In a democratic form of a government, the main aim of the government is “of the people”, “for the people” and “by the people”. The base of a democratic form of a government is the “People” of that country. In this type, the government is accountable only to the people, and thus, the involvement of people in governmental activities plays a vital role in democracy. In this post, I will share about the Right To Information (RTI) Act.
Due to the process of globalization in recent years, the need to know about anything and everything has become a crucial part of our lives, especially about the various methods used by the government who has been elected by the people through democracy.
What is RTI?
Right to Information (RTI) is an initiative whose main objective is to give all the basic as well as necessary details and information about the entire procedure of our legislature, executive, and judiciary system or for that matter any other institution or organization established by the legislature of India. Right to Information is categorized under one of the important fundamental rights provided in our Constitution under Article 19(1).
The Hon’ble Supreme Court in one of the landmark judgments “State of Uttar Pradesh v. Raj Narain” (1975)4 SCC 428, said that unless and until people do not have sufficient information, they do not have the right to express themselves. Thus, Right to Information was added under Article 19 of the Constitution. Further, in this case, the Supreme Court said that in a democratic country like India, people are the masters of the government. Thus, the master has a right to know how the government is working. Even the citizens are paying huge taxes to the government. So it is their legal right to know where the tax money is spent by the government.
The Central RTI Act came into force on 12th October 2005 which provided the citizens with the right to seek all the governmental related information. However, 9 states namely Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jammu & Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Assam, Rajasthan, and Karnataka who had already passed State Acts before this Central Act.
Rights Covered under RTI Act, 2005
- Right to question the government and seek any information
- Right to take the copies of any government documents unless and until those documents are highly confidential
- Right to inspect any documents of the government
- Right to inspect any government work
- Right to take samples of materials (maybe as evidence) of any government work
RTI Act is applied to the whole of India, including all the bodies which are constituted under the Indian Constitution, all the NGOs, etc. except the State of Jammu and Kashmir. All the private bodies which are substantially financed or controlled by the Government are covered directly under the RTI Act. The rest are covered indirectly.
How to Seek Information under the Right To Information (RTI) Act
Any person, who is a citizen of India, and desires to obtain a piece of particular information under this act should submit a precise and specific application to the Public Information Officer (PIO). The application can be in either English, Hindi, or any other preferred regional language. At the time of submitting the application, he or she should also pay the application fees as prescribed in the Fee Rules. If the applicant cannot submit the application in person, the same can be sent through post or e-mail. As mentioned earlier, the application can be in any language, but the mode of supply of the information will be based on the availability of the resources.
It is not required to give the reason for you to seek any information. Once the application is duly filed under the RTI Act, unless otherwise exempted under the Act, the State Public Information Officer (SPIO) has to give the information. The only important criterion which is mandatory is that you have to be a citizen of India.
If the information sought by one public authority is actually with another public authority, your application would be transferred to the right public authority. Once the application is transferred, it is the liability and duty of the concerned public authority to provide you with the requisite information.
Third-party Information under Right To Information (RTI) Act
If the information sought by you is related to the trade secrets, commercial confidence or intellectual property and if by the disclosure of such information, the reputation and the financial credibility of a third party could be harmed, then such information should not be disclosed by the authority unless and until the authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information. If the third-party objects for the disclosure of such information, he should be given a full opportunity to put his case forward.
Time Limit for the Disclosure and Deemed Refusal
As per Section 4(1) of the RTI Act, the public officer should disclose any information sought by any citizen of India within 120 days. But, if Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, fails to give a decision on the request for information within the period specified under the sub-section (1), the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall be deemed to have refused the request.
What if Your RTI Application Is Not Accepted?
If the Public Information Officer (PIO) or any other concerned department refuses to accept your application filed under RTI Act, you can make a formal complaint to your respective Information Commission under Section 18 of the RTI Act, 2005. Under this section, the Information Commissioner has the power to impose a penalty of Rs. 25,000/- on that PIO who did not accept your application.
By the enactment of the Right to Information Act, India has moved from an opaque and arbitrary system of government to the beginning of an era where there will be greater transparency. This has shifted the old form of government to a system where the citizen will be empowered and are the true center of power.
A pertinent point that should always be remembered is that only by empowering the ordinary citizen can any nation progress towards greatness and by enacting the Right to Information Act 2005 India has taken a small yet very significant step towards achieving that goal. There is a very famous quote by Bal Gangadhar Tilak which says :
“Swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it.”
In today’s modern world, it is significant to mention that the real Swaraj will not be obtained by the acquisition of authority by a few but by the acquisition of capacity by all to resist authority when abused. Thus, by with the validation of such a Right to Information Act, India has taken a small step towards achieving real Swaraj.