a statutory right but also a fundamental right of a citizen to know information about public acts performed by public authorities. It makes the basic and governmental authorities for good governance more transparent and accountable to the common people of a country. There is a close relationship between the right to information and administrative law because administrative law can be defined as a “branch of public law governed by administrative authority” and the right to information gives the public the power to access information held by the authority.
The Right to Information Act
The Right to Information Act passed in 2005 extends to all states and union territories of India excepting the state of Jammu and Kashmir. This act gives Indian citizens the right to access information about any public authority or institution, including non-government organizations substantially funded by the government. The main aims of the RTI Act are to provide clarity of the information to the citizens of India, to contain corruption, and to promote accountability in the working of every public authority.
According to the Right to information act
“Information means 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 held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force.”
Importance of the Right to Information Act
- This law empowers people to ask for information about central, state governments including non-governmental organizations which are substantially funded by the government.
- The law gives citizens of India the tools to fight against corruption.
- RTI gives people the right to hold the government and organizations substantially funded by the government accountable
- The Right to Information Act gives citizens the right to ask for information and decide, based on the information received, whether their constitutional rights have been met.
- This law arms individuals with information so that they can advocate for themselves.
Right to Information Act, 2005 in India
Until 2005, the general public did not have access to information held by any government authority. The Constitution of India guarantees freedom of speech and expression, yet the city has no right to know about the public policy of the government, therefore, is unable to participate in public policy, planning, and its implementation. The right to information has been recognized as a constitutional right in all developed and developing countries of the world, Yet a separate and comprehensive law was needed to strengthen it.
The Right to Information Act, 2005 was enacted by Parliament to provide practical measures for citizens to exercise their right to information so that access to information is protected under the control of government authorities. It has been said to promote transparency and accountability in the functioning of each public authority.
Sound information is defined under section 2 (f) of any form in any form, such as records, documents, memos, emails, comments, suggestions, press releases, notifications, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models. Information materials in any electronic form and information related to any private entity that may be accessed by government authorities under any other law for the time being.
An inclusive definition of the right to information is provided under Section 2 (j) The section of the Act declares that all citizens shall have the right to information subject to the provisions of this Act. Section 4 of the Act imposes upon the authority that all its records should be properly listed and indexed in a manner and that the form facilitates the right to information under this Act and promotes the information that should be disclosed.
Section 5 of the Act deals with the administrative process under the Act and provides that all administrative officers of each public authority shall nominate public information officers to provide information to the information seekers within one hundred days of the commencement of this Act.
Section 6 of the Act requires the person seeking information to make the request in writing or electronically in English, Hindi, or in the official language of the area where the application is being made, such as with the prescribed fee, from the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, concerned public authority, And he must not give any reason for requesting information or any other personal details other than the information required to communicate with him.
Section 7 of the Act requires the Public Information Officer to provide information within 30 days and 48 hours of receipt of the request.
Section 8 of the Act lists information that is exempt from the application under the Act and the Public Information Officer is not obliged to give such information to anyone, thus the right to information under the Act is not an absolute right but subject to certain exemptions granted in the present section.
Disclosure of such information will affect India’s sovereignty and integrity. Article 9 provides the basis for rejection of requests for information regarding personal copyright infringement, except in the case of the State, such as commercial confidentiality, records of cabinet discussions, cabinet documents, etc.
Section 19 of the Act grants the right of appeal and states that a person who has not received a reply from the Public Information Officer within a specified period under subsection (1) or (3) (a) or within 30 days of the expiration of such Public Information Officer or such decision You can apply to a senior Public Information Officer official within 30 days of receipt.
The State of U.P. vs Raj Narain case (1975) 4 SCC 428
It was held that In a government of responsibility like ours, where all the agents of the public must be responsible for their conduct, there can be but few, secrets. The people of this country have a right to know every public act, everything that is done in a public way, by their public, functionaries. They are all entitled to know the particulars of every public transaction in all its bearing.
The Right to Information Act is a social law that enables every citizen of the country to get information from the public so that the general public can get information from government agencies, which leads to transparency in governance.
It facilitates public debate on government policy, thereby preventing public authority from acting in a high-handed and arbitrary manner. The RTI Act, 2005 has the effect of breaking the culture of secrecy and changing the mindset of politicians, and creating conditions for informed decision-making. Public offices and government agencies have a lot of information, which should be disclosed in the public interest to make it available to the public and provided to the citizen if it is specified. Information is sought from them. The Right to Information Act is the lifeline of any democracy, it empowers citizens, monitors corruption in government offices, and brings greater transparency and accountability in government agencies. The general awareness among the people about RTI Act is not the most important thing in the end so that it can be used for their benefit. Government officials should be sincere in disclosing information, which often threatens the applicant or refuses to provide information for some reason or another.